Huntingdon wine cistern


Abraham Portal ( British, 1726 - 1809 )

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General Description

Weighing close to eighty pounds, this monumental cistern was made for Francis Hastings, the 10th Earl of Huntingdon, upon his appointment to the cabinet of King George III. Prompted by a royal gift of a thousand ounces of silver, Hastings commissioned silversmith Abraham Portal, a former apprentice of famed silversmith Paul de Lamerie, to complete the order. Filled with ice, the cistern would have been used to chill bottles of wine. Equally important, its great scale stood as a symbol of the earl's power and prestige, and its decoration reflected to diners the earl's taste for neoclassical design. The cistern is vigorously decorated with Vitruvian scrolls and acanthus plumes, punctuated on one side by the royal coat of arms and on the other by the arms of Hastings. Lion masks and ring handles cap the ends. An unusual base with four acanthus-topped goat legs, joined by chains and a fretwork ring, may suggest the influence of the designs of royal architect and designer William Chambers. The cistern is both a supreme achievement of 18th-century silversmithing and a reflection of the English nobility's passion for ostentatious display.

Excerpt from

Bonnie Pitman, ed. "Huntingdon wine cistern" in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 175.