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  • Title
    [Chinese export ware punchbowl featuring a scene of Sydney Cove before 1820]
  • Call number
    SAFE/XR 10
    Status: On display. Objects Gallery
  • Level of description
  • Date

    [before 1820]
  • Type of material
  • Reference code
  • Issue Copy
  • Physical Description
    1 punchbowl - enamelled porcelain - Height: 17.7 cm., Diam. (top): 45.5 cm. ; Footring: 2.5 cm. high x 22.5 cm. diam.
  • Collection history
    The provenance of the Mitchell Library's punchbowl is documented in a manuscript note (Ap 64/Folder 1) compiled when it was presented to the Library by the Sydney antiques dealer W. A. Little in November 1926. Its early ownership is not known, but by the early 20th century, it was in the possession of a Miss Hall of `Highfield', Hythe, UK. Her father had acquired it in the 1850s, as an interesting curio, but knew nothing of its history. The bowl was purchased for his private collection by Sir Timothy Coghlan, New South Wales Agent-General in London for various periods from 1905 until his death in 1926. It then passed to the London dealer Francis Edwards who sold it to the Sydney dealer and collector, W. A. Little, who in turn presented the punchbowl to the Mitchell Library.
  • Scope and Content
    The exterior painted with a continuous scene of Sydney Cove punctuated by a monogram in gilt, now rather illegible, which may read "HCA" with the letter "B" beneath. The inner and outer borders of the rim are of a gilded Chinese floral design. In the bowl's interior are a group of Aboriginal figures.

    The image is from the eastern shore of Sydney Cove where present day East Circular Quay is located. The elongated two-storey stone building in the foreground is the sandstone cottage built by Governor Macquarie for his favourite boatman, the Jamaican-born convict Billy Blue. To the left of the cottage, facing a sandy beach where the Circular Quay ferry wharves now stand is First Government House whose site is commemorated on the corner of Bridge and Phillip Streets. On the far shore across the Cove is The Rocks, with windmills on the ridge, and Dawes Point and Robert Campbell's residence and warehouses to the left of the Point. The large three-storey yellow building is the Commissariat Building whose site is now occupied by the Museum of Contemporary Art.

    The mysterious monogram initials are difficult to decipher due to partial paint loss, but they are almost certainly those of the intended owner of the bowl, as seen on with similar punchbowls of European and American ownership. It is possible that they may refer to Henry Cobden Antill, Governor Macquaries aide-de-camp who also had a close association with the artist Lewin. All three were in the party to make the first official journey across the Blue Mountains in 1815.
  • Access Conditions

    Access via appointment
  • General note

    One of the greatest rarities in the Mitchell Library, this is one of only two extant examples depicting views of Sydney, although punchbowls made in China from the 17th century depicting European and American cities are well documented and highly regarded by ceramics collectors.
    The trade in exotic goods from China for the European luxury market began with the expansion of the Dutch East India Company to the Far East in the 17th century. By the mid-18th century, the wealthy European upper classes had developed a seemingly insatiable appetite for Chinese ceramics, fabrics (especially silk), sandalwood and fashionable new drinks of tea and punch (made from wine or spirits, mixed with fruit juice and spices brought from the East). The vogue for the Chinese style (known as `chinoiserie') spread to architecture, furniture and patterns for china, fabrics and clothing.
    To cater for this market, other European nations set up shipping routes to China, notably to the southern port city of Canton, where they maintained large warehouses, or factories, in a segregated compound known as the `Hongs'. By the early 19th century, the French, Danish, Swedish, and Americans were represented, as well as the British and Dutch. The all-powerful English East India Company was a major player in the China Trade and fiercely guarded its shipping routes, trading monopolies and concessions from other rivals.
    The route between the newly established colony of New South Wales and China was charted soon after the foundation of settlement at Sydney Cove in 1788, when the Charlotte, one of the ships of the First Fleet, returned to England via Canton. A few American vessels, such as the Hope in 1793, started to call in at Sydney en route to China. By 1798 English merchant houses in Calcutta and Madras began to exploit a loophole in the East India Company's monopoly which enabled trading between Sydney, India and Canton, and by the time of Lachlan Macquarie's governorship (1810-1822), entrepreneurial Sydney traders such as Robert Campbell Senior, Simeon Lord and Alexander Riley were involved in lucrative shipping deals of cargoes from Indian and Cantonese suppliers.
    The Mitchell Library's punchbowl is therefore one of the most spectacular mementoes of a time only 30 years after its foundation, when Sydney had already become a multi-national port and destination on Asian and Pacific sea trade routes. The punchbowl is of the Chia Ch'ing period (1796-1820) and of Cantonese origin. It was common practice for Chinese ceramics artists to be given an engraving or drawing by their client to copy onto a bowl for a specific order. In this case, the image relates most closely to an engraving after a now lost drawing by the artist John William Lewin (1770-1819), Australia's first professional artist who produced many paintings for Governor Macquarie and his senior officers, as well as several commissions for Alexander Riley. The engraving appeared as the frontispiece in William Charles Wentworth's A Statistical, Historical and Political Description of New South Wales, second edition, (London, 1820), with a later version as a vignette on Joseph Cross' Map of Part of New South Wales (London, 1825). -- Curator's notes, Mitchell Library, 2002.

    "Punch Bowl, porcelain, painted with a picture of Sydney Harbour. Chinese ; reign of Chia Ch'ing (1796-1820) / W.B. Honey, 25th Feb 1926. Dept of Ceramics", Victoria & Albert Museum, S. Kensington, London, S.W.7. -- From note accompanying punchbowl. (Ap 64/Folder 1 Mitchell Library). W.B. (William Bowyer) Honey, 1889-1956, was the author of many books about pottery and porcelain, including works about Chinese porcelain.

    Notes on the Chinese porcelain bowl (extracted from Ap 64/Folder 1 and Ap 64/Folder 2) are available at PXn 490, Mitchell Library.

    Correspondence and photographs from Sir Robert Witt, Chairman, National Art-Collections Fund, London, 1932, about a similar punchbowl available at Ap 64/Folder 2, Mitchell Library. This companion punchbowl, titled `View of the Town of Sydney in New South Wales' showing a scene from the western shore of Sydney Cove, including Dawes Point and Campbell's Cove is held in the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney. -- Reference source: Signals : quarterly newsletter of the Australian National Maritime Museum, Number 76, September-November 2006, pp.40-41.

    Reproduced, by the Library, as a postcard (Ref. PC 34, copy filed at PXB 188).
    This item has been digitised as part of the Nelson Meers Foundation Benefaction, 2002.
    Digital order no:Album ID : 823881
  • Subject
  • Topic
  • Place
  • Exhibited in

    A Rage for Curiosity - State Library of New South Wales (1 September, 1997 - 11 January, 1998)
    Nelson Meers Foundation Heritage Collection - State Library of New South Wales (January - December 2003)
    An unbroken view - early nineteenth century panoramas - State Library of New South Wales (June, 2006 - October, 2006)
    ONE hundred : celebrating the Mitchell Library centenary - State Library of New South Wales (March 2010 - June 2010)
    Eat you're history : a shared table - Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales (September, 2013 - March, 2014)

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