'Grisaille'-and-gold painted punchbowl depicting an English political figure. On one side of the punchbowl is a portrait of a man with a distinctive squint, wearing a wig, frock coat and knee breeches. He is seated beside a desk with papers and writing utensils and is holding a cap of liberty on the end of a pole. The other side of the bowl shows a group of four gentlemen, one with pot-belly and wearing a tricorne hat forcing another to drink from a bowl while two others are looking on. A stand with sheet music and the neck of a cello are visible in front. In between these two pictures are Chinese landscape scenes with pairs of birds among flowers and rocks, exquisitely painted in 'grisaille', sepia and red.
- 1764-1770 (circa)
- Made in: Jingdezhen
- (Asia,China,Jiangxi (province),Jingdezhen)
- Found/Acquired: China
- Height: 17.6 centimetres
- Diameter: 41.2 centimetres
- Weight: 4.3 kilograms
Harrison-Hall and Krahl 1994:
The single figure is John Wilkes (1727 - 97), an outspoken and controversial politician, publisher and satirist, who campaigned for basic civil rights such as freedom of the press and standard procedures for police arrest.
Wilkes' irreverent behaviour brought him repeatedly into conflict with the authorities, but made him also very popular. Despite being expelled from Parliament in 1764 and later being declared an outlaw, he was reelected as Member of Parliament in 1768, and in 1774 his popularity led to his election as Lord Mayor of London. The periodical North Briton, which he had founded, was famous for publishing provocative views, for attacking King George III and his prime minister, and for criticizing renowned figures such as the English artist William Hogarth (1697-1764) ('North Briton', 1762 - 68). The sheets of paper seen on this bowl on the desk besides Wilkes, are in the original engraving identified as two issues of the 'North Briton', published 1762 and 1763, respectively.
This engraving which was done by Hogarth, one of Wilkes' adversaries, is a caricature which does not attempt to depict him in a flattering light. It was published on 16th May 1763 and a print is in the British Museum (BM 1864.0813.251). According to a contemporary comment, the print showed Wilkes with the cap of liberty 'poised over his head like a self-appointed halo, in ironic contrast to the truly diabolic squinting leer and the impression of horns created by his wig' (Palmer, 1976, p. 85).
The figures on the other side of the bowl are copied from an engraving by the French artist Charles Maucourt (1728 - 68), who worked in France and England. Various titles exist for different impressions of this design; a print in the British Museum entitled 'Night Amusements' was published in 1764 (BM 1933.1014.407). The connection between the two subjects on this bowl is uncertain. The second scene although not depicting Wilkes, may refer to the indulgent lifestyle, for which he was notorious.
During the 18th century the English public became increasingly politically aware and popular demand for historical or political curios led to the marketing of Chinese porcelain as well as English earthenware with such topical designs. An identical punchbowl is in the Mottahedeh collection (Howard and Ayers, 1978, vol. I, pl. 240); another in the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, U.S.A. (Palmer, 1976, figs. 48b and 49a). Another bowl in the BM collection (BM Franks.625), which also depicts Wilkes, was clearly commissioned by factions sympathetic to Wilkes' cause, the present piece seems to depict Wilkes in an unfavourable way and may have been commissioned by members of the establishment.
On display: G1/wp117
1994, Taiwan, National Museum of History, Ancient Chinese Trade Ceramics
2012 22 Jun-2013 6 Jan, Beijing, National Museum of China, ‘Passion for Porcelain’D
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Object reference number: RRC16786
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