Primarily antique Chinese porcelain wih English amorials with one or two European armorials all from the Qing period.
From the late seventeenth century, the collection of Asian luxury goods represented the acquisition of new status for families directly associated with the East India Company. In her study of armorial porcelain, Kate Smith suggests that these objects enabled a form of 'identity formation' for these families, and in particular performed and marked an 'elite form of masculinity'. The commissioning of a personalised armorial service required three things: a contact within the East India Company, up to three years and around £11,000 in today's money. Therefore, the acquisition of such services demonstrated not only the owner's lineage (through the heraldic motifs on the pieces themselves) but also the desirable masculine qualities of the 18th century: social connections, patience, and wealth.
The practice of inscribing family crests on ceramics was a European tradition which dated back to the Renaissance, with examples in Italian maijolica, slipware, English and Dutch delftware. In Chinese porcelain design, there is some variation in the types of armorials produced, as commissioning families could choose personalised design elements such as colour, borders and other decorative motifs. Some were painted in polychrome enamels with additional gilding, while other examples are simpler, with a crest in underglaze blue.
Recommended reading: - Kate Smith, 'Manly objects? Gendering Amorial Porcelain Wares' in Finn and Smith (eds.) The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857 (London: UCL publishing, 2018)
- David Sanctuary Howard, Chinese Amorial Porcelain (London: Faber and Faber, 1974)