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In the late 18th century the traditional design of Chinese porcelain shifted to cater to Western clients. Direct American trade with the Chinese began in 1784 after the Revolutionary War, and by 1800 nearly 60 million pieces of Chinese porcelain had been imported to America. The HammondHarwood House collection contains more than 350 pieces of porcelain, 86% of which is Chinese export, including this decorative urn made for the Western market.

The urn has pistol handles and an acorn finial. It is made of a hard paste that was developed by the Chinese over 1000 years ago. The clay is fired at a very high temperature which creates a glassy form. Italian engraver Stefano Della Bella (1610-1664) created this urn shape when he was working for the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinand II de Medici (1610-1670). The model is derived from classical funerary urns, however later urns were created purely for aesthetic reasons and serve no purpose other than to delight the viewer.

Scottish-born designer Robert Adam (1728-1792) helped popularize the neoclassical style in England that influenced everything from architecture and clothing to the decorative arts. Adam and his English contemporaries were inspired by the excavations at Pompeii and trips to Italy. The Italian urn designs by Stefano Della Bella were published in England during a time scholars now refer to as “Vasemania” in the late 18th century. This classical shape was then reproduced by potter Josiah Wedgwood. The Chinese copied the Wedgwood model in their wares starting in 1790.

The shape of the urn was especially popular in American homes from 1790 to 1815, and certainly the Loockermans who lived at HammondHarwood House could have had a piece like this. The oval medallion frequently contained a landscape in sepia, like the one at HammondHarwood House, modeled after a British landscape engraving. The base of the urns was often stylized to look like faux marble.

On Saturday May 15 the HammondHarwood House is hosting an in person event Time for Tea: Exploring the Chinese export porcelain collection with a Traditional Tea Ceremony. We invite participants to partake in a tea ceremony with social tea and also enjoy a short curator’s talk on the Chinese export porcelain collection. This event is free and open to the public as part of our Winifred Gordon Art & Wellness Series. Space is limited so please call to reserve.

Image of an Urn

Medium: Porcelain
C22 Museum purchase in 1952
China, Qing Dynasty, c. 1800

By Rachel Lovett Curator & Assistant Director

Posted on Apr 29, 2021 in , by Hammond-Harwood House

 

 

Hammond-Harwood House

The mission of the Hammond-Harwood House Association is to preserve, for public education and enjoyment, the architecturally significant Hammond-Harwood House museum and its collection of fine and decorative arts.
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