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A LARGE CHINESE EXPORT PORCELAIN PAGODA
A LARGE CHINESE EXPORT PORCELAIN PAGODA
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THE JAMES E. SOWELL COLLECTION
A LARGE CHINESE EXPORT PORCELAIN PAGODA

JIAQING PERIOD, CIRCA 1820

Details
A LARGE CHINESE EXPORT PORCELAIN PAGODA
JIAQING PERIOD, CIRCA 1820
Comprised of seven stories rising from a base centering a blue enameled staircase, the hexagonal sides enameled with colorful brickwork and decorated with dancing maidens, warriors, and deities while enameled Buddhist lions flank the staircase, the railings enameled with landscapes, bird and flower vignettes or auspicious antiques and separated by black columns surmounted by small green Buddhist lions, the curving roof of each story and the high pitched roof at top set at the corners with small red bats, all surmounted by a red triple gourd finial, the whole raised on a conforming modern cream-painted wood base and green post support painted with double red doors having pairs of gilt lion mask knockers
48 ½ inches (123 cm.) high
Literature
M. Cohen & W. Motley, Mandarin & Menagerie, Chinese and Japanese Export Ceramic Figures, Cohen & Cohen, Reigate, Surrey, England, 2008, pp. 287-289.

Lot Essay

Towering, multi-storied Chinese pagodas with their curving roofs were architectural marvels to Western eyes; iconic symbols of the exotic East. Derived from the Indian stupa, a repository for sacred Buddhist relics, in China the pagoda became both a watchtower and a commemorative structure. Jan Nieuhoff’s early and influential representation of the famed Ming Dynasty Nanjing porcelain pagoda was followed by its publication in such works as J.B.F. von Erlach’s 1721 Entwurf einer historischen Architektur and Jean-Baptiste du Halde’s 1741 A Description of the Empire of China and Chinese-Tartary. Sir William Chamber’s 1757 publication Designs for Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines and Utensils fuelled a fashion amongst the European upper classes for the Chinese pagoda, particularly as garden architecture. And as the 18th century progressed an increasing number of Europeans made the voyage to China, their last miles up the Pearl River taking them past two looming pagodas, an impressive sight many recorded in their diaries and letters home.

Models of this exotic architectural form were made in a variety of materials for the West, most commonly small-scale versions in soapstone, ivory and silver. Vastly more challenging and far more expensive were large porcelain renditions. Eight are found in the British Royal Collection, six of which were acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) for his Royal Pavilion at Brighton. A pair very similar to the Brighton pagodas was in the Castello di Vincigliata, Fiesole, Italy and sold Christie’s London, 14 May 2013, lot 217. Another massive porcelain pagoda was almost certainly acquired by the 6th Duke of Bedford circa 1815 for Woburn Abbey, and sold Christie’s London, 21 September 2004, lot 350.

Western fascination with the pagoda seems to have peaked in the early decades of the 19th century, which saw not just the Brighton Pavilion arise but also the famous Kew Gardens pagoda and another built for the Prince Regent in St. James’s Park. And in America China Trader Samuel Cabot, Jr. and Elizabeth Perkins of Boston, on the occasion of their 1812 marriage, ordered a handsome blue and white dinner service featuring the Fitzhugh pattern surrounding a large pagoda.

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