Property of a private collector, Virginia
January 26, 08:38 PM GMT
4,000 - 6,000 USD
A RARE CHINESE EXPORT OCTAGONAL 'WASHINGTON MEMORIAL' PLATE FOR THE AMERICAN MARKET
QING DYNASTY, JIAQING PERIOD, 1800-02
清嘉慶 1800-02年 粉彩「華盛頓紀念碑」圖八方盤
the center painted with an eagle with its wings spread perched above a monument inscribed WASHINGTON, the background with a willow tree, the rim with an undulating ribbon decorated with florettes, the top of the plate with a monogram reading JLS within an oval reserve
width 9¾ in.; 24.7 cm
Pook and Pook Auctions, Downingtown, Pennsylvania, April 18th, 2008, lot 177
The present example is part of an iconic Chinese export service made for the American market in the very beginning of the 19th century. All pieces from this service depict a memorial, presumed to be George Washington's grave, after his death on December 14, 1799. A virtually identical example which appears to be the only other octagonal plate published, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is illustrated in Clare Le Corbellier, China Trade Porcelain: Patterns of Exchange, New York, 1974, pp.118-119, cat. no. 50. The author describes the clear indication that the devices depicted in the center of the plate are standard representations of mourning, that would have been instantly understood by the American audience, who were familiar with mourning embroideries by the turn of the 18th century. The identification of the monogram has puzzled scholars since the 1950s, with many publications describing the monogram as reading JRL, and attributing it to either Philadelphia trader John R. Latimer, active in China between 1815-1833, or Judith and Robert Lewis, the son and daughter-in-law of George Washington's sister Betty. Both have been dispelled as possible attributions, and while Le Corbellier describes the example in the collection of Metropolitan Museum of Art as bearing the monogram PAS, it is possible that due to the wear on the plate, the original JRS monogram has been worn away to appear as PAS.
The service was actually made for Joseph Sims, a China trader, and Rebecca, his wife, of Philidelphia. This attribution was made after the discovery of a hand written provenance note accompanying three examples of the service that were donated to Kenmore, a plantation house museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Other shapes known from this service include rectangular platters, tureen cover, jardinière, sauce tureen, pots de creme, coffee can, octagonal hot water dish, oval platter (lacking strainer). It is interesting to note that most shapes extant are either completely unique examples, or only very few are known.