This grouping of Chinese export porcelain is a small sample of products that potters from China sold to discerning consumers in Europe and the United States during the 18th and early 19th centuries. Since the 17th century, European potters had tried to replicate the formula for making hard-paste or true porcelain; instead, they were only able to develop soft-paste porcelain and earthenware look-alikes that fell short of authentic versions. Though it was expensive, Western consumers preferred Chinese porcelain, and owning it was a status symbol.
The porcelain’s fine white ground provided a surface for a limitless choice of embellishments. Tea sets, punch pots and dinner services represent only a fraction of what was available. Many products could be decorated to a specific order, such as the Masonic symbols painted onto the surface of the punch pot. Some buyers ordered porcelain with armorial designs like that on the small teapot. The cream pot in the center is designed to feature liberty, justice and an eagle over a floral motif. The tureen and matching dish stand display the motifs of a ship with a gilded band of seaweed and shells.
Photo courtesy of Mark Gulezian