On the 7th February 1845 William Mulcahy, a drunken visitor to the British Museum, smashed the famous Portland Vase.
The Portland Vase had had a long and colourful history. It is piece of Roman cameo glass that served as a major inspiration to glass and porcelain makers from the Georgian period onwards. Made of violet blue glass, it has two pieces of cameo glass depicting different scenes from mythology. It is thought to have been made between AD 1 and AD 25.
Sir William Hamilton, British ambassador in Naples, purchased the vase in about 1778. he brought it to England and sold it to the Dowager Duchess of Portland. Her son, the 3rd Duke, loaned the vase to Josiah Wedgwood, who tried to make a copy of it. It took Wedgwood years to come up with a version he was happy with and when he displayed it at a private view the event was limited to 1900 tickets and sold out. The tickets read: “Admission to see Mr Wedgwood’s copy of the Portland Vase, Greek Street, Soho, between 12 o’clock and 5. He later displayed the vase at his London showrooms. It must have been amazing to see the crowds gather to view a beautiful replica of the original.
The original vase was passed to the British Museum for safekeeping but in 1845 William Mulcahy, who had