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Latest update; February 14, 2019.
Blue and White Kangxi Period 1662-1722 - Western Shapes
Height 69 mm (2.72 inch), diameter of rim 24 mm (0.98 inch), diameter of candle holder 14 mm (0.55 inch), diameter of footring 54 mm (2.13 inch), weight 37 grams (1.31 ounce (oz.))
Candlestick on footring, low domed foot. Cylindrical stem with a flat knop an upright neck with a flaring rim and cylindrical candle holder. Decorated in underglaze blue with a zig-zag-lines pattern border round the foot and flower sprays on the foot. On the flat knop a zig-zag-lines pattern border and on the cylindrical stem two borders with flower sprays in the middle a diaper-pattern border. On the rim a zig-zag-lines pattern border.
Candlesticks were ordered by the Dutch as early as the Transitional period and again during the reign of Qianlong, when they were made in the Louis XV and XVI styles, but Kangxi candlesticks are surprisingly rare and thus far only a few varieties are known. Their shapes are derived from silver, pewter or brass models. (Howard 1994, pp.218-219, Jörg & Van Campen 1997, pp.258-259)
Condition: A chip to the inner footring.
Blue and White Kangxi Period 1662-1722 - Western Shapes
Height 53 mm (2.08 inch), diameter of rim 63 mm (2.48 inch), diameter of ink hole 17 mm (0.67 inch), diameter of quill holes 3 mm (0.12 inch), diameter of footring 55 mm (2.17 inch), weight 135 grams (4.76 ounce (oz.))
Cylindrical ink-well on low footring, a recessed flat top with one large and three small holes (the large hole meant for the ink and the three small holes to hold quill pens) decorated in underglaze blue with clouds alternating with auspicious symbols. Along the rim a zig-zag-lines pattern border. Around the central hole a ruyi head-pattern border. On the base an artemisia leaf in underglaze blue.
Porcelain pieces made to order may justly be called Chine de commande, as they were ordered specially by Western clients. Like this ink-well the pieces are easily recognizable because of either the Western shape or the Western decoration.
The Dutch East India Company, (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC) started to order Chinese porcelain in European shapes since the 1630's through their trading station on Taiwan. As in the Transitional period, Chinese potters of the eighteenth century imitated Western shapes when fulfilling orders from Europe. They used wooden, earthenware, porcelain, glass and metal models sent to China as moulds. It was also common practice to send drawings of the desired shapes, only a very few of these drawings have by chance been preserved. (Jörg 2011/2, p.145)
Besides dinner services, tea, coffee and chocolate sets other ulitarian or luxury items were also ordered after Western models. These included cylindrical beer mugs, barber's bowls, butter tubs, chamber-pots, cream dishes, cuspidors and many other objects, their shapes changing in accordance with fashions in Europe.
Often it is impossible to ascertain of which material the models sent to China were made, the more so as it was in general not known which was there first: the metal or the ceramic one. Writing material too, such as square, hexagonal or cylindrical ink-pots and pounce-pots, sometimes as a set on a small porcelain tray, were probably made from pewter models. A decoration with small flowers in blue or polychrome was generally used. (Lunsingh Scheurleer 1974, pp.89-91)
This Kangxi, Chine de commande, ink-well is a rare object, as writing material it came, most likely, with matching pounce pots or sanders used to shake sand over the just finished writing which had the same function as the blotting-paper.
A similar shaped and decorated ink-well can be found in the collection of Oriental ceramics in the Keramiekmuseum Princessehof Leeuwarden, Inv. nr. LY 0530.
For a similarly shaped ink-well, please see:
- Sold Ceramics - Sold Blue and White Kangxi Period 1662-1722 - Western Shapes - Page 1 - Object 2011422.
Condition: A circular firing flaw to the rim and two short firing tension hairlines to one of the small holes, all caused by the firing process.
Shipwreck Porcelains - The Hatcher Junk (1643-1646)
Provenance: The Hatcher Collection, Christie’s Amsterdam, 12/13 June 1984 & 14 February 1985) / A private Belgium collection of Chinese and Japanese ceramics and works of art / R&G McPherson Antiques, London, UK, stock number 23201.
Height 36 mm (1.42 inch), diameter 50 mm (1.97 inch), diameter box rim 42 mm (1.65 inch), diameter cover rim 45 mm (1.77 inch), diameter of footring 23 mm (0.91 inch), weight with cover 39 grams (1.38 ounce (oz.)), weight cover 18 grams (0.63 ounce (oz.))
Covered box on a footring. Decorated in underglaze blue. On the cover flowering aster plants growing from rockwork and two insects in flight and on the box with a flower spray alternating with an insect. On the base a circular paper dealers label that reads: R&G McPherson Antiques, London with the handwritten stock number 23201.
The Hatcher Cargo was recovered from the wreck of a Chinese junk in the South China seas port of Batavia (today Jakarta) by Captain Michael Hatcher in 1983 and was later sold in the Netherlands. They were a small part of what, at the time, was the largest cargo of Chinese porcelain ever recovered in good condition from the sea. Captain Michael Hatcher and his crew brought up about 25,000 pieces of unbroken porcelain from the Hatcher junk those sold through four sales at Christies Amsterdam. The very wide diversity and quality of many of the pieces created great interest, and the date was established by the existence in the find of two pieces with the Chinese cyclical date for 1643.
Captain Michael Hatcher and his crew brought up about 25,000 pieces of unbroken porcelain from the Hatcher junk. Those sold through four sales at Christies Amsterdam. Captain Hatcher returned to the site in 1985 and salvaged over 2,000 more pieces, most of which were sold through a London dealer, Heirloom and Howard. The great majority of the 25,000 pieces were Jingdezhen blue and white, but there were also interesting groups of celadon, blanc-de-Chine, coloured wares and provincial blue-and-white. (Sheaf & Kilburn 1988, pp.8-19)
The ship was almost certainly sailing from China to the Dutch base at Batavia from where cargoes were purchased and transhipped to Dutch East Indiamen for their journey to Europe.
The range of shapes of wares available in the Hatcher junk illustrates what a south Asian porcelain trading vessel of the mid-17th Century might be expected to contain. The cargo also includes objects which normally did not reach the West. This wreck should be seen in its historical context. There was a Dutch pewter jug found in the wreck, which certainly suggests a connection with the Dutch East India Company, (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC), headquarters at Batavia. The native Ming dynasty was overthrown in 1644 and the resulting civil war substantially upset Chinese trade with the VOC and other western powers. The rebellion interrupted Junk trade to the VOC headquarters at Formosa, the entrepot for ceramics bound ultimately for Batavia. The contents of this wreck suggest a considerable conservatism in the production of Chinese domestic blue-and-white for the first half of the 17th Century. Types of kraak porcelain which were discovered in the Witte Leeuw wreck (which sank in 1613) are closely mirrored in the porcelain of this ship, 30 to 40 years later, it is often said that the Dutch were very conservative in their porcelain taste during the first half the 17th century. It may well be that the VOC went on buying kraak type wares, and the reason why such large amounts of dishes, bowls and jars survived especially in the Netherlands, is that, in fact, there was no export porcelain alternative readily available which the VOC could buy in quantity from Chinese trading Junks. Many of the smaller pieces offered from this wreck bear earlier reign-marks, mostly of the late Ming Emperors none unfortunately of Tianqi or Chongzheng, but equally none with Kangxi marks or cyclical dates for the earliest years of the Manchu Qing dynasty. (Amsterdam 1985, pp.7-8)
There were over 3,500 miniature items - small boxes, vases and jars in many different shapes. Such pieces had been popular exports to South-East Asia during the late Song and Yuan periods and they appeared again when the junk trade revived at the end of the fifteenth century. They continued to be in demand during this period, but the established market was for coarse wares. One would have thought these fine wares would have been too expensive to be sold in any numbers in Asian markets. There is no sign of such pieces among the Dutch East India Company, (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC) orders for Holland, so perhaps an enterprising merchant was hoping to create a new demand for them before events overtook him. (Sheaf & Kilburn 1988, p.50)
In total only twenty-four identically shaped and decorated covered boxes, divided over the lots 251 and 252, were sold in 1984. (Amsterdam 1984/2, lot 251 & 252)
The cargo of the trading vessel sunk about 1643 contained more than a thousand small circular porcelain boxes with a great many designs. Some of the slightly larger ones had pierced porcelain liners, while those in green earthenware were designed to contain bronze mirrors (a number were found which fitted the boxes exactly). These were used for ointments and medicinal pills, or cosmetics and patches, almost as 'compacts' are used today. Some of the designs from this cargo of c.1643 were almost identical to those on a much smaller number of circular boxes salvaged from the Vung Tau wreck of c.1695. (Howard 1994, p.220)
For identically shaped and decorated covered boxes salvaged from the Hatcher cargo, please see:
- Fine and Important Late Ming and Transitional Porcelain, The second and finial part of the Hatcher Collection, recently recovered from an Asian vessel in the South China Sea, auction catalogue Christie’s Amsterdam, 12 & 13 June 1984, p.29, lot 251 & 252.
- The Hatcher Porcelain Cargoes. The Complete Record, (C. Sheaf & R. Kilburn, Oxford 1988), p.61, Pl.84.
For similarly shaped covered boxes salvaged from the Hatcher cargo, please see:
- The Choice of the Private Trader. The Private Market in Chinese Export Porcelain illustrated from the Hodroff Collection, (D.S. Howard, Zwemmer, London, 1994), p.220, cat. 257.
Condition: A glaze firing flaw, a fleabite and a frit to the rim of the box.