The Peabody Essex Museum's collection of Chinese export ceramics

TWO MONKS
Jingdezhen, 1725-1745. 
Impressed on the bottom of each with the four-character potter's mark of Hing Yun Luen. Porcelain; height (of each) 6 ½ inches. Gift of the Copeland Collection.

When true (opposing) pairs were not available, it was not unusual for eighteenth-century European collectors to buy multiples of the same model, like these two figures, to form geometric installations. These particular figures are notable for the impressed four-character potter's mark on the bases because, unlike potters in Dehua and Yixing, those in Jingdezhen did not traditionally mark their wares. The figure exhibits physical characteristics associated with Mile-fo, the fat-belly Buddha, a non-historical character derived from the Maitreaya-or Merciful One-Buddha who, by the Song dynasty (960-1279) was one of the most popular gods in East Asia. A gouache-on-paper painting from an album in the museum's collection identifies a similar (if slimmer) figure simply as Hao chung, or a monk. Inscribed on the interior cover of the album is, "I bought these Chinese drawings for 16 Guineas at the Auction of Mr. Martin the Supercargos Effects in March 1747, P. Yorke." We do not know who Yorke was, but Martin was a supercargo on the East India Company ship Hastings in 1745.

Portrait of a Monk, Guangzhou, c. 1730. Gouache on paper, 21 ¾ by 16 ⅞ inches.  Photograph by Walter Silver.

 

 

 

 

COVERED PUNCHBOWL AND UNDERDISH, 
decorated with the Chinese Pavilion at Drottningholm Palace in Sweden, Jingdezhen, c. 1763. Porcelain; height (of punchbowl) 12 ½, diameter 16 ¼ inches; diameter of underdish 22 inches. Museum purchase. 

The scenes depicted on this bowl, cover, and underdish appear to represent a fairly precise moment in the history of the Chinese Pavilion at Drottningholm Palace in Stock­holm. The original pavilion, built by King Adolf Fredrik (1710-1771) as a temporary folly for the birthday of Queen Louisa Ulrika (1720-1782) and presented to her on July 24, 1753, was a fantasy re-creation of the Cathay she so loved. Additional supporting buildings were then constructed: the king's pavilion (seen at the right of the Chinese Pavilion) was completed in 1757, and the Confidence (at the left), where meals were taken, which was begun in 1758 but not completed until about 1763. The temporary Chinese Pavilion was demolished, and the foundation stone of the permanent structure, which still stands, was laid on June 2, 1763. The decoration on these pieces shows the temporary structure as well as the Confidence, dating them to the moment between the completion of the Confidence and the erection of the new central pavilion. Only four covered punchbowls with underdishes decorated with Swedish scenes are known; two others are known with Danish scenes.

TEAPOT AND STAND,
with so-called Richard Philcox decoration, Jingdezhen, 1780-1790. Porcelain; height (of teapot) 4 ⅜ (missing lid), width 8 ¾ inches; diameter (of stand) 6 ¼ inches. Gift of Carl L. Crossman in memory of Priscilla Waldo Papin (teapot) and purchase with funds donated by the Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach, Director (stand). 

The monogram "RP" is centered within a C-scroll and floral cartouche, at the bottom of which is depicted a cobbler accompanied by the legend "I must Work for LeLtKer's [i.e., Leather's] dear." The brackets on the larger cartouche depict samples of men's and ladies' shoes. The one other published example of this motif is a mug with (in place of the monogram) an inscription that reads, "vivat [long live] / Rich.d Phillcox / Whit / His honest / Fammily," and, on the reverse, "vivat rye [long live Rye]." Conjectures that "rye" refers to the whiskey and that a cobbler's trade label must have served as the Chinese decorator's source are far less interesting than the explanation of the decoration offered by W. Holloway, a local historian in Rye, England, in a story published in the Sussex Archaeological Collections in 1868. He records that Rye cobbler Richard Philcox took care of a gentleman who had escaped a sinking East Indiaman off Rye Bay. The gentleman eventually made it to China and had a service of porcelain made in thanks. The service was inherited by Richard's son Joseph, who sold it by lottery through Holloway, who concluded his account with the words: "All sublunary things are evanescent; and thus the Cobbler's China is scattered abroad, and the name of Philcox is extinct in Rye."

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[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi

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