Asian Art in London III Jorge Welsh puts on impressive Chinese export ware show

jorge-welsh_a-time-and-a-place_macao-panel_detail

One’s first impression of this exhibition, associated with Asian Art in London and held at Jorge Welsh’s Kensington Church Street Gallery, is of glittering, shiny riches. The brightly lit array of Chinese export ware is breathtaking and leads one to muse how it has been possible to gather together such a cohesive collection of apparently perfect beautiful things.

This exhibition A Time and A Place: Views and Perspectives on Chinese Export Art  focuses on those views and perspectives that show buildings in their settings extending chronologically through the late-17th until the late 19th century, and covering a range of works of art that are illustrative of interest in the subject as a type of cultural expression. While researching for the exhibition and the catalogue, a number of sources such as prints and engravings, for previously unidentified scenes painted in Chinese porcelain were discovered and are in some cases, presented for the first time alongside the actual pieces.

There is a diverse range of works of art, ranging from individual plates, dinner services, tea sets, punch bowls, mugs, snuff boxes, urns, cisterns, vases, and plaques made in porcelain, to folding fans, painted ivory plaques, lacquer, and canvas. These pieces are hybrid objects, both Chinese and European, becoming historical testimonies of artistic interactions between the two cultures.

The exhibition contains over 140 porcelains, paintings and works of art, real treasures of Chinese export art. Below we illustrate just two examples from the show. punch-bowl_jorge-welsh-works-of-art_other-side

Punch Bowl

Qing dynasty

Qianlong period (1736-1795)

  1. 1790

Porcelain decorated in overglaze polychrome enamels and gold

  1. 16.5 cm Ø 38 cm

 jorgewelsh_a-time-and-a-place_macao-wood-panel

Panel with a view of Macao

Qing dynasty

(1644-1911)

First half of 18th century

Wood lacquered in black and decorated with gold lacquer

  1. 85.5 cm W. 59 cm

The show continues until November 11.

 

Christies post tips on collecting Chinese export ware

In the 1700s, ‘Made in China’ was the ultimate mark of sophistication for Western por celain collectors. Here, Christies specialist Becky Maguire gives 7 tips for building a collection of Chinese export ware in a wide range of styles in advance of their important January 21 sale in New York.

 1. Chinese export porcelain isn’t just blue and white

 

A famille rose punchbowl, circa 1785. Estimate: $5,000-8,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

 Most of us think first of the ubiquitous blue and white when we hear ‘Chinese export’. We’ve seen it in Whistler and Sargent portraits, at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, in Amsterdam townhouses and in our grandmother’s pantries — and bulk-ordered blue and white porcelain decorated with generic mountain landscapes did comprise the overwhelming majority of China Trade cargoes.

But the other 2 per cent — largely colourfully-enamelled wares — were at the top of the market and remain so today. Made over three centuries and with decoration ranging from Chinese myths and legends to exotic botanical blooms, ‘famille rose’ and ‘famille verte’ enamelled porcelains appeal both to specialised collectors and to those looking for high quality decoration for their interiors.

A large ‘Lambert’ dish, circa 1722. Estimate: $5,000-8,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

2. Let armorial porcelain tell its stories of the 18th century elite

It’s the Chinese export ‘private trade’ porcelain, those pieces specially commissioned by Dutch and English East India Company directors or investors, by European royals and aristocracy or by Yankee merchants, that really makes collectors’ hearts beat faster. And at the top of the ‘private trade’ list is armorial porcelain, the great dinner services, tea services and decorative pieces made to order with European coats-of-arms. These pieces reflected the absolute latest in fashion, not just in their decorative borders but also in their forms, which evolved as trends emerged and as 18th-century cuisine developed.

Armorial porcelain can connect you directly to important personages of the day: Louis XV of France, Catherine the Great, the ‘Princely’ Duke of Chandos and many, many more had Chinese armorial services. This very large dish is from a set made for wealthy London merchant Sir John Lambert, who ordered it at the peak of his power, just before his fortune collapsed in the famous 1720 South Sea Company ‘bubble’.

3. Find fascinating — and amusing — social history in porcelain

 

A very rare Grisaille ‘London Hospital’ bowl. Second half 18th century. Estimate: $20,000-30,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

 

A particularly charming and even quirky Chinese export category is known as ‘European subject’. These wares were painted to order in China after popular Western paintings and prints, with scenes ranging from literary to topographical, mythological or historical, up to and including political cartoons.

A rare dated Dutch market shipping plate, dated 1756. Estimate: $10,000-15,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

A rare famille rose ‘Don Quixote’ soup plate, circa 1740. Estimate: $15,000-25,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

This year’s Chinese export sale is particularly rich in this category, which was the focus of the Jefferson Miller collection. A very rare bowl shows the newly built London Hospital, while a plate painted with an image of the Dutch ship Vryburg was commissioned by Captain Jacob Ryzik, as its inscription notes. Another very rare plate is finely enameled with Don Quixote and the faithful Sancho Panza.

 

4. Palace porcelains for penthouses

 

A massive blue and white five-piece garniture. Kangxi Period (1662-1722). Estimate: $70,000-100,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

Large-scale pieces — what I call ‘country house’ porcelain — decorated the great 18th-century European houses and has just as much impact in a modern penthouse or loft today. Large pairs of Chinese export jardinières or floor-standing vases, like the famous ‘soldier vases’ that stood guard in the palace of Augustus the Strong, King of Poland, were equally at home in an Amsterdam townhouse or a Gilded Age Newport ballroom; their timeless elegance suits any era’s interiors.

A super example from our January sale is this massive garniture, with its vibrant cobalt blue and classic shapes. Very difficult to produce in a simple wood-fired kiln, costly to buy and expensive to ship, large-scale Chinese export pieces are sought by new and established buyers.

 

6. Look for relationships with European silver

A pair of large famille rose coffeepots and covers, circa 1740. Estimate: $12,000-18,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

A rare blue and white Monteith. Kangxi period (1662-1722). Estimate: $30,000-50,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

Chinese export made in European shapes is another category that we find mirroring changing Western tastes through the decades. Modelled after fashionable silver forms, these wares include soup tureens, coffee and tea pieces, candlesticks and candelabra, ewers and basins and wine coolers. With a fascinating mix of Chinese-tilted decoration and Western form, European-shaped wares appeal to the decorative arts sophisticate but are also just easy to like and to live with.

Look for quality of modelling and rarity of form, as well as attractive decoration and good quality enameling or painting. European-shaped pieces are well-represented in our sale by this pair of coffeepots with bird-head spouts and a very rare and handsome blue and white monteith bowl.

 

7. Build your own porcelain menagerie

A rare massive seared hound, 18th century. Estimate $50,000-80,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

A rare famille rose European couple, circa 1770. Estimate: $15,000-25,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

Lastly, we have the very appealing category of birds, animals and figures. Chinese potters had a long tradition of modelling lifelike ceramic figures to accompany an important dead person in the afterlife, and a special affinity for these sculptures in porcelain.

Eighteenth-century Europeans were captivated by the porcelain exotic birds, court figures and then-unknown pug dogs made in China, and these models soon became highly desirable as decoration for grand European houses. Smaller figures were often scattered on dinner tables (as nascent German porcelain factories quickly realised), while large Chinese animal-form tureens were borne into the dining room emitting steam.

 

An Elephant sauce tureen and cover and two stands, circa 1785. Estimate: $50,000-70,000. This lot is offered in the Chinese Export Art sale on 21 January at Christie’s New York

The Chinese export sale this month boasts such rarities as a near life-size hunting hound and a sleepy elephant tureen from the well-known Sowell Collection, as well as a sweetly smiling Dutch couple, her dress perhaps a little more Chinese than was intended when the order was made.

 


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Click images for more information on the sale and lots featured in this article

Of Chinese teapots, wine pots and wine ewers

A-Yixing-Teapot-and-a-Chinese-Porcelain-Tete-a-Tete-on-a-Partly-Draped-Ledge

Still life with Yixing teapot

So, when is a teapot not a teapot? This may sound like a trick question from Mastermind, but it is a valid query when it comes to the Chinese version of the vessel. The answer is, ‘When it is not a wine pot.’

The Ch’a Ching, the earliest book on the subject of tea, appeared in China in 780. Legend has it that tea was first drunk there more than three thousand years before, but it was under the Tang Dynasty (618-907) that the drink became fashionable and the wild tea plant, Camellia sinensis, was brought into cultivation (Source: Hampshire Cultural Trust, The Allen Gallery).

dreweatts chinese ivory coffee pot qianlong wine pot in elephant for m

Fanciful ivory teapot (left) and Qianlong cloisonné wine pot (right)

The first significant imports of tea to Europe arrived in the early years of the 17th century. They came thanks to Portugal’s development of sea-routes to China and the trading skills of the Dutch. Surprisingly, there is debate as to whether the Chinese used teapots at this time. If so, they would have represented quite a recent change to the traditional method of making tea, in which the drink was brewed in open pans or in the actual cup using specially prepared ‘tea paste’.. Such teapots as were manufactured were unglazed, the Yixing style of pot, made from brown or purple clay, being most common and these started in production some time around 1500.

teapot_yixing Typical unglazed Yixing teapot

Assuming it existed, the Chinese teapot was indistinguishable from what is termed a wine-pot or wine-ewer. Vessels of this type were exported along with the tea itself and if not actually intended for tea-making, may have been interpreted as being so here in the West.

As James Norwood Pratt writes in The Tea Lover’s Treasury, ‘The teapot has not always been the undisputed lord of the tea service; historically the teacup comes first.’ He explains how tea ‘bricks’ were crumbled into kettles filled with boiling water. Pratt also notes that the first teapots of which positive records exist only appear around the year 1500.

However, he does find this discovery hard to believe because there has been much conjecture among tea scholars that the wine ewer, a tall, water-pitcher-shaped vessel with a spout, resembled a teapot, and, ‘it strains credulity to believe so inventive a people as the Chinese never thought to brew tea in their so-called wine ewers.’

As Laura Everage points out in Teapots through the Ages (December 2006), ‘During the 17th century, Europeans were introduced to the beauty of Chinese pottery through the East India Company, which imported the tea and used the pots as ballast in the lower portion of the cargo ships, while the tea was stored above the water line.’

A true distinction between wine-ewers and teapots was only established after 1694, when the British East India Company directed that teapots made for them in China must have “a grate… before the spout”. In other words, they wanted a sort of pierced barrier where the tea enters the spout so as to hold back the tea-leaves. Of course, it was not long before European ceramicists started to copy examples arriving from China and sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate between the two.

Anita Gray, at Gray’s Antiques Market in London has some interesting examples of teapots manufactured during the Qianlong era and which are shortly to go on open sale.

A Chinese Armorial Teapot and Cover (ref BC60). Of oval form, with c-shaped handle, straight spout and low domed cover finished with a bud finial, the body boldly painted in shades of overglaze blue with large well-drawn flowering branches, including lotus, continuing around the pot, an armorial painted on either side of the pot in iron-red, black and gilding of a cockerel holding a branch in its beak above a winged coronet, both below a border of fleur-de-lys outlined in iron-red and gilding around the base of the short neck, the cover similarly decorated with large blossoming blooms and a fleur-de-lys border around the rim, the base glazed.

Period: Qianlong 1736-1795 Height: 12.5 cm; 5 in

A Chinese famille rose ‘European-Subject’ Teapot and cover (ref BC69). Of rounded form, with c-shaped handle, straight spout and low domed cover finished with a bud finial, the body painted in famille rose enamels with a European figurative scene of a lady dressed in long robes carrying a basket of flowers, a male figure with his hand on her shoulder dressed in short trousers, a blue jacket and a black hat stands next to her holding a garden fork, a multitude of flowers grow nearby with a further woman similarly dressed in European clothing watering the flowers with a large vessel, a tall tree to their right, the scene repeated on the opposite side of the teapot, the cover with a matching scene of floral foliage and a tall tree, the base glazed.

Period: Qianlong 1736-1795 Height (including cover):  12 cm; 4 ¾ in

A Chinese famille rose ‘European-subject’ teapot and cover (ref BC58) Of oval form, with c-shaped handle, straight spout and low domed cover finished with a bud finial, the body painted in famille rose enamels with a landscape, a ruin in the background and in the foreground two European figures reclining against a rock, one, a lady, dressed in a long dress and wearing a hat decorated with flowers, the other, a gentleman, wearing a short coat, short trouser and a hat, their arms entwined as they each hold a small glass in their hand, at their feet two spotty dogs await, two trees nearby, their trunks mirroring the intertwining of the couple’s arms, the scene repeated on the opposite side of the teapot, the cover with a matching scene of intertwining trees and ruins, the bud finial gilded and  the base glazed.

Period: Qianlong 1736-1795 Height (including cover):  13.5 cm; 5 ¼ in

A Chinese famille rose teapot and cover depicting the Judgement of Paris. (ref BC54). Of globular form, with a straight spout, c-shaped handle and domed cover with a bud finial, painted on either side with Paris seated wearing a puce robe, with a small dog beside him, and offering a green object to Aphrodite who is flanked by Hera and Athena, and with Cupid looking on, Hera and Aphrodite only covered by either a shawl or a fan, Athena dressed in long iron-red and yellow robes, at their feet a bird, pine trees enclosing the scene, the cover with birds in flight, a similar large bird and pine and finished with a bud finial, the base glazed. Period: Qianlong 1736-1795

Height: 14 cm; 5 ½ in

Footnote: This is the most popular European design on Chinese porcelain of the 1740s and there are at least six different variations. The scene depicts King Priam’s son Paris judging who of the goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite was the most beautiful – he chooses Aphrodite by handing her an apple.

A very similar example of a teapot is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, illustrated in William R. Sargent, Treasures of Chinese Export Ceramics – From the Peabody Essex Museum, 2012, other forms but with the same mythological motif include a barber’s bowl from Historic Deerfield, Deerfield, MA (illustrated by Lange 2005, 165, no. 52); a dish from Östasiatiska Museet, Stockholm, (illustrated in Wirgin 1998, 187, no. 201), a plate in the Victoria and Albert Museum (C.342-1931), London (illustrated in Kerr and Mengoni 2011, 71, no. 93). For further examples decorated with this scene see Scheurleer, Chinese Export Porcelain, illus. 225, 226; Beurdeley, Porcelain of the East India Company, Cat. 31, 130; Howard & Ayers, China for the West, p.329. For a plate with the same scene see Lloyd Hyde, Oriental Lowestoft (New York, 1936), pl. XIV, p.43 and Beurdeley, Cats 31, 130, 131. See also Anita Gray, Catalogue of Oriental Ceramics and Works of Art, pl.97b, p.67.

These teapots from Anita Gray will be unveiled and will be on sale from Monday February 16 and can be viewed, using the quoted reference numbers, on www.chinese-porcelain.com.

Chinese Art in Scotland have just put up for sale a very large wine pot (auctioned off, hardly surprisingly, as a teapot) on their ceramics page. It is 33cm in height with cover, well decorated and embellished in gold. Said Sun Yumei, a partner in the business, ‘It had been in a house where there had been a fire and the lovely decoration was almost obscured by a layer of oil left by exposure to smoke. Apart from the smoke damage, it was in perfect condition and it has cleaned up wonderfully and is now brilliant and gleaming.’ Chinese Art in Scotland have left the footed base un-cleaned, just for the historical record.

There is no grate before the spout so this vessel is based upon the wine ewer, or wine pot, as it is often known. However, it is unlikely to be pre-1694 and is probably a late 18th or 19th century object, in the view of the vendors.

SONY DSC

Large wine pot   Picture courtesy Chinese Art in Scotland

Asian Art in London: Chinese export ware appears to be on the up . . .

Asian Art in London is always invaluable when it comes to identifying trends. This year, we visited three significant exhibitions of Chinese export ware, an area of collecting which has, let us say, been neglected in the rush for blue and white and pretty famille rose . . .

This year, Will Motley of Cohen & Cohen had one spectacular piece on display, and an array of other simply wonderful pieces in two-floored premises on Jermyn Street. The exhibition, and the accompanying book, shared the same intriguing title, Hit & Myth. The fabulous Yongzheng bowl dated 1735 (pictured below) was sold to an important museum in the Far East. The proposed destination is top secret for the moment as committee approval and paperwork is finalised. The bowl is highly unusual in that it portrays the actual making of porcelain. “As far as we know, there are only two of such bowls in the world,” Will Motley revealed.

It is the second time that Motley has sold this particular bowl. Hardly surprisingly, he is addicted to export porcelain. “It is the forgotten cousin,” he says. “It is a complex field with many sub-categories like armorial porcelain and famille verte.

“Many Chinese buyers are bemused by it,.” says Motley. Apparently, they simply fail to recognise it, so different is it from their normal taste. However, that may be changing, “I have, at least, been asked to sell single items which were part of a pair . . .The Chinese simply don’t get it.”

The title of the exhibition, and the book Hit & Myth (£35), reflects the presence of several mythological pieces and three or four other most unusual items.

1 cohen & cohen

Bound for a museum in the Far East . . .  Yongzheng bowl (1735)        Photo Paul Harris

In Kensington Church Street,  Marchants baptised their new premises, at 101, across the road from their well established ones (which are showing blanc de chine currently), with a selection of alluring pieces. Marchant, a long established firm, have an equally long commitment to Chinese export ware.

1 Asian Art Marchant new premises (3)

Marchants new premises at 101 Kensington Church Street (abovePhoto Paul Harris

An exquisite and unusual bowl on display at Marchants   Photo Paul Harris

1 marchant export bowl

Across the road from Marchant’s export ware emporium, dealer Jorge Welsh has his Out of the Ordinary exhibition. He avers that Chinese export porcelain was produced in an ‘extraordinary’ range of shapes during the late 17th and 18th centuries ‘some of which are truly out of the ordinary’. These were frequently ordered in small quantities and through the private trade. They reflect many changing aspects of daily life at the time. There is a fascinating hardback book Out of the Ordinary (£100), which we shall look at later.

We were particularly attracted by one piece, a pair of famille rose goose tureens with covers. In extraordinary condition and highly unusual, they are worth recording here in some detail (supplied by Jorge Welsh).

Pair of Famille Rose Goose Tureens and Covers

Photo Jorge Welsh      Pair of famille rose Goose Tureens and Covers

Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795)

Porcelain decorated in overglaze enamels of the famille rose palette

Height: 32.5 cm; length: 39 cm; width: 25 cm

A pair of large tureens, each naturalistically modelled in two pieces as a goose with webbed feet tucked beneath the body, wings folded against the back, a long neck and small head with a slightly open beak, which serves as a handle for the tureen cover. The detailed plumage is moulded, incised and painted in different shades of brown, while the wings are painted in light brown, dark brown and blue enamel. The neck and head are painted with brown enamels, while the bulge on top of the head and circles around the eyes are painted in pink and the eyes are detailed in black. The beak and the feet are painted in different shades of orange enamel.

Jorge Welsh explains: Large soup tureens in naturalistic forms representing animals and birds were probably modelled after faience examples which were very much in fashion during the 18th century, in conjunction with rococo taste in Europe. Impressive centerpieces, these tureens accompanied table-services and were created for the amusement of guests dining in wealthy households. Large tureens were modelled in the form of fish, geese, roosters, boar’s and ox-head’s, which were also occasionally accompanied by tureen stands. Smaller vegetable and sauce tureens in the shape of crabs, fish, sows, dormice, tortoises and ducks have been recorded, amongst other shapes.

Although the actual prototype has not yet been identified, goose-shaped tureens were most likely derived from European ceramic models, which became increasingly fashionable in the 1740s. Large goose tureens were produced in Germany at the Höchst faience factory, which was patronized by the Elector of Mainz. They were possibly modelled by G. F. Hess, but surviving examples are rare.[1] The director of the factory, Adam von Löwenfinck, left in 1749 and joined the Strasbourg factory, where goose, turkey and cock tureens, among others, were made in faience from 1750 to 1754, from where this fashion spread across France.[2] This type of goose tureen was also produced at the Meissen factory by J. J. Kaendler in the middle of the century and at the Real Fábrica do Rato in Lisbon by Master Tomás Bruneto.[3] These pieces were greatly appreciated and much in demand in Portugal during the 18th century.

Although large goose tureens were usually purchased through private order, demand was such that the Dutch East India Company (VOC) ordered 25 similar tureens for its stock in 1763. The VOC archives record that ‘25 tureens, the form as a boar’s head, the stand finely painted’ and 25 ‘in the form of a goose’ were ordered. In 1764, 19 more boar’s heads and four goose tureens were shipped at fl. 10.50 each.[4] The same year the directors asked for 30 more tureens, but the purchase did not materialise because the supercargoes considered it too risky.

Chinese porcelain goose tureens were manufactured in two similar forms, but one has a much shorter neck than the other. The larger type usually measures about 40 cm in height while the one with shorter neck measures about 34 cm. Each type is often found in pairs of virtually identical form and decoration. The decoration of goose tureens varies from the very naturalistic to more fanciful interpretations of the famille rose palette. Goose tureens with short necks are not recorded as having stands painted with a representation of the same animal.

Similar goose tureens to the present examples, modelled with a shorter neck, are in the Palacio Nacional de Queluz,[5] in the British Museum in London,[6] and in the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum.[7] Other examples were in the Mildred and Rafi Mottahedeh collection[8] and the Helena Woolworth McCann collection.[9] An example of this type but presenting a lavish decoration heightened in gilt is found in the C.T. Loo Collection in Paris.[10]

Goose tureens with tall necks are found in the Carmona e Costa Foundation in Lisbon[11] and in the former Mottahedeh collection.[12] Another belongs to a private collection and is illustrated by Pinto de Matos.[13] A pair was in the Chateau de Plaisance, built by Pâris-Duverney (1684-1770), who was an advisor (1723-26) to the Duc de Bourbon and a protégé of the Marquise de Pompadour, and also director of the French Compagnie des Indes.[14] A further pair of goose tureens mounted in silver and made for the English market is in the collection of Brodick Castle, probably formerly in the collection of William Beckford in Fonthill Abbey.[15]

Goose tureens with tall necks are also recorded from armorial services for the Spanish market. A set of tureens including a goose, rooster and boar’s head, each accompanied by stands, was part of a large service made for the Asteguieta family.[16] Another example bears the arms of the Cervantes family[17] and one tureen from the Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva Collection bears the arms of Don Matias de Gálvez y Gallardo, viceroy of New Spain (1783-1784).[18]


[1] See Howard and Ayers, 1978, vol. II, p. 591.

[2] For an example of a turkey tureen see Fennimore and Halfpenny, 2000, p. 178, pl. 97.

[3] Pinto de Matos and Salgado, 2002, p. 148.

[4] Jörg, 1982, p. 190.

[5] This tureen is illustrated in situ by Ferro, 1998, p. 72.

[6] Krahl, and Harrison-Hall, 1994, pp. 208-209, pl. 91.

[7] Palmer, 1976, pp. 56-57, fig. 25.

[8] Howard and Ayers, ibid.. p. 590, pl. 614.

[9] Phillips, 1956, p. 160, pl. 72.

[10] Beurdeley, 1962, p. 172, cat. 102.

[11] Pinto de Matos and Salgado, ibid. pp. 148-149, pl. 40.

[12] This example was exhibited in the exhibition Oriental Ceramic Society, 1968, cat. 297 and is illustrated in Howard and Ayers, ibid., p. 591, pl. 615.

[13] Pinto de Matos, 2011, vol. II, p. 114-115, pl. 258.

[14] Beurdeley and Raindre, 1986, p. 205, pl. 279.

[15] See, Sargent, 1991, p. 210.

[16] Illustrated and exhibited in The Art of the Qing Potter: Important Chinese Export Porcelain, 1997, p. 71, colour pl. 50.

[17] Mudge, 1986, pp. 54, figs. 62-64.

[18] Fundaçao Ricardo Espírito Santo Silva, 2000, p. 68, pl. 53. Also illustrated in Beurdeley, ibid., p. 85, pl. XVII.