Coffee cup & saucer, Qianlong c.1785, made for Sir Joshua Reynolds
The intricate and unusual cypher on this cup and saucer contains every letter that spells the words ’Sir Joshua Reynolds’ and was almost certainly designed by the artist himself.
Reynolds was the leading English portraitist of the mid to late 18th century. He was born in Devon in 1723, the son of a country clergyman and headmaster, giving him a background educated in history, literature and classical antiquity. His compositions embraced the grand style of the Italian renaissance masters which brought great success when returning to London in 1753 after studying in Rome.
On the founding of the Royal Academy in 1768 he was elected its first president and knighted by the king. As a man of letters he was a prominent figure in literary society, a friend of Dr Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke and other intellectuals of the day. Reynolds was also a founding member of the London Literary Club, which he noted gave Dr Johnson "unlimited opportunities of talking". He died in 1792.
By family descent through the sister of Sir Joshua Reynolds.
A tea canister of this service at Dr Johnson’s House Museum, London.
Reference : Howard, David S.; Chinese Armorial Porcelain, Volume I, p. 686, for the tea canister at Dr Johnson’s House.