The present pair of extremely rare and important figures have historically been known as ‘Dutchman and Dutch Lady’, or ‘Mr. and Mrs. Duff’ in auction catalogues and literature, referencing the Dutch Governor in Batavia Diederik Durven who held office between 1729 to 1732. However, this attribution has been repositioned recently by Chinese export porcelain scholar Ronald Fuchs II. following his discovery of two European prints entitled ‘Franckfurther Jud und Jüdin’ (fig. 1) and ‘Ein Polnischer Jud’ (fig. 2). These two prints serve as the sources for the lady and the man, respectively. The present figures are the first pair to be offered together at auction under the updated attribution.
The two prints were etched by the Dutch artist Caspar Luyken (1672-1708) and illustrated in the Neu-eröffnete Welt-Galleria (The Newly Opened World Gallery), published in 1703 in Nuremberg. The volume consists of 101 costume plates ranging in the depiction of nobility to everyday peoples of various nations. The figures depicted are wearing typical Ashkenazi Jewish garments, including the collar ruffs on both figures, the bonnet with cone-shaped ears worn by the woman, and the long robe, large broad brimmed hat and the draped sash, possibly a tallit, worn by the man.
The choice of source prints and specificity of the costumes has raised fundamental questions surrounding the production of these figures. David S. Howard suggested in Choice of the Private Trader: The Private Market in Chinese Export Porcelain illustrated from the Hodroff Collection (London, 1994, p. 253), that these particular figures were a single, small private commission, based on the scarcity of the figures and similarities between extant examples in modelling and enameling. While the identity of the person or organization that commissioned the figures remains unknown, an examination of the circumstances at the time of publication of the book Neu-eröffnete Welt-Galleria and an Esther scroll produced in the early 18th century may provide some clues.
Sharon Liberman Mintz, the Curator of Jewish Art at the Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary, documented a close relationship between the figural images in the Neu-eröffnete Welt-Galleria and the four figural illustrations used in the decoration of an exquisite Esther scroll created for a member of the Jewish community in Vienna in the first decades of the 18th century (‘A Persian Tale in Turkish Garb: Exotic Imagery in Eighteenth-Century Illustrated Esther Scrolls’, For Every Thing A Season: Proceedings of the Symposium on Jewish Ritual Art, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, 2000). Although the artist of the Esther scroll did not use either of the two aforementioned prints, the ‘Franckfurther Jud und Jüdin’ or the ‘Ein Polnischer Jud,’ it would appear that members of the Jewish community were familiar with the series of figures published in the Neu-eröffnete Welt-Galleria.
Although previously expelled from Vienna between 1669 and 1670, a select group of wealthy Jews were invited back to Vienna in 1673. This group included Samuel Oppenheimer and Samson Wertheimer, Ashkenazi Jews who were exemplary in their service as court bankers and suppliers to the royal family. By 1752 there were still only twelve Jewish families who were officially allowed to live in Vienna; most were associated with the Court at Vienna and were active patrons of the arts. Mintz notes that the members of the small but affluent Jewish community in Vienna were responsible for commissioning numerous elaborately decorated Hebrew manuscripts. Therefore, it appears possible that in the early 18th century a member from one of these wealthy Jewish families who commissioned the Esther scroll, with its illustrations modeled after the imagery in the Neu-eröffnete Welt-Galleria, may also have privately commissioned these large-scale ambitious figures from China which are based on other figures in the same book.
The figure of the man in the present lot was originally in the collection of Kathrine Ramsey Blyth, the wife of investment banker Charles R. Blyth (1883-1959). They married in 1925 and resided in Hillsborough, California until her death in 1975. Charles R. Blyth was a co-founder of the investment banking firm Blyth, Witter & Co., and he became the president of the firm Blyth & Co. in 1914, which he served as chairman and directed until his death in 1959. The firm subsequently went through several mergers and ultimately becoming part of UBS Group. He was active in politics and also an important presence in the fund raising efforts for the First and Second World War. The figure of the lady, on the other hand, was in the collection of William Martin-Hurst (1876-1941), bearing the collection number 553. He was the Managing Editor of the Exclusive News Agency, and his entry is included in Roy Davids and Dominic Jellinek, Provenance: Collectors, dealers & scholars: Chinese ceramics in Britain & America, Oxon, 2011. p. 314. Martin-Hurst wrote articles on Yongzheng and Qianlong porcelain, most notably collaborating with George Williamson on The Book of Famille Rose, which illustrates the present figure. He was also said to have the largest collection famille-rose eggshell ware, and the aim of his collection was described to be “in the direction of the finest cabinet pieces”.
By reviewing auction records and literature, there appear to be two other pairs of Jewish man and lady published. The first pair is from the Copeland Collection at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, and is illustrated in William Sargent, The Copeland Collection: Chinese and Japanese Ceramic Figures, Salem, 1991, cat. no. 51. Originally from the Mme Espirito Santo Collection, Lisbon, the pair is also illustrated in Michel Beurdeley, Porcelain of the East India Companies, London, 1962, pl. XVIII. The second pair is from the Hodroff Collection at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, Winterthur, Delaware, illustrated in Ronald W. Fuchs II, Made in China: Export Porcelain from the Leo and Doris Hodroff Collection at Winterthur, Winterthur, 2005, cat. no. 112. The pair is also illustrated in David S. Howard, The Choice of the Private Trader: The Private Market in Chinese Export Porcelain illustrated from the Hodroff Collection, London, 1994, cat. no. 299. The male figure in this particular pair appear to have retained most the original left hand, holding a red purse. The author notes that most of the male figures have suffered losses to their extended hands and arms. Two other examples of the male figure were sold at auction, one at Christie’s London, July 6, 1984, lot 589, from the collection of Lord Torrington, 1st Commissioner of Admiralty. The other male figure was sold at Sotheby’s Monaco, March 4, 1984, lot 107. However, by comparing the illustrations of this particular example with the other four male figures (including the present lot) which are relatively consistent in modeling and painting, the example sold in Monaco appears to have a slightly different modeling to the face, and the differences also extend to the floral motifs on the blue robe. This possibly suggests that there was a second order, in addition to the other four figures, or perhaps this example was decorated by a different potter.
Figures of the lady, while they are more numerous than the man, are also extremely rare, and appear both in private and museum collections. In addition to the two figures mentioned previously paired with a man, other figures of the lady include examples in the collection of the British Museum, no. 1963.0422.11, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, no. C.94-1963. Another example previously in the Mildred and Rafi Mottahedeh collection, illustrated in David Howard and John Ayers, China for the West, Vol. II, London, 1978, cat. no. 641, and sold in these rooms, January 30, 1985, lot 352, then again in our London rooms, November 5, 2008, lot 315, currently in the RA collection and illustrated in Maria Antónia Pinto de Matos, The RA Collection of Chinese Ceramics: A Collector's Vision, Vol. II, London, 2011, cat. no. 373. A more recent example was with Cohen and Cohen, London, 2017, reference number 6650.