Wellington boxes on view on Waterloo Day at Bonhams

Fine Silver and Gold Boxes
19 Jun 2013
London, New Bond Street

Remarkable collection of hard-stone and gold boxes started by Lord Gerald Wellesley, later 7th duke of Wellington, to be sold at Bonhams.

On June 18th, the 198th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, Bonhams will display more than 60 precious hard-stone and gold boxes collected by the 7th and 8th Dukes of Wellington. The boxes will be sold as part of the Fine Silver and Gold Boxes sale on June 19th in New Bond Street.

The 7th Duke of Wellington had a great passion for collecting, which he shared with his wife Dorothy Ashton. Whilst posted in Rome, they would scour the campagna: "We used to fill sacks with shining Porphyry, Verde Antico, Gioallo Antico, and so on." To the annoyance of their nanny, they used their son's pram to transport the treasures, this early exposure to collecting ensured that the 8th Duke also became a keen collector of boxes and hard-stones. The hard-stone and gold boxes which are being auctioned at Bonhams are exceptional examples of the Duke's fine taste and keen eye; and have prestigious provenance.

The highlight lot is an 18th century Louis XV lapis lazuli and gold mounted snuff box, signed by Daniel Gouers. It is estimated to sell for between £50,000 and £70,000. A similar box can be found in the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. The design of the box is almost identical to those given by Louis XV as diplomatic gifts to Geneva. Louis XV had a great passion for the arts and collecting, amounting an extraordinary collection of rare jewelled boxes and objects. It is believed that King Louis' obsession with the arts was a distraction from his political commitments, which damaged the reputation of France as a European power and ultimately led to the outbreak of the French Revolution.

The 7th Duke of Wellington was known for his love of beautiful objects and discerning expertise. James Lees-Milne describes the Duke as a "man of exceptional taste and knowledge of the arts" who "left more mark on Stratfield Saye than any predecessors since his illustrious great grand-father". Moreover, he was a great perfectionist and was highly protective of his possessions. He zealously polished his boxes and jewels to preserve their impeccable quality. The 7th Duke's taste and ability was held in high-esteem, and in 1936 he became the surveyor of the King's Works of Art. Some of the boxes were gifts, such as the one given to him in 1934 by Hélène de France, Duchess of Aosta, who had previously had a liaison with Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, grandson and eventual heir to Queen Victoria until his premature death.

Lord Gerald Wellesley succeeded to the title when his nephew, the 6th Duke, was killed in Salerno in 1943. The 7th Duke suddenly found himself the owner of a vast estate and collection. The inheritance could not have passed into better hands, as he quickly began cataloguing the unique collection of the Dukes of Wellington. He had a great love for the items in the collection, and the rare pieces auctioned as part of the Bonhams sale afford the collector an opportunity to acquire boxes from an exquisitely curated collection. Many of the boxes are labelled in the Duke's own handwriting, with details of their provenance. The boxes are now sold as a private collection under instruction from the younger children of the 8th Duke of Wellington.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

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