Having just been cleaned as part of a renovation of the State Dining Room at Apsley House (pictured) – the former London residence of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, the silver-gilt Portuguese Centrepiece was presented as part of a complete service to the duke in 1816.
The gift of the Portuguese Regency Council, it was created in honor of the duke’s role in leading the armies of Spain, Britain and Portugal to victory over Napoleon’s forces in the Peninsular War of 1808-14.
The service, which consists of more than 1,000 pieces, was designed by Portuguese court artist Domingos Antonio de Sequeira who took three years to complete it with much of the work carried out in Sequeira’s house and neighbouring workshops. Subsequently damaged in the sea crossing to England, repairs had to be made before it was formally presented to the duke late in 1816.
The eight metre long centrepiece commemorates all the battles of the Peninsular War in which the allies were victorious. It was acquired for the nation in 1948 and is now permanently displayed on the duke’s original mahogany dining table, designed especially to support its weight.
WHERE: Apsley House, 149 Piccadilly, Hyde Park (nearest tube station is Hyde Park Corner); WHEN: 11am to 5pm Wednesday to Sunday (until 31st October); COST: £6.30 an adult/£5.70 concessions/£3.80 a child (English Heritage members free); WEBSITE: www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/apsley-house/