University Collections of Art and History

Object Record

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Catalog Number 2008.9.3
Object Name Cup, Coffee
Description This cup, from one of the largest and most elaborate services known from the early-eighteenth century, was made for James Brydges, the first of Duke of Chandos, and his second wife, Cassandra Willoughby.

Chandos was a politician and patron of the arts, and his luxurious lifestyle, made possible mainly through profitable positions in government, earned him the name "Princely Chandos." Passionately interested in the arts, he built a large collection of paintings and books, employed some of Britain's leading artists and architects (including William Talman, James Gibbs, John Vanbrugh, Louise Laguerre, and Grinling Gibbons), and serving as a patron for the composer George Frederic Handel, who composed the Chandos Anthems while in residence at Cannons, the Chandos's country house.

Cassandra Willoughby was Chandos's second wife, and was unusually independent and well-educated for a woman of her day, authoring a history of her family and traveling extensively throughout England. They married in 1713, and in 1719 he was made a Duke. The armorial porcelain service was probably ordered soon thereafter.

Cannons was one of the largest and grandest built in the eighteenth century, and was described by the author Daniel Defoe as "the finest house in England… most exquisitely finish'd, and if I may call it so, royally furnish'd." Though the armorial porcelain service is not recorded in the inventory done of Cannons and their London town house in 1725, the inventory does show that they were well-equipped for serving tea, chocolate or coffee, having a silver coffee pot, two teapots, and three chocolate pots (one described as "new") at Cannons, and a tea kettle, chocolate pot, and a "coffee pott stand and lamp" at their London town house.

The Chandos coat of arms was also visible in numerous places beyond porcelain. Other pieces of Chinese export art bearing his arms included a Chinese silk embroidery panel and mother-of-pearl game counters. No doubt much of their silver was engraved with their arms, but also the Picture Room at Cannons boasted a "Plymouth marble chimney piece with his Graces Arms Compleat."

The speed of Chandos's rise to great wealth was matched only by his decline. A naïve investor who was described as "a dupe to men that nobody else would keep company with," he lost enormous sums through risky investments, including the South Sea Company, which collapsed spectacularly in 1720, creating what economic historians have described as the first modern recession. Chandos died in 1744 nearly bankrupt. His collections were auctioned off, and his magnificent house was demolished and sold for its materials in 1747.
Year Range from 1729
Year Range to 1730
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