Lot 337
  • 337


20,000 - 30,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • porcelain and wooden crate
  • 56cm., 22in.
each with deep rounded sides rising from a short foot, the interior decorated with a central medallion enclosing the masonic arms of Grand Masters Lodge No. 1, encircled by an assembly of scholars, ladies and attendants in a fenced garden with bamboo and rocks, all below a wide band of birds and flowers against a gilt ground, the exterior similarly decorated with shaped foliate cartouche enclosing the masonic arms and framed by flowers and the beribboned Eight Treasures, alternating with shaped floral panels variously enclosing ladies, scholars and warriors, all below a band of shaped cartouches with dragons and cranes, the foot encircled by a gilt keyfret band against a green ground, original wood crate


Property from the Grand Master's Lodge since 1827, acquired by Bro. Robert Edwards from Canton. (according to E.M.P. Williams and Bernard Davis, A Revised History of the Lodge and List of Members 1756 to 1957, London, 1957, pp 78-79.)

Catalogue Note

The present bowls are unusual in their combination of Chinese figures and, in particular, the bajixiang that encircle the freemason’s arms, which suggests that the craftsman has taken some creative liberty with the commission. Such large vessels were mostly made for the North American market. The fanciful figural scene, with figures dressed in vibrant pinks and blues, and heavy use of gilt are typical of the decorative export style of the 19th century which were individualised through inscriptions or designs specific to the commission; see a punchbowl of similar size decorated with Chinese figures in pavilion settings and a plaque containing details of the commission, illustrated in Jean McClure Mudge, Chinese Export Porcelain in North America, New York, 1986, pl. 373.


In Freemasonry a Grand Master is the title given to the person elected to oversee a Masonic jurisdiction. He presides over a Grand Lodge, for which these bowls would have been produced. Freemasonry is said to have its origins in the builders of Solomon’s temple, although in their present form they emerged in the 18th century. Some masons were involved in large trading companies and the merchant navy, particularly in the East India Companies. Almost all of the porcelain made in China was made in small quantities and would have been produced on special private orders. A complex range of symbolism and allegory was adopted to express their ideas; see a punchbowl of slightly smaller size, decorated with the more common design of Masonic symbols, from the collection of Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen Jr, sold at Christie’s New York, 24th January 2012, lot 154.