This elaborate ink stand can be seen in the King’s Apartments of the Royal Pavilion. It was made for George IV between 1821 and 1822 by the firm of royal goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge & Rundell.
What can we see?
It is highly likely that this ink stand was commissioned by George as a gift for Elizabeth, Marchioness Conyngham, his mistress in the 1820s. Like the Royal Pavilion, this object is a joyful mixture of classical, western and eastern motifs — a statement inkwell if ever there was one.
The figure at the top is based on the Winged Victory of Samothrace, a 2nd century BC Greek sculpture now in the Louvre in Paris.
Based on Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, she holds a wreath and stands on a golden ball or globe. She was a popular motif at this time, and can be seen elsewhere in the Pavilion, such as on candleholders.
The goddess of victory is precariously balanced on the top of a tall palm tree. You can see other palm trees in the Royal Pavilion, as columns, or painted on walls and ceilings.
The object is made of silver-gilt, which means it is solid silver with a layer of gold leaf.
George had a passion for gilding silverware. Look closely at the legs and you can see where the thin gold layer has rubbed off, exposing the silver underneath.
The whole ink stand is almost a meter tall, but the ink wells are very small.
There are three of them, with crown lids, sunk into the second tier of the triangular base.
Between the ink wells are three seated figures. The man with the impressive beard is the classical Greek poet Homer, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
These works were much read in George IV’s lifetime and inspired many artists and designers. The other classical figure, not visible in this picture, is the Roman poet Virgil, author of the Aeneid.
The third figure is the 17th century English writer John Milton, author of the epic poem Paradise Lost. He is easily recognisable by his middle-parting. He is also the only figure on the ink stand wearing shoes, possibly to indicate that he is not a classical figure.
Author: Alexandra Loske, Royal Pavilion Curator