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Chinese famille rose tobacco leaf platter, Qianlong (1736-95), with foliate rim, decorated in bright polychrome enamels, underglaze blue and gilt highlights with an assortment of stylised scrolling tropical foliage and flowers including passion flowers and orchid, one area with a garland of smaller flowers against a white ground, all within a blue line to the rim; the reverse with three floral sprays.
Although this design and related variations are popularly referred to as ‘tobacco leaf’ pattern, the tobacco plant does not necessarily feature – as noted by Howard and Ayers the distinctive serrated leaves may in fact be based on the ‘thick, tropical variegated leaf foliage of Southern Asia and the Pacific’. It has also been suggested that the design was inspired by patterns found on Indian textiles exported in large quantities during the 17th and 18th centuries. The luxurious and intricate pattern proved very popular in Europe, and while Chinese ‘tobacco leaf’ services were exported and bought at great expense, ‘tobacco leaf’ inspired wares made at manufactories including New Hall and Spode could be obtained at a much lower price.
For further information on the ‘tobacco leaf’ pattern and variations see Pierre L. Debomy’s extensive study ‘Feuille de Tabac et Pseudo: Tentative d’Inventaire’, La Société des Amis du Musée national de Céramique Sèvres: France, 2013.