University Collections of Art and History

Object Record

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Catalog Number 2015.20.1
Object Name Plate
Description A lone Chinese scholar contemplating a rocky landscape decorates this plate. This design was popular on English tin-glazed earthenware made between 1675 and 1695, and was inspired by Chinese porcelain made in the mid-17th century.

Porcelain decorated with scenes of a figure alone in a mountainous landscape became popular in China in the 1630s. They were inspired by Chinese paintings, which in turn may be derived from the eighth-century poet Wang Wei, who wrote, "I walk to the place where the water ends / and sit and watch the time when clouds rise." Such scenes of seclusion and contemplation took on special significance during the political and social upheaval of mid-17th-century China.

Such meaning, of course, would have been completely lost on European and American audiences, who would have seen the decoration as merely exotic and stylish. Plates like this are an early example of chinoiserie, a European interpretation of Chinese designs, and are among the earliest examples of asymmetrical design on English ceramics.

Juxtaposed with the Chinese scene are the initials of the plate's original owners (their surname begins with a W, his first name with an I or J, and hers with an M) and the date 1683, probably the year they married.
Date 1683
Material Tin-glazed Earthenware
Place of Origin Made in London, England
Collection The Reeves Center
Credit line Museum Purchase with Funds Provided by W. Groke Mickey
On View Reeves Center, European Gallery
Gallery ID Number 107