The Bodhisattva Collection

Nanking Cargo Teacup and Saucer 1752, ex Christie's

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Chinese: Porcelain: Pre 1800: Item # 936908
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From our Shipwreck Porcelain Collection, a good blue and white teacup and saucer in the "Batavian Bamboo Pattern," ex-Christie's, from the so-called "Nanking Cargo," which is the term applied to the porcelain recovered from the wreck of the Geldermalsen that sank on January 3rd, 1752. The Geldermalsen was a cargo ship belonging to the Dutch East India Company that struck a reef on its way back from Canton China, and sank off the coast of Indonesia in the Linnga archipelago. It took with it to the bottom of the sea over 150,000 ceramic pieces, nearly 700,000 pounds of tea, as well as gold and other cargo. The ship lay submerged for over 230 years, before being salvaged by Michael Hatcher in 1986, whereafter the recovered porcelain was sold through Christie's auction house.

This particular teacup and saucer is a very good example that somehow managed to survive over two centuries under the sea, essentially unscathed. Shipwreck porcelain comes off the sea floor in a wide variety of conditions, with many pieces utterly destroyed, others cracked and chipped, others whole but encrusted with calcified sea life, and others still surviving intact, but with their glazes eroded and rendered dull from the seawater. But from random luck regarding where a piece may have been sitting within a stack of porcelain, or from how a piece may have been sheltered from the elements by other factors like sea mud, some pieces emerge miraculously unscathed. This is one such example. Both the teacup and saucer have a good blue and still have a very good glaze, though the Batavia Brown (iron oxide) dressing on the back of each piece, is somewhat degraded and dull from the seawater. It is instructive to compare the condition of the Batavia Brown dressing on this item, with that of our other tea bowl and saucer that has a Batavia Brown dressing but which is not a shipwreck item. Nevertheless, overall, a very well- executed piece of mid-18th century export porcelain that also, just happened to survive undersea for over two centuries!

Size and Condition: The saucer is 5 1/4 inches in diameter, the tea bowl 3 1/4 inches across, 1 7/8 inches tall. Condition: Essentially perfect but the Batavian Brown dressing is somewhat degraded. Original Christie's auction stickers on the reverse.