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Napoleon's Wine Cooler

This circular and ebonised wine cooler was made by George Bullock for Napoléon while in exile on St Helena. The inside is lined with lead and is compartmentalised for wine bottles.

Wine coolers started out as cellarets, tubs made from stone, marble, metal or earthenware. Their origins date back to the 16th century. Cellarets became fashionable in the 18th century when the English upper classes began to consume large amounts of wine, and therefore required an item of furniture to accommodate the storing, chilling and serving of wine.

Wine consumption in the 19th century became directly related to how wealthy a person was: the more money they had, the more wine they drank. Often wine coolers were on casters to easily transport the wine from room to room.

The inscription on the wine cooler reads ‘This wine cooler was used by the Emperor Napoleon at Longwood on the Island of St Helena, 1815-1821’. It was gifted to the museum in 1944.

Also on this room is an octagonal walnut table, inscribed with ‘Napoleon, Longwood, 1821, St Helena’. Much of the furniture in Longwood House, Napoléon’s abode while in exile, was made by George Bullock (1777-1818), a successful Regency sculptor, designer and cabinet maker. He received commissions, among others, from Queen Charlotte, Sir Walter Scott and the Government. This item is specifically listed in the 1908 Deed of Gift between Merton, Annie and the Borough of Bournemouth. At that time, it was located in the Morning Room.

Wood and metal
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Image and text © Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, 2021

Where you'll find this

Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum