This design is probably after a design by the Dutch draughtsman Cornelis Pronk (1691-1754), although no actual drawing has been discovered. It has been suggested that the musicians depicted might come from the Levant, judging by their attire.
Pieces from this service have slight variations in the gilt spearheads and border decoration, which would indicate more than one order. Two such variations are to be seen in the two saucers and a coffee-cup from the Hodroff Collection, illustrated by D. S. Howard, The Choice of the Private Trader, London, 1994, p.178, no. 202, where Mr. Howard explains that the coffee-cup and saucer with the more elaborate border were probably part of an early order, and the slightly simplified and therefore less expensive border on the other saucer was probably made for a repeat order. The border on the present lot illustrates the more elaborate border. An identical milk jug but with cover is in the Collection Bal, Zeeuws Museum, Middleburg, illustrated by D. F. Lunsingh Scheurleer, Chinese Export Porcelain - Chine de Commande, London, 1974, fig. 92. A teabowl and saucer with the same border is in the British Museum, exhibited Ancient Chinese Trade Ceramics, Taibei, 1994, catalogue no. 79.
A bowl with the more simplified border was in the Mottahedeh Collection, illustrated by Howard and Ayers, China for the West, London and New York, 1978, vol. I, p. 305, no. 299. A plate in the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, is illustrated by Hervouët and Bruneau, La Porcelaine des Compagnies des Indes à Décor Occidental, Paris, 1986, p.191, fig.8.20, together with a plate of the same design but with a very rare white border and the figures reversed, from the same Museum, op.cit., fig. 8.21. A plate, a saucer-dish and two teabowls and saucers with various border decorations, from the Dr Anton C. R. Dreesmann Collection, were sold in these Rooms, 10 April 2002, lots 421 - 424, and a bowl and cover was sold, also in these Rooms, 11 May 2004, lot 16.