REF No. 6649
Chinese export porcelain blue and white teabowl and saucer with the Parasol pattern after Cornelis Pronk
Qianlong period circa 1739
Diameter of Saucer: 4 inches; 10cm
A Chinese export porcelain teabowl and saucer painted in underglaze blue with the Dame au Parasol pattern after Cornelis Pronk.
This is probably from the last order for this pattern, brought to Amsterdam in 1739 on the Hogensmilde. The pattern has been simplified for a small object and the cell border lacks the figural and bird cartouches.
The central scene is known as La Dame au Parasol and is after a design by the Dutch artist Cornelis Pronk, commissioned by the Dutch East India Company in 1734. It was the first design by Pronk sent to China, the porcelain returning on the ship Magdalena via Batavia and arriving in Amsterdam in Spring 1737. The design is also known in Chinese Imari and famille rose. The original drawing by Pronk survives in the Rijksmuseum.
The Pronk porcelain enterprise was an ambitious venture by the VOC to create high quality, exciting new porcelains in China to specific European designs that were aimed at the current fashions in the market. Initially the VOC asked the Delft workshops to produce coloured ceramic models that could be taken to China, but they replied that the polychrome was too difficult and so the VOC commissioned Cornelis Pronk (1691-1759) to make drawings instead. He worked for three and a half years from the middle of 1734 to the end of 1737 and produced four drawings, one per year for which he was paid 1200 guilders per year.
The designs were copied and sent to Batavia from where the enterprise seems to have been coordinated. The first design, La Dame au Parasol, was sent on to Canton, and also to Deshima in Japan where samples in blue and white and polychrome were made (a few of both exist) but no full orders given. The Canton orders were delayed at first, both by the weather and also the caution of the merchants as the Chinese dealers were demanding very high prices for the production of such a complicated pattern. Also the basins for the cistern and basin sets were not surviving in the kiln.
Two documented shipments of the first design (Parasol) returned to Amsterdam: (see Jörg 1980, p20-21):
1. Magdalena, (arrived in Amsterdam March 1737) - 3 Dinner services; 10 teaservices; 9 vases & basins; 19 mantlesets (garnitures)
2. Hogensmilde (arrived in Amsterdam 1739) with porcelains ordered from dealer Tan Suqua in Canton, Jan 1738) - 5 dinner services; 5 teaservices; 10 vases and basins (5 big & 5 small)
The original orders for these had been much larger but the cost had brought about the reduction.
After the official VOC ‘pronk’ venture ceased to operate, the designs remained with the Chinese workshops and examples continued to be made sporadically, including some later services around 1760-70. The design was also copied on various European ceramics including Cozzi, and English stoneware in the 19th century.
The central image of an attendant holding a parasol over another figure was widely used in Western art to signify hot climates, the East and an exotic setting and appears in many prints from books about China. One significant book was an account of China by Olfert Dapper (1635- 1689), with images by Jacob Van Meurs (1620-1680). These were re-engraved by Bernard Picart around 1730, when Pronk might have seen them. One large double image of Chinese Pagodas has a detail that is very similar to the Parosol group. Interestingly this same print also includes a small seated figure close to that found on the ‘potentate’ pattern attributed to the Pronk workshop.