Country House and Asian Art Specialist Insight: Caroline Dennard

After the success of the sealed wine bottles in February’s Fine Art sale, we are pleased to be offering another selection from the same private source. The use of seals on glass bottles to indicate ownership has a long and rich tradition in the United Kingdom dating back to the 17th century. In order to create a seal a glassmaker would attach a small blob of glass to the bottle whilst it was still warm and then stamp this area with an individualised metal or fired ceramic die. Getting your own personal bottle was by no means a cheap endeavour – in 1822 the expense of cutting a seal ran at 7 shillings and 6 pence.


Lot 5, Country House and Asian Art Auction, 15th May 

The seals indicated the owners of the bottles, which could be either the individual or the institution, the tavern from which the wine came or even the merchant who supplied the tavern. In 1622 a law was passed which prohibited the sale of wine by the bottle, an individual would therefore have to take their bottle to a wine merchant who would then fill it with a wine from a cask using a liquid measure which meant the practice of bottle sealing was widespread by the mid-17th century.

Lot 10, Country House and Asian Art Auction, 15th May

Examples in this sale include bottles from Oxford and Cambridge University, the colleges of which all had their own wine cellars stocked with personalised sealed bottles by the 18th century (most of whom were buying in bulk at that stage!). The Common Rooms of each college were a centre point of social life for students during their time at the University. Wine was used for special occasions, entertaining guests and for provisioning Fellows on festivals and feasting days. All Souls College at Oxford University has taken care to preserve their history and still has a magnificent cellar containing over 1000 intact sealed wine bottles in its collection. If you can’t make it down to see that archive, the All Souls Common Room bottle in lot 2 can be yours for a modest estimate of £60-£80 – a small price to pay for a piece of history.

Lot 2, Country House and Asian Art Auction, 15th May 



For more information, contact Caroline Dennard
Glass & Ceramics Specialist

Phone: 01743 450 700



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