REF No. 6485
Chinese export porcelain marine subject dinner plate
Qianlong period circa 1755
Diameter: 9 inches; 23cm
A Chinese export porcelain dinner plate decorated en camaïeu rose with a central scene of ship sailing near a town, surrounded by a snake with its tail in its mouth, the cavetto with gold spearhead border, the rim with flowers and foliage on various diaper grounds.
This is a rare plate with only a few examples recorded. It is certainly a private order for a ship’s captain or supercargo, probably ordered personally. The snake around the ship is an ‘ouroboros’ - a symbol widely used from ancient Egyptian times. It usually represents a duality of life and death, wet and dry, light and dark, the circle of life - and was popular among early freemasons being connected symbolically with the compass. In Norse mythology it respresents Jörmungandr, the Midgard serpent, born of a giantess and the god Loki, and a mortal enemy of Thor. Many men in the China trade were freemasons and the symbolic connection to the sea would also have resonated.
The image is taken from a print by Johannes van den Aveelen (Amsterdam c.1655 - Stockholm) a Dutch engraver who painted port scenes, working in Amsterdam c 1678. The scene is the River Ij with the Amsterdam waterfront including VOC offices in the distance. It was published by Johannes Teyler in his Opus Typochromaticum (1688-1700) which also includes a print of an elaborate Italianate fountain that is known on a Chinese blue and white dish (see Cohen & Cohen 2001, No 7, p11). Van den Aveelen later moved to Sweden to assist Erik Dalhberg on his Suecia Antiqua et Hodierna, which includes his Panorama of Stockholm of 1702, after a painting by Cornelis Vermeulen, that is also known on Chinese export porcelain.
The same view was engraved by Abraham Allard circa 1720 for Le Galerie Agreable du Monde published by Pieter van de Aa, 1729, in 66 volumes. It was also copied and used in an abbreviated form in a ‘drawing book’ by Thomas Bowles, circa 1750 - and this may have been the actual print taken to China.
References: Hervouët & Bruneau (1986) p37, No 2.4, another example from the Groninger Museum.