Collecting Chinese Export Porcelain
The collecting of porcelains made by the Chinese for export to the West had become a major activity in the second half of the twentieth century. Millions of objects were shipped from such ports as Canton from the 1600s through the early 1800s, and, of those that have survived intact, a significant number are worthy of the serious attention of the connoisseur.
Collecting Chinese Export Porcelain highlights the important areas for North American and European collectors to consider and provides an authoritative and useful context within which to evaluate such antique objects. The 170 black and white and 20 colour illustrations are of pieces drawn from the collection of Elinor and Horace Gordon and represented only a small proportion of the thousands of objects they have assembled over the past 35 years. In the words of J.A. Lloyd Hyde, “The remarkable collection formed over a long period by Elinor and Horace Gordon covers in the most comprehensive way the whole fascinating spectrum of porcelain made in China solely for export.” It is a representative collection of extraordinary usefulness to the beginning or the advanced collector. The earliest rare blue and white objects of the K’ang Hsi period are included along with the much more common tea sets and dinner services made for notable American families at the end of the eighteenth century. Objects from British and European armorial services are particularly well represented, and among these are some, such as the van Goudriaan and von Herzeele services, which rightfully belong only in museum collections. Similarly valuable are porcelains which display in their decoration special religious and mythological motifs as well as European and Oriental genre scenes. Some were produced in fairly large quantities; others are practically one-of-a-kind objects. The vast majority of the wares illustrated and explained in Collecting Chinese Export Porcelain were specifically made for European and American customers from the 1730s to the beginning of the nineteenth century when export ware began to decline in quality. The justly-acclaimed famille rose enamel colours predominate in the decoration of the wares illustrated. The variety of objects is extensive – from dinner plates to soup tureens to animal figures to various sorts of bowls and accessories. Those made for the American market account for only a small proportion of the illustrated examples since trade between the United States and China did not commence until after the Revolution. Included, however, among the American pieces are such rare items as Cincinnati china, objects bearing ship and eagle designs, and true armorial objects. Not included are pieces decorated in Rose Medallion, Canton, Nanking, and Mandarin patterns which, for the most part, were shipped to North America in the nineteenth century. The Gordons have never collected this later ware, although there are fine examples to be found in all these decorative categories.