Pair of tea bowls and saucers

ARTIST / MAKER: Unknown
DATE: 1736 - 1795 (made)
PLACE: China (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Porcelain painted in overglaze enamels and gilt
COLLECTION NUMBER: 1230

Large armorial porcelain sets commissioned from China became increasingly fashionable among wealthy families in Britain and Europe at the turn of the 18th century. Coats of arms, crests and inscriptions were drawn in detail and then taken to Canton via East India Company trading ships. Chinese merchants then had the porcelain manufactured, handpainted in imitation of Western ornament, and sent back to the patrons. Mistakes were often made as the Chinese decorators worked from written English instructions. Commissions such as these were notoriously difficult and could take up to several years to be completed, but remained a fashionable means to display wealth and status at the dinner or tea table throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries.