The Bodhisattva Collection

A Good Ca Mau Shipwreck Dish Ex-Sotheby's, Circa 1725

A Good Ca Mau Shipwreck Dish Ex-Sotheby's, Circa 1725

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Chinese: Porcelain: Pre 1800: Item # 964064
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From our Shipwreck Porcelain Collection, a fine and large blue and white Ca Mau Shipwreck dish ex-Sotheby's, Yongzheng Period 1723-1735, datable more specifically to circa 1725. The scene depicts Europeans (most likely Dutch traders) on what was once mistakenly thought to be Deshima Island in Nagasaki Harbor Japan, but which recent scholarship now concludes is either a scene of Holland in the Netherlands, or Gothenborg in Sweden. We personally agree with the academic viewpoint that the scene depicted is of Gothenborg Sweden, though there is sound logic to support either view.

When these dishes from the Ca Mau Shipwreck were originally auctioned off at Sotheby's Amsterdam in 2007, the prevailing scholarship was that the scene depicted was of Deshima Island in Japan, and these dishes came to be colloquially known as the "Deshima Island Pattern." Very recently however, various academic circles have re-examined the origin of the scene depicted, and it is now readily accepted that the "Deshima Island" label adhered to over the last several years has been totally incorrect. In the late 17th / early 18th century, the Dutch did have a trading presence in Japan's Nagasaki Harbor where Deshima Island was located, which is apparently what originally gave rise to the thesis that the scene was Deshima Island. But recent topographical analysis of Deshima Island as it appeared at that time, shows that if the scene depicted on this dish was intended to be accurate, it could never have been a depiction of Deshima Island.

One school of thought in the recent academic scholarship on this issue, is that the scene depicted is of Dutchmen somewhere in Holland. Given that this scene bears close resemblance to a series of Delft dishes designed by Dutch pottery decorator F. Van Frytom (1632-1702), whose designs were also known to be copied on 17th and 18th century Japanese tea ceremony wares as well as Chinese export wares, the assumption that the scene must also be Dutch is certainly a defensible position.

But we think the better reasoned position is the one advanced by a certain Swedish scholar, who argues that the scene depicted is actually of Dutch traders in Gothenborg Sweden. The Dutch had established vast trading posts at Gothenborg in the late 17th / early 18th century, just as they had at Batavia (Jakarta) in Indonesia and Deshima Island in Japan. Close topographical analysis of Gothenborg itself as it actually appeared at the end of the 17th century, as evidenced by his close scrutiny of the 1709 Dahlberg prints titled Suecia Antiqua et Houdierna which depicted all the main edifices in Sweden at that time, strongly argues for the conclusion that the scene is one of Gothenborg. We find his analysis compelling. According to his argument and as these Dahlberg prints seem to bear out, the odd structure on the left / middle of the dish would be the Kvarnberget Wind Mill, and the gated towers in the middle correspond to the city's main entrance - “The King's Gate."

Size and Condition: 10 5/8 inches in diameter, 1 1/8 inches deep. Excellent overall condition with no cracks, chips, or restoration. A good ring when tapped. There is one shallow glaze frit at the 11:30 position approximately 1/8 inch long, and some original kiln grit stuck to the front, but these are both very minor flaws. The glaze is slightly "dry" and the cobalt blue is slightly faded from nearly 280 years of immersion in seawater, but it's still a good blue with a good overall glaze. For further discussion on the condition and wear characteristics of shipwreck porcelain, click on any of our item descriptions for our Nanking Cargo pieces found under our Shipwreck Ceramics link.