Helicon Vase symbolises music and poetry

The Helicon Vase 1871

A Helicon vase is a centrepiece named after Mount Helicon in Greece. It was sacred to the ancient Greek muses. It symbolises the highest point in the development of Music and Poetry. There are two reclining draped female allegorical figures of Music and Poetry on the base. On the sides of the bowl are engraved scenes depicting the nine muses with their attributes, four on one side and five on the other. On the pendant, drapery handles, there is a shield bearing a coat of arms. One with the portraits of the writers’ Homer, Shakespeare, Molière and Byron, and the other with portraits of the composers Handel, Haydn, Beethoven, and Mozart.

The piece made of oxidised silver and damascened steel was designed by Leonard Morel-Ladeuil and was completed in 1871 (after six years of work). The piece rests on a plateau decorated with bas-relief figures encircling the border. On the finial are the figures of two youths, one holding a lyre aloft and the other, at his feet, a tuning fork.


Elkington exhibited it in 1872 at the Society of Arts’ Exhibition at the South Kensington Museum, London, in 1873 in Vienna, and in 1876 in Philadelphia. In 1887 it was presented to Queen Victoria as a Golden Jubilee gift and is now in the Royal collection.

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Newman, H. (2000). An illustrated dictionary of silverware: 2,373 entries relating to British and North American wares, decorative techniques and styles and leading designers and makers, principally from c.1500 to the present. London: Thames & Hudson.

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