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My First Treasure Find!
I'm very excited to share this plate. It is my first huge bargain treasure purchase, and for the Chinese export world, I feel like I've found a Qianlong M&P piece. It is the piece that came with the armorial lot I purchased. I believe it is part of the original Elias Hasket Derby service that sailed on the Grand Turk in 1786. The Grand Turk was financed by Elias Hasket Derby, and was one of the first ships that followed the Empress of China out of the United States, and the first ship out of New England.
It looks different from other known pieces of the service:
All have a gilt/sawtooth pattern border, with pink enamel splashes and a sepia figure of Hope, which is different from mine, and most of the literature treats the service transported on the Grand Turk as a single 272-piece service. This made me question its authenticity since a service would have only one pattern, but I've just now found a reference in Treasures of Chinese Export Ceramics from the Peabody Essex Museum at p. 394, that states that Derby's "account books list a purchase of a 171-piece dining set, and a 101-piece tea service, both bearing his initials and a design of Hope with the motto Spero." Most literature has treated the total number as a singular 272-piece service most likely because of the lack of extant examples showing the two different patterns. I've requested physical copies of the account books, just to have them for my records.
Interestingly, the above references would've been part of the larger 171-piece dinner service, whereas mine would've been part of the smaller 101-piece tea service as a side plate for biscuits or pastries to be served alongside tea or coffee, or as an undertray for a chestnut basket. I was able to find a coffeepot with the exact pattern as my plate:
It seems that the pieces from the tea service are exceedingly rare, as the dinner service patterns forms the majority of the pieces out there! I have been unable to find another example other than the coffeepot in the Peabody Essex Museum. I am extremely excited about this piece, and fits perfectly with my maritime collection! Elias Hasket Derby was one of the most successful China merchants in the United States, but also incredibly important to American history, financing and equipping numerous privateering ships during the American Revolution. The Grand Turk was originally one of these privateering ships outfitted as a merchant after the war.
Here's some photos:
Looks great! Congratulations! How big is it?
Thank you, John! It is 9.5" in diameter, and in almost perfect condition, except for the single area of enamel loss at the front of the blue/gilt inner border.
The condition is astonishing. I wonder if this was a stand for a reticulated bowl or maybe for a round tureen? I know sometimes those objects were paired up like that in these services. Did they also make reticulated plates to be presented on their own? Also, have you discovered in your studies if there were standard numbers of items in these services, or did it vary widely due to the customization of the orders? I have wondered how many pieces there would have been in a typical service. John
I really wish I knew, but I've been unable to find an answer on the purpose of this plate so far. Pierced plates were made as standalone plates, or as a stand for reticulated fruit/chestnut baskets. Most reticulated baskets are oval or oblong shaped, but some are perfectly round, so it leaves that option open. I see no wear that would indicate the use of a basket placed on it though.
I'm still looking, but I've been unable to find an inventory list or record of the breakdown of typical services. Most write-ups and documents list them as ###-piece service rather than per piece. Bill, in a previous post, shared with us a substantial dinner service at the MFA in Houston, though: https://emuseum.mfah.org/objects/109342/166piece-dinner-service-made-for-thomas-willing-17311821;jsessionid=2A76D8E50656EE12FAAC37B9F32A4058
The 166-piece service comprising:
- one soup tureen,
- two vegetable tureens with liners,
- eight platters,
- five dishes,
- two stands for baskets,
- one compote,
- one sauce tureen with fixed stand,
- one sauce ladle,
- one sugar bowl,
- one cream jug,
- four saucer dishes,
- twelve soup plates,
- twenty-eight dinner plates,
- thirty side or dessert plates,
- nineteen pudding dishes,
- three sweetmeat dishes,
- twenty-four saucers,
- eleven teabowls, and
- eleven teacups.
However, the Derby accounting books list the 171-piece dinner service and a separate 101-piece tea service, of which I've been unable to find the standard make-up of the two, or whether a reticulated fruit/chestnut basket or pierced plate would've been part of a dinner or tea service. This is the biggest question I have as well. I've also looked for a reticulated plate in 18th-19th century paintings but no luck there so far.
Here's a listing of a substantial dinner service with a group photo:
@bartholin Congratulations John, it is a fine addition to your collection. The anchor of hope is the cherry on top.
@bartholin It was probably one of two or maybe four I'm guessing. There could have been some larger or smaller reticulated ones as well in those numbers. At any rate, it makes it even more rare because who knows if there are other reticulated examples this size from this service that survived, and even if so there may have only been a couple to begin with. Here is a picture of a service that has a couple like yours in the mix: https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2004/important-americana-n07959/lot.121.html
Thank you for the kind words, Sharon! Yes, the anchor of hope makes it even more interesting! I've fallen so much for the history behind these armorial and pseudo-armorial pieces, and I feel they tell a wonderful story of the China trade. I can't wait to get started on my write-up for this.
Interesting! That's a great find, John. I appreciate you looking, I was unable to find any with a reticulated basket/undertray. I'll certainly be saving that link!
I have a reticulated tray and basket I have posted in the past, but they are oval. But I did find several examples of the circular reticulated plates, so it seems they sometimes included them, I just am still unsure if they were intended to be undertrays. It would be interesting to learn from someone who understands these dinner services. For example, what were the reticulated baskets for? Maybe hot bread/rolls, so they could cool a bit?
Here's a search I did to find some others: https://www.google.com/search?q=reticulated+armorial+chinese+plate&rlz=1C1GCEB_enUS913US913&sxsrf=AOaemvIzU6mW5v0CzvCp3ro1tvsrIz6T8w:1640308072748&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj26f3fn_v0AhW-qXIEHZjBAV0Q_AUoAXoECAEQAw&biw=1536&bih=754&dpr=1.25
You know, I'm not sure on the use of the baskets - The Schiffer book on forms doesn't prescribe a specific use for them, but they're commonly known as fruit baskets or chestnut baskets. I'm not sure who eats enough chestnuts that they'd need such a specific basket for though, so I think it'd be used for fruit. Here's a 19th century painting with one:
I'm still stuck with the circular shape of the dish though. I think circular reticulated baskets are exceedingly rare compared to the oval ones. I asked Polly, and she said it could be used as a side dish for biscuits or pastries to be served alongside tea or coffee, or as the undertray.
Congratulations, John! Amazing how this interesting plate ties into the ship theme, too. I love reading your threads: your enthusiasm is uplifting and there is always something for me to learn.
Thank you so much, Julia, for your very kind and encouraging words! I am so glad that my export focus and write-ups are of interest. I'll be working on a more substantial write-up for this plate and Elias Hasket Derby soon 😀 My ship collection has taken an interesting turn away from the sole depictions of ships - I'll share more in the coming weeks after more research!
Congrats on another seriously cool find. As always, the research you do, or at least the level you get to, astounds.
As far as I have seen, the round baskets are far less common than the oval ones, I had one about 6 years ago with an underplate (very close to shape and size on yours) that was Fitzhugh pattern, I'll try an dig up what I found on it or pics if I still have them somewhere, I think it was listed as for fruit.
Anyways, this ought go hand in hand with a cheery holiday.
Thank you, Jeremy! You're much too kind. 😀 I am incredibly thankful for the availability of resources on this subject. I would love to see those photos if you find them. No rush, of course. Also, I have something for you for whenever we meet up! This certainly made the close of the year something to remember for me.
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