Jorge Welsh to offer ‘soldier vases’ at TEFAF

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Top end Chinese art dealer Jorge Welsh, who is based in London’s Kensington Church Street and in Lisbon, will be showing two very large and magnificent so-called ‘soldier vases’ at the upcoming edition of TEFAF in Maastricht. These large vases (140cm. in height) are what auctioneers usually term ‘massive’. However, they are not just massive. They are also wonderfully decorated and are thought to be from the period 1750-55 during the Qianlong dynasty. They are meticulously decorated in overglaze polychrome enamels and gold.

Not only were such vases difficult to successfully decorate and fire, but they also took up a lot of room on board the ships whch exported them to Europe. Accordingly, they were always very expensive. This particular pair bears the coat of arms of the Spanish nobleman Francisco Jose de Ovando y Solis and would have been made to order.

The descriptive term ‘soldier vases’ came into use in the early 18th century. In 1717, Frederick Augustus Strong (1670-1733), the Elector of Saxony and a passionate collector of Chinese export porcelain, traded an entire regiment of 600 soldiers for 18 such vases from Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia.

They are still made today in Jingdezhen, China. These days, however, you can pick one up for US$300 or so. Not quite the same thing, of course.

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Modern ‘soldier vases’ lined up for shipping from Jingdezhen. 2015 photograph by              Paul Harris.

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.

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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.

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

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

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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.