Chinese Export Porcelain Punch Bowl Made for the American Market
During the early years of the new republic, the Great Seal of the United States, or one of its variations, was used frequently to decorate Chinese export porcelains for the American market. Patriotism was easily displayed to guests by using china embellished with the eagle and shield. Chinese decorators were happy to satisfy this demand and used as pictorial sources the numerous coins, government documents, shipping papers, newspapers, billheads, and letterheads bearing the seal, or eagles derived from it, that were carried to the Far East by captains and supercargoes. Although the version displayed on this covered jug is different from the official seal, the elements of eagle, shield, and stars suggest the ultimate design source.1Howard and Ayers 1978, 2: 500–501, classify this particular eagle as type 3g; they date the design 1800–1810.
The specific design source has been identified as the masthead of the Rhode-Island Republican, a newspaper published in Newport by Oliver Farnsworth between 1802 and 1805.2Sharpe, 248. The device consists of a spread-winged eagle that holds in its beak a banner with the motto IN GOD WE HOPE while grasping in one talon a shield with a fouled anchor and in the other talon the trumpet of Fame; a halo of sixteen stars (for the number of states) is above its head. Iconographically complex, the device combines the familiar elements of the eagle and halo of stars from the Great Seal with the shield and fouled anchor that have long been associated with Rhode Island. An official arms for the state was not adopted until 1882; however, the elements of the shield and anchor in conjunction with the word “Hope” or the motto IN GOD WE HOPE had been used in various media to signify the state from the late eighteenth century.
The covered jugs (and, a related punch bowl; Acc. No. 64.68) in the Collection have been identified as coming from a group of two bowls and four jugs that were once owned by Jesse Baldwin, a New York City merchant and importer.3See Sharpe, 250, for information on Baldwin and speculation about the marketing of the six pieces. See also Conger and Rollins, Treasures of State, cat. no. 169 (Acc. No. 64.68 and 85.8). These pieces may originally have been made on speculation for the Rhode Island market, but, failing to sell in that state, were offered in New York. The Collection’s jugs descended with the second punch bowl in the Baldwin family, while the Collection’s bowl and the other pair of jugs took different paths.4Sharpe, 250, relates that the second pair of flagons descended in the family of the New York resident Andrew Mount, but notes that no conclusive information has been found on the Collection’s bowl. Jay family members and historians can find no record of the bowl having belonged to Jay or his descendants. See also Sharpe, 255, n. 18. Indeed, the Collection’s bowl has been associated with John Jay (1745–1829), the prominent lawyer and statesman from New York, but this relationship is now considered tenuous.
Ellen Paul Denker and Bert R. Denker
Excerpted from Jonathan L. Fairbanks. Becoming a Nation: Americana from the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State. New York: Rizzoli, 2003.