Kettle drums, 1779
Franz Peter Bunsen (German, master 1754–95)
Silver, iron, calfskin; H. of each 16 1/8 in. (41 cm), Diam. 20 7/8 in. (53 cm), Wt. 52 lbs. 14 oz. (24 kg)
Purchase, Robert Alonzo Lehman Bequest, Acquisitions Fund, and Frederick M. Lehman Bequest, 2010 (2010.138.1–.4)
This magnificent pair of royal kettle drums was made for the Royal Life Guards of George III (1738–1820), king of Great Britain and Ireland and elector of Hanover, whose royal coat of arms they bear. These ceremonial instruments would have been played by a drummer on horseback accompanied by similarly mounted trumpeters leading the royal procession for state events. Sets of silver kettle drums were made for royals from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century as symbols of splendor and wealth. Only a handful of sets survive, as many were melted down for the immense amount of precious material they contained. This is the oldest of four pairs built for English monarchs of the House of Hanover; two later pairs remain in the possession of the British Crown, and a set commissioned by William IV in the 1830s is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The original crimson banners that would have been draped around the lower portion of the drums while they were being played have also survived.