University Collections of Art and History

Object Record

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Catalog Number 2008.9.40
Object Name Cup, Coffee
Description This cup was probably made for Joseph Highmore (1692-1780), a portrait and historical painter.

Highmore trained as a lawyer, but abandoned it to pursue a career as an artist. In this he was probably influenced by his uncle, Thomas Highmore, the serjeant-painter to King William III. Joseph was largely self-taught though he attend Sir Godfrey Kneller's drawing academy and studied painting on two tours of Continental Europe.

Like most artists of his day, Highmore painted predominately portraits of London professionals and members of the gentry, including a portrait of Lancelot Lee and his family, who may have commissioned the cup 2028. Unlike most successful artists, who had assistants who painted backgrounds and drapery, Highmore did not, noting in a letter "I do every thing my self, which I believe is not true of one painter in England besides."

In addition to portraits, Highmore also painted the official portraits of members of the newly-established Order of the Bath, as well as a number of conversation pieces. He was friends with the writer Samuel Richardson, and painted a series of twelve illustrations for his novel Pamela.

In 1716 Highmore married Susannah Hiller. Sarah was a poet and author, writing several poems and an obituary of their friend Isaac Watts that was published anonymously. Susannah and Joseph first lived in the City of London (the traditional heart of London contained within the old city wall) but in 1724 with Joseph's "reputation and business increasing," they moved to the more fashionable Lincoln's Inn Fields. No doubt this tea and coffee service was used to help project an image of wealth and gentility to his family, friends, and clients.

In 1725 Highmore joined the Masonic Lodge of the Swan. While it was common for gentleman of this period to join lodges and social clubs, this was more a career move than a social one; the master of the Swan was Sir James Thornhill, one of Britain's best known painters of the period and serjeant-painter to George I and George II.

When Highmore died in 1780 he owned £550 worth of shares of the East India Company, and while East India Company stock was a sound and common investment in the eighteenth-century, his ownership of the stock may also reflect some connection with the company that allowed him to order this armorial service.
Year Range from 1735
Year Range to 1740
Material Hard Paste Porcelain
Place of Origin Made in Jingdezhen, China
Collection The Reeves Center
Collector David Sanctuary Howard Collection of Armorial Porcelain Coffee Cups
On View Reeves Center, Chinese Armorial Gallery