University Collections of Art and History

Object Record

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Catalog Number 2014.1.1
Object Name Plate
Description Circular plate with an upturned rim; painted in overglaze famille rose enamels with a wide floral border on a gold ground on the rim and a Chinese landscape scene with five figures on a terrace. On the underside is the inscription "SB 1842" painted in gold.

The identity of "SB" is unknown, but was probably the original owner. The date, 1842, could refer to the date of the plate, or could be a commemorative date.

The pattern is known as "rose mandarin" or "rose canton," referring to the famille rose enamels and the Chinese figures, which Europeans and Americans thought were mandarins, or Chinese officials. The "mandarins" depicted could be just generic figures, but it also thought that scenes could be based on illustrations from Chinese history, novels, or operas.

While the term "mandarin" was used to describe porcelain as early as 1817, when Benjamin Shreve of Boston ordered "mandarin cups and saucers," the term "rose mandarin" is more of a twentieth-century collector's term. In the period it is more likely that pieces like this were described as "rich" or "fancy." It is likely that the service referred to in an 1844 report that "at the present day only a fancy set occasionally comes to this country" was referring to what we would call "rose mandarin." (quotes from Jean Mudge, "Chinese Export Porcelain for the American Trade" 1981, pages 167 and 148).

Porcelain decorated with Chinese figures had been popular since at least the mid-eighteenth century, and were sometimes referred to then as "image china" because they were decorated with images of Chinese figures. Robert Southey referred to the popularity of export porcelain decorated with Chinese figures in In 1807 Englishman Robert Southey wrote that "plates and tea-saucers have made us better acquainted with the Chinese than we are any other people (Southey, Letters from England, p. 191).
Year Range from 1842
Year Range to 1850
Material Hard Paste Porcelain
Place of Origin Made in Jingdezhen, Decorated in Guangzhou (Canton), China
Collection The Reeves Center
On View Reeves Center, Chinese Export Porcelain Gallery