Tea bowl

ARTIST / MAKER: Meissen (manufacturer)
DATE: 1740-1750 (made)
PLACE: Meissen (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Porcelain painted in enamels and gilt

The painted decoration on this Meissen porcelain tea bowl depicts a chained scarlet macaw on a perch, startled and flapping its colourful wings at a barking spaniel below. Parrots were fashionable among the affluent elite and kept as exotic pets, which spurred a global market in bird species throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. This ‘parrot and spaniel’ pattern likely came from a private commission for an extensive porcelain service, and is thought to be based on designs by the German engraver and map publisher, Petrus Schenk (1660-1711). A mezzotint by Schenk of his daughter Cecilia incorporates the parrot in the background.

The parrot and spaniel pattern was later used by Dutch draftsmen like Cornelius Pronk, who had the design copied onto Chinese porcelain by painters in Jingdezhen and exported to the European market. Although Meissen examples are all painted in polychrome enamels, a Chinese porcelain tea bowl in blue and white also exists in the V&A (642&A-1903), potentially as a result of the Chinese workshops altering the design to appear more Chinese in origin and appeal to the tastes of wealthy European consumers.