Bowled over

Chinese porcelain punch bowl, painted in enamels with the western trading posts in Canton, 1780s. ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

In 2008 the National Trust purchased a rare eighteenth century Chinese punch bowl with a provenance from Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire. It is decorated with a depiction of the western trading posts on the waterfront at Canton (Guanghzhou). The acquisition was made possible by generous grants from the Royal Oak Foundation, the Art Fund and the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

Chinese and westerners mingling along the waterfront. ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

By imperial edict all foreign traders coming to China had to conduct their business in a restricted zone just outside Canton. There they could lease trading posts known as ‘factories’ or hong.

Chinese warehouses and mansions next to the western compounds. ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

Patricia Ferguson, who has researched this bowl (and written an article on it in the 2009 NT Historic Houses and Collections Annual), dates it to either 1786 or 1788. This is based on a comparison between the national flags shown on the bowl and dated records and pictures of the trading activities in Canton.

The American and Swedish factories. ©National Trust/Robert Thrift

The flags flown are those of Denmark, Spain, France, America, Sweden, Britain and the Netherlands.  It is one of the earliest examples of a depiction of the Stars and Stripes. 

Nostell Priory. ©NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

The bowl appears in an 1806 inventory of Nostell Priory, but it is not known how it was originally acquired – the Winn family of Nostell Priory had no links with the China trade.

The Small Dining Room at Nostell. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Patricia Ferguson makes the amusing suggestion that Sir Rowland Winn, sixth Baronet (1775-1805), who was a keen fox hunter, may have won the bowl as a prize for winning a horse race.

2 Responses to “Bowled over”

  1. Barbara Says:

    Seeing that flag in China in the 1780s is amazing.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Isn’t it? American traders were quick off the mark in China, and they were trying to get into Japan too, even though it took until 1853 before Commodore Perry managed to persuade the Japanese to open their borders.

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