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Wellington and the Battle of Vittoria, Teapot

Black basalt pottery teapot of rounded oblong form, the domed reed-moulded cover having a finial modelled with flowers and fruit, the spreading neck with basal laurel frieze, the rounded oblong body modelled to one side with a bust of Wellington, on a pedestal impressed ‘VIRESQUE ACQUIRIT EUNDO’ (She gathers strength as she goes), being a quote from Virgil’s Aenid referencing the progression of British martial success embodied in Britannia who crowns the successful commander with a laurel wreath whilst the winged figure of Fame sounds her horn, the whole underscored by a banner scroll impressed ‘WELLINGTON’, flanked by anthemion, the other side modelled with an oval laurel wreath impressed in cursive script with Wellington's military triumphs, ‘India /Portugal & Spain’ above commemoration ‘Vittoria 21st June 1813’  also flanked by anthemion, the handle formed as a mythical sea-serpent with bird's head, the spout formed as a lion's head and neck.

The Allied victory at Vittoria, being closely followed by the storming of San Sebastien, led to the collapse of Napoleonic rule in Spain. After hard fighting Picton’s 3rd Division broke through in the French centre causing enemy resistance to crumble. Josef Bonaparte only narrowly escaped capture. French losses were mitigated by the gross abandonment of discipline by British troops who turned aside from the pursuit to plunder abandoned French wagons containing the ‘loot of a kingdom’. It is estimated over one million pounds of booty (perhaps £100 million in modern equivalent) was seized. An enraged Wellington wrote in a dispatch to the Secretary of State for War, ‘We have in the service the scum of the earth as common soldiers’.

© The Armoury of St James's 17 Piccadilly Arcade London SW1Y 6NH