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'ONE CUP OF PURSSELINE'

A Ming dynasty bowl mounted in late 16th century parcel-gilt silver as a wine cup, the bowl Jiajing period, 1522-1566, the mounts unmarked, English or Continental Europe, circa 1580-1585
Estimate
200,000300,000
JUMP TO LOT
3

'ONE CUP OF PURSSELINE'

A Ming dynasty bowl mounted in late 16th century parcel-gilt silver as a wine cup, the bowl Jiajing period, 1522-1566, the mounts unmarked, English or Continental Europe, circa 1580-1585
Estimate
200,000300,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Treasures

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A Ming dynasty bowl mounted in late 16th century parcel-gilt silver as a wine cup, the bowl Jiajing period, 1522-1566, the mounts unmarked, English or Continental Europe, circa 1580-1585
on domed circular foot embossed and chased with strapwork enclosing alternating masks and arrangements of fruit, the cast baluster stem decorated above stiff leafage with three lion masks with white silver rings in their mouths between as many escallop shells, the bowl in mounts of engraved stylized foliage connected by four pierced straps, each terminating in an applied grinning Bacchanal mask with curly hair, the porcelain bowl painted with four brick-red medallions on the white glaze
13.3cm., 5 ¼ in. high; the bowl 9.3cm., 3 5/8in. diameter
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Provenance

Francesco Lugrammi, a Customs official of the Kingdom of Italy who by family tradition is said to have acquired the cup from Elisa, Duchess of Lucca (1777-1820), a sister of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Thence to his son, Giulio Lugrammi (1876-1958), Commander General of the Port of Marseilles, a senator of the Kingdom of Italy and one of the Italian delegates at the 1919 Peace Conference in Paris.
Thence by descent to his son (1906-1991) and grandson.

Catalogue Note

‘At this Citie of Boghar is the marte or meeting place betweene the Turkes and nations of those parts and the Cathayans. . . . From thence to Cascar is one moneths journey, and from Cascar . . . is also a moneths trauel for merchants by land to Cathay. . . .’1

The exotic beauty and extreme rarity of porcelain from faraway China – the Cathay of legend as revealed in the Travels of Marco Polo (1254-1324) – was long cherished in Europe. A bottle-shaped white Chinese porcelain vase of the Yuan dynasty (circa 1300) mounted in 1381, probably in Hungary, is one of the earliest examples to be recorded in the West.2 Giovanni Bellini (1430?-1516) includes three blue and white bowls of the Ming Dynasty in his ‘The Feast of the Gods,’ completed in 1512. Depicting a scene from Ovid’s Fasti, it is believed to have been painted for Duke Alfonso I d’Este (1476-1534), an early Italian collector of Chinese porcelain. The originals of these bowls are likely to have been acquired by the Mamluk Sultans and from them conveyed as diplomatic gifts to Venice in the 1490s.

‘Early Tudor England,’ writes Philippa Glanville, ‘was poorly placed on the fringe of Europe to acquire porcelain by the long-established overland route through Egypt. . . .’ The author draws attention to the fact that Henry VIII owned a mounted ‘Cup of Purselaine glassefation,’ listed in a Jewel House inventory of 1547.3 But this was a unique entry in the royal records at that time. Over the next two decades, however, further examples trickled through to England via the activities of merchants, chiefly Portuguese, trading with the Far East. In the 1580s Queen Elizabeth I received as gifts several mounted porcelain vessels, including, in 1588, ‘one Cvp of Pursseline thonesyde paynted Red the foute and Cover sylver guilt . . . a Ringe Lyk a snak[e] on the top of the Cover . . . Geven by Mr Lychfelde.’4 This description bears a striking resemblance to a porcelain bowl mounted on a silver stem bearing the mark of a bird, attributed to Affabel Partridge of London, one of Elizabeth’s goldsmiths, which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.5 (Fig.2)

It was at this time, 1580, that Elizabeth signed a treaty with the Ottoman Empire which established the first trading links between the two countries. William Harborne (d. 1618), one of the chief negotiators, became the Queen’s envoy at Constantinople and by 1586 he was appointed ambassador. It is more than likely that the porcelain bowl of our present cup reached a city such as London through this route. Mrs. Glanville observes that small bowls and rectangular boxes were the most portable of the typical export wares reaching Turkey from China in the 16th century.6 Indeed, a bowl of the same size and of a similar decoration with four red medallions to that in our cup is in the celebrated collection of Yuan and Ming Dynasty porcelains in the Topkapi Palace museum, Istanbul.7 (Fig.1)

Proof of the arrival of Chinese porcelain in Europe via the Levant during the 1580s is to be found in the inscription engraved on the German silver-gilt foot-mount to a bowl which was the gift of Count Eberhart von Manderscheidt to his brother in 1583: ‘Dese Schal so vur Gifet guit hat Graf Eberhart von Manderscheidt Anno 1583 aus Turckeien bracht und hat es Graf Herman seinem Broder folgentz ime zun Eheren also lasen fasen im Haus Blankenheim zu verbliben.’ (Count Eberhart von Manderscheidt brought this cup as a suitable gift from Turkey in the year 1583 and subsequently had it mounted in honour of his Brother, Count Herman, to remain permanently in the Blankenheim line).8

A small group of 16th century Iznik pottery, the decoration of which combines Chinese motifs and traditional Ottoman patterns, with London-made silver-gilt mounts dating from about 1580 to the mid 1590s,9 appears to confirm the lively interest shown in England for such intriguing and arresting wares. It is little wonder that Chinese porcelain and Ottoman pottery, so out of the ordinary and so exotically beautiful, should have been collected and their costliness and scarcity emphasized by the addition of lavish silver-gilt mounts.

For a wine cup of silver-gilt mounted blue and white porcelain, by tradition a gift of Mary Queen of Scots to the 2nd Lord North, see The Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, museum number LOAN:GILBERT 50-2008 (Christie’s, London, 14 July 1993, lot 115, the property of the late Baroness Phillimore)

See also the Lennard Cup, a Ming porcelain bowl with silver-gilt mounts and cover, the mounts maker’s mark FR, London, 1569. This is the earliest recorded example of Chinese porcelain with hallmarked English mounts. (British Museum, number PDF.695; Sotheby’s, London, 28 July 1932, lot 132, purchased by Sir Percival David)

FURTHER READING
Louise Avery, 'Chinese Porcelain in English Mounts,' The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. II, issue 9, New York, 1944, pp. 266-272.
Yvonne Hackenbrock, ‘Chinese Porcelain in European silver Mounts,’ The Connoisseur, London, June 1955, pp. 22-29.
Philippa Glanville, Silver in Tudor and Early Stuart England, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1990, ch. 19, pp. 340-351.
Gillian Wilson, Mounted Oriental Porcelain in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, revised edition, 1999

Notes

1. ‘Notes and observations gathered by Richard Johnson of severall ways from Russia to Cathay over-land,’ 1559, from Richard Hakluyt’s The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation
2. Formerly in the collection of William Beckford of Fonthill Abbey (1760-1844). Gillian Wilson, Mounted Oriental Porcelain in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, revised edition, 1999, pp. 3 and 4, figs. 2 and 3. The vase, no longer mounted, is now in the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin.
3. Philippa Glanville, Silver in Tudor and Early Stuart England, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1990, ch. 19
4. A. Jefferies Collins, editor, Jewels and Plate of Queen Elizabeth I, London, 1955, p. 592, no. 1582
5. Accession no. 68.141.125a/b, the Gift of Irwin Untermyer, 1968
6. Philippa Glanville, op. cit.
7. Regina Krahl in collaboration with Nurdan Erbahar, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, London, vol. II, p. 824, pl. 1658, no. TKS 15/3034
8. Victoria and Albert Museum, museum no. M.16-1970 (Sotheby’s, London, 5 February 1970, lot 169)
9. A particularly good example is the Iznik jug with green, white and black decoration, the silver-gilt mounts maker’s mark IH in a shield, London, 1586, which was sold at Christie’s, London, 19 November 2002, lot 144. Other examples include a jug in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, the mounts also maker’s mark IH, London, 1592 (object no. M.16-1948), and a jug in the British Museum, the mounts maker’s mark HB, London, 1597 (museum no. AF.3132)

Sotheby’s gratefully acknowledges the advice during the research and cataloguing of this cup of Philippa Glanville, Regina Krahl and Haydn Williams.

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