This service, and the following eleven lots, comprise part of the dinner service made in circa 1785 for the Slater family. See D. S. Howard, Chinese Armorial Porcelain, London, 1974, p.994; and D. S. Howard, Chinese Armorial Porcelain, vol. II, Chippenham, 2003, p.213, where two pieces from the service are illustrated, together with an engraving of Cadland Park by W. Watts published in The Seats of the Nobility and Gentry in 1779, after a drawing by G. Barret, R.A.
Mr. Howard explains that the service was made either for Gilbert Slater (1712-1785) as a wedding present for his son, Gilbert (1753-93), who married Elizabeth Jackson in 1784, or was ordered by Gilbert the son in 1788 for his widowed mother. Both father and son were managing owners of ships in the East India Company, the former sailing to Canton between 1766-72, and the latter between 1788-92.
The service is unique in its finely executed detailed scenes, of which at least fifteen different examples are to be found in this sale. Comparisons have been made between this service and that known as the "Frog" service, commissioned by Catherine the Great from Josiah Wedgwood in 1773-74. Whereas the latter service illustrates and celebrates the most famous contemporary houses and parks, the Slater service, it has been suggested, illustrates the radical changes undergone by English landscape gardening in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.
Set in its landscape designed by Capability Brown, Cadland on the Isle of Wight is, as yet, the only identifiable scene depicted in this service. Although it is not exactly clear why Cadland Park, home of the Drumonds, should be the only house and parkland to be depicted in this service, it is quite possible that the Slaters became acquainted with the Drummonds, who were bankers in the Far East. Both Gilbert and Elizabeth Slater were keen horticulturalists, and it may have been their decision to illustrate on this service Cadland and its parkland as an example of the classical formality of Brown as a comparison to the new wave of English gardening, which favoured the picturesque, whereby thatched cottages, rustic bridges, streams, village churches etc. became à la mode. These are all depicted in the service, many of which were, by family tradition, drawn by Elizabeth herself whilst in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. However, several scenes depict mountainous rugged landscape, which could conceivably have been drawn by Elizabeth whilst still living with her parents in Durham, or could simply have been copied from popular engravings depicting scenic views. In some of the views, one can perceive an unexpected detail, such as the Chinese influence in the architecture of a building or a palm tree amongst the vegetation. Again, this could be interpreted to represent the contemporary style of landscaping, which became so popular in Europe that it became known as the jardin anglo-chinois. The 'chinoiserie' influence was popularised by William Chambers, architect to George III and designer of Kew's Chinese pagoda and temple, who in 1772 published his Dissertation on Oriental Gardening. Regrettably, Elizabeth's original sketches, or indeed engravings on which some of the designs may have been based, have not been discovered.
It was the grandson of Gilbert Slater, who in the early 19th Century revived the Scottish spelling of Sclater. Additional details of the Sclater family are given by Tessa Harvey, 'The Sclaters, History of a Sussex Family', 1994.