REF No. 6415
chinese export porcelain milk jug and cover, advertising label
Qianlong period circa 1780-90
Height: 5½ inches; 14cm
A Chinese export porcelain milk jug and cover, decorated in famille rose enamels with an elaborate pseudo-armorial cartouche with a monogramme and motto, the rim and cover with gilt spearhead border.
This remarkable and rare item is one of only a few surviving pieces of this teaservice which tells a wonderful tale of eighteenth century life. Sargent (2012) has uncovered the story from an article in the ‘Notes & Queries’ of the Sussex Archaeological Society in 1868 by one W. Holloway.
The initials in the cartouche are RP, for Richard Philcox, a cobbler of Rye, a small town on the south east coast of England. The medallion at the top has a boot and there are other items of leather footwear around the rococo border. Inside are two figures, a man with a leather apron seated on a bench holds a thread and a younger man sits before a small work table holding what look likes a hammer. The motto is: ‘I must Work for Leather is dear’. Presumably the larger man is Philcox and this must be a phrase associated with him. Possibly the other is his son Joseph, who inherited the business from his father and is listed in Pigot’s 1823 Directory of Sussex: Joseph Philcox, Boot & Shoe Maker, Rye.
A mug in the British Museum has a similar design but the monogramme is replaced with an inscription: “VIVAT Richd Philcox Whit His Honest Fammily” and on the reverse: “VIVAT RYE”.
Holloway says that sometime around 1778 a ship destined for the East Indies had foundered in a storm just off the coast. One bedraggled man had been taken in by Philcox and looked after with great generosity. The man, probably a supercargo, had returned to London and then again set off for Canton, this time with more success. There he ordered this teaservice, including the mug, and presented it to Philcox in gratitude. Holloway then recounts how he had helped his son, Joseph, sell off the porcelain much later in small lots.
References: Krahl & Harrison Hall 1994, p100, No 41, the mug (Franks.779.+); Sargent 2012, p381-3, a teapot and stand from the teaservice, and a full account of the story including the article by Holloway.