Dominating the dining room at Apsley House is the Portuguese Centrepiece, part of a 1,000 piece service gifted to Wellington in 1816 from the Portuguese nation.
It is one of the finest pieces of neo-classical silver in Europe and a unique design produced in honour of the Duke’s victory over the French in Portugal during the Peninsular Wars (1808- 1814).
It was designed by Domingos António de Sequeira, the Portuguese court painter. The service was made by men from the Lisbon Military Arsenal who had never produced such a detailed and delicate commission.
It took 150 men four years to produce. The plateau or base is decorated with mythological griffins bearing plaques above their heads with Wellington’s most famous victories of the Peninsular Wars.
Alongside these masculine symbols are dancing nymphs from the River Tagus.
The Portuguese silver gilt service arrived in London in 1817 in 55 crates.
Once opened it was found that there was some damage, Gerrard’s the famous London Jewellers were employed to repair the service which was briefly displayed to the public at their showrooms in Panton Street.
The centrepiece took pride of place at the annual Waterloo banquets held from 1820 in the dining room and after 1828 in the Waterloo Gallery.