Armorial goose tureens are exceptionally rare. Goose tureens, in general, have frequently been celebrated as one of the most spectacular and recognizable forms of Chinese porcelain made for the West. Intended to be extravagant centerpieces for table settings, fashionable in Europe in the 18th century, geese, along with roosters, quail, fish, boar’s heads, ox heads and crabs (examples of the last two are also represented in the Rockefeller collection and included in this sale) are other recorded examples of animal or bird shaped tureens used for such displays. While the exact prototype for goose tureens is not known, scholars usually attribute the Chinese porcelain examples to European originals. As discussed in David Howard and John Ayers, China for the West, Vol. II, London, 1978, cat. no. 615, and also Michael Cohen and William Motley, Mandarin and Menagerie: Chinese and Japanese Export Ceramic Figures, Reigate, 2008, cat. no. 18.1, Adam von Löwenfinck, the original director of Höchst, faience factory who later joined Strasbourg in 1749, likely supervised the creation of goose, turkey and pigeon tureens at that factory between 1750-54. J. J. Kändler, the most important modeler at Meissen, was also known to have created large bird models.
Western influences aside however, it is also worth noting that goose or waterfowl-form boxes and covers were not at all unfamiliar in the Chinese artistic tradition, especially in wares for ritual and incense use. Cohen and Motley discusses Han dynasty avian form boxes and covers and also later cloisonné and bronze examples, ibid, cat. no. 18.1. A gilt-bronze duck-form incense burner and cover, mark and period of Xuande, was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, April 8, 2014, lot 85. This example, cast as standing on a hexagonal pedestal, closely relates to a celebrated Chenghua mark and period Sancai duck-shaped censer, illustrated in A Legacy of Chenghua: Imperial Porcelain of the Chenghua Reign Excavated from Zhushan, Jingdezhen, The Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1993, cat. no. C34, where the author notes that the Chenghua emperor was very fond of ‘ingenious creations’ and thus this porcelain censer example would suit his taste. The transition between metal and porcelain mediums represents a great challenge to potters, as each material has varying strengths and weaknesses. While porcelains are not able to replicate the hard and clean edges of cast metal examples, the colorful enamels that adorn these pieces provided very capable artisans a new ‘canvas’ for an updated interpretation of a traditional form with ritual roots.
There appear to be two distinct models of goose tureen produced in China in the 18th century; one variety with a shorter neck and a longer body, as illustrated in Howard and Ayers, ibid., cat. no. 614, and the other model virtually identical to the present two lots with a more elegant and curving neck and shorter body. It is well-known that the V.O.C. ordered twenty-five goose tureens in 1763 for stock, as discussed in David Howard, A Tale of Three Cities: Canton, Shanghai & Hong Kong, London, 1997, cat. no. 78. Decoration of goose tureens also differs from example to example, however the major distinction is the existence of coats of arms on some tureens, with these armorial examples being much rarer. Aside from the two present tureens, four other armorial examples appear to be published. The first, a goose tureen complete with stand, bearing the arms of the Basque family of Asteguita, is illustrated in William R. Sargent, Treasures of Chinese Export Ceramics from the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, 2012, cat. no. 206, and was previously sold at Christie’s London, March 16, 1981, lot 68, and included in The Art of the Qing Potter: Important Chinese Export Porcelain, The Chinese Porcelain Company, New York, October 1997, cat. no. 49. A second example with the arms of Corral family, was sold at Christie’s London, November 11, 2003, lot 164, having previously sold in our London rooms, May 24, 1964, lot 145. A third example, with the arms of Cervantes, is illustrated in Rocío Díaz, Chinese Armorial Porcelain for Spain, London, 2010, cat. no. 26. A fourth, with the arms of Domingo Esteban de Olza, illustrated in Rocío Díaz, ibid., cat. no. 36. David Howard suggests that most animal form tureens bearing coats of arms were made for the Spanish and Portuguese market.
This goose tureen appears to have been part of a grand service or suite of serving pieces. For examples of the service and a biography of Juan del Castillo Negrete y Rodríguez, see Rocío Díaz, Chinese Armorial Porcelain for Spain, London, 2010, cat. no. 38. The author notes that the initials JCN, for Juan del Castillo Negrete, are very unusually marked on the bases of the pieces from this service. Several examples survive from this service, including a pair of carp tureens and stands, an oval sauce tureen, a pair of oval soup tureens, a mancerina and beaker in the collection of The Museu Nacional de Art Antiga in Lisbon, as well as various plates and dishes in differing sizes.
Juan Miguel del Castillo Negrete was born in Cartagena in Murcia, Spain, and spent considerable time in the Philippines. He first traveled there in 1774, taking up an official position in the accounts office in Manila, and he was subsequently appointed Magistrate of Camarines in 1779. His name appears on a list of the founding members of the Economic Society of Friends of the Country of Manila in 1782, and he engaged in trading by securing cargo-space on Spanish trading ships between Manila, Philippines and Acapulco, Mexico.