Plate, Kangxi c.1720, with the arms of Pitt, Baron Londonderry
A fine 8¾” plate decorated in translucent famille verte enamels. The body finely potted and the paste quite white. This exceptional and early armorial service is documentary in that it can be dated precisely to 1720-21 from the heraldry, and furthermore offers proof that the new opaque famille rose enamels, which would become so popular after 1722, were not yet available at the time of its manufacture.
The Heraldry: The arms are of Pitt, Baron Londonderry, with the arms of Ridgeway (two conjoined wings on a black ground) in the centre on an escutcheon of pretence, indicating marriage with an heiress. Above the armorial is a baron’s coronet.
Thomas Pitt was the second son of Governor ‘Diamond’ Pitt of Madras, who followed family tradition by entering politics, rising to become a prominent Whig statesman. In 1717 he married Lady Frances Ridgeway, daughter of the Earl of Londonderry who had died without male heir. In 1719 Thomas Pitt was granted his late father-in-law’s title and was created Baron Londonderry, and in 1726 was advanced to the earldom of Londonderry. The porcelain shows a baron’s coronet, and therefore has to have been ordered between 1719 and 1726. However, it can be dated even more precisely from the enamelling.
The coronet is not painted with rose-pink velvet as it should be, but with a muddy brown colour achieved by mixing black and iron-red pigments. Despite the prestigious nature of the order, this can only mean that the opaque famille rose palette was not yet available in mid-1720, the earliest date by which the order could reasonably have reached China. However, the first signs of pink enamel appear on an armorial service made not long after for Sir John Lambert, who died in 1722. Thus the service for Lord Londonderry provides one of the parameters for the start of the famille rose period.
The predominant style of the earliest services, delicately painted in the Chinese taste and with a small armorial, had by 1715–20 given way to a bolder, more baroque and European manner of displaying the armorial that filled the centre of the plate, although the Chinese influence remains on Lord Londonderry’s porcelain in the elegant border design of gold flowers and leafy scrollwork. A key design feature of this five-year period was that the crest, seen above with its baron’s coronet, was often repeated several times around the rim.
Provenance : From a distinguished German Collection
Reference : Howard, David S.; Chinese Armorial Porcelain, Volume I, p. 184
Condition : In extremely fine condition with all original enamels and gilding.