China and Sweden, Treasured Memories, Forbidden City exhibition 2005

The Swedish exhibition of Chinese Porcelain at the Palace Museum, Beijing, 2005


Chinese Export Porcelain
Collected in Sweden

By Jarl Vansvik

Historical background

The earliest Swedish collections were built in the early 17th century when King Gustavus II Adolphus was presented some Chinese ceramics by the city of Augsburg in 1632. His daughter, Queen Kristina (abdicated 1654), became a collector. Two massive urns (h. 72 cm) from her collection, decorated in underglaze cobalt blue with the 'hundred deer' motif (Wanli period 1573 -1619) are now in the Far Eastern Museum in Stockholm and others are still in the gorgeous China Pavilion, which was built in what was considered a Chinese style, and in the Drottningholm Palace.

Queen Hedvig Eleonora (1636-1715), her successor, who was born in today's Germany, was brought up in an environment furnished with exotic Chinese ceramics, and therefore built a large collection of her own. Her collection consisted mainly of Transitional and Kangxi (1662-1722) wares, blue and white, polychromes and a large number of Dehua figures bought from Dutch merchants.

Several of the more prosperous in the nobility followed her example and many Swedish palaces had rooms specially built for the owner's collection of porcelain. Examples include Count C.G. Wrangel, who had a large collection in his palace Skokloster outside Stockholm, now a museum, and Count T.G. Bielke, who constructed a 'cabinet a` la Chinoise' at the manor house Sturefors, still private property, for his collection,.

Later the queens Ulrika Eleonora (the younger) and Lovisa Ulrica further developed the interest in Chinese art. Queen Lovisa Ulrica was given the Chinese Pavilion as a birthday present in 1753 by her husband King Adolf Fredrik. The pavilion was built, as they believed, in a Chinese style and decorated with Chinese ceramics, silk, lacquer ware, wallpaper and other handicraft. Some ten years later the pavilion was rebuilt and since then has an almost unchanged interior decoration, including a library filled with figures of both polychrome Jingdezhen wares and Dehua wares. (P 1 Library).

As the East India companies of other European countries conducted more business and became increasingly successful, interest in trade with the Far East also grew. Discussions about founding a Swedish company, which had started already during the 17th century, became more intense in the 18th century. After several attempts Henrich König together with Frans Bedoire and Collin Campbell, with the latter probably being the initiator, succeeded in June 1731 and got an approval from the Swedish parliament to establish a company to trade with the Far East. On the board of directors were, among others, Niclas Sahlgren (1701-1776), who became a particularly important person in the history of the Company and Gothenburg, and was one of the most important benefactors in the history of the town. The Swedish East India Company (SOIC) could start with a Swedish trade monopoly for fifteen years east of 'Good Hope' with 'East India.' The company had its headquarters in Gothenburg, which was also where the export and import cargoes were administered. The first ship sailed Feb. 7 1732, with Colin Campbell (1686-1757) as supercargo, and returned August 27, 1733, to Gothenburg. The cargo was auctioned and it accrued a 75% profit. After the first successful charter followed three more charters, each 20 years long. The SOIC made its last expedition in 1804-1806, and although efforts were made to continue the activities, the company eventually went bankrupt in 1813.

In all, the SOIC made 132 expeditions with 37 ships, of which 8 ships were lost; and among those lost, two were named Götheborg (sic). Porcelain was the second most important merchandise during the first three charters, until the middle of the 1770s. According to estimates from remaining archives, the company imported 50 million pieces in total. Sweden had approximately two million citizens in the late 18th century, which explains why the porcelain was sold at auction mainly to foreign customers.

The imports before the establishment of the SOIC

The imports before the SOIC has already been touched upon, but what more did Sweden buy from the Netherlands and the Dutch East India Company (VOC), which already started in 1602 and operated till the end of the 18th century. The greater part of the imported porcelain was underglaze cobalt decorated porcelain. The earliest acquisitions were kraak ware (AW 54). They are traditionally so called because they are linked to the Portuguese ships used in the Far Eastern trade, called carracks. In 1602 and 1604 the Dutch captured two of these ships and brought them to Amsterdam, where their porcelain cargoes were sold with a high profit. In the beginning, the porcelain mainly consisted of bowls, cups, flasks, candleholders, jars and dishes. They varied little in shape, were fine and thin, decorated with underglaze blue floral patterns, and usually had a gritty bottom. Vases like the pair of covered jars from the early 17th century (P2 Interior of the Chinese Pavilion) were probably from Queen Kristina's collection. Dehua figures, often painted with black, red, yellow and brown cold pigments, were highly demanded in Europe.

The motifs were usually birds, deer, insects and flowers in natural settings (P 3 Plate Wanli D. 20.7 cm) and more rarely pure Chinese motifs such as mythical animals and humans. A strange exception was the bowls (P 4 Bowl Tianqi 1621-27) with Su Dong Pu's 'Red Cliff' poem and an illustration of the poet and his friends on a boat. This type of bowl is depicted on two European paintings by Jacques Linard, 1627 in Algiers and 1638 in Strasbourg. The same motif was used in the Chongzhen era (1628-1644), as could be seen in the cargo of the so-called 'Hatcher junk' which sank c. 1644 in the South China Sea, but at that time the shape of the bowls was more open and did not have the bi-shaped foot.

Transitional (c. 1620-1683) and Kangxi (1662-1722) porcelains

Towards the end of the Ming dynasty the imperial support for the porcelain producers decreased rapidly, so they had to find new markets and new methods for distribution. Dutch merchants had established a trade post in Taiwan at Fort Zeelandia for the VOC. In the 1630s they regularly placed orders with Chinese merchants traveling from Taiwan to Jingdezhen for specific patterns and models. The porcelain producers tried to meet the new trading possibilities of the European market but were not always successful because of the export regulations and the unstable political situation.

Motifs on Transitional porcelain remained in Chinese style with a few exceptions, such as the tulip flower and rarely some European persons. Shapes on the other hand were influenced by the Dutch, and thus dishes, bowls and mugs were abundant. Towards the end of the Ming dynasty, porcelain made for the domestic market had changed both artistically and technologically to be richer and more colorful, and to have a purer paste and glaze. This new porcelain was appreciated by the Dutch and was also exported from Holland to Sweden (P 5 Vase with bird H. 18.5cm Chongzhen).

In the middle of the century, due to domestic turmoil caused by the Qing invaders, the Europeans had to find porcelain from kilns outside the Jingdezhen region. Although the southern provinces Guangdong and Fujian received exporting restrictions, there was still a possibility to export porcelain. The Fujian Dehua production of monochrome white wine cups, sculptures and vases gained considerable popularity, and they were sent to Europe in large quantities and were collected widely. (P 6 Putai H. 13.5 cm)

When the Qing dynasty gained control over Jiangxi province and established the new imperial factory at Jingdezhen in 1683, both the quantity and the quality of exported porcelain increased, but the artistic freedom became more limited.

Blue and white porcelains still constituted a large part of the output. The most common types included mugs, salt containers (P 7 H. 8.4 cm Kangxi), ewers, mustard pots (P 8 H. 12.3 cm Kangxi before 1700), chamber pots, vases, and other large decorative flasks plus table wares for different purposes.

Polychrome (qing hua wucai) wares were glazed and painted with cobalt, iron red, copper green, manganese and cobalt aubergine and black (P9 vase Shunzhi/Kangxi H.18cm c. 1650-1665). Other objects enameled on the biscuit, famille jaune (su sancai), were not often bought by the Swedes (P10 Gu beaker Kangxi, H. 25.5 cm), but this vase together with a similarly decorated pair of vases, is mentioned in an inventory dated 1744, from the Drottningholm Palace, as originally belonging to Queen Hedvig Eleonora (1573 -1619). A pair of ducks, each standing on a lotus leaf, (P11 ducks Kangxi, H. 35 cm) are enameled on the biscuit, with copper green, manganese and cobalt aubergine, cobalt blue, iron red, iron yellow and gold. This piece is in the same collection.

In Europe the different color combinations have been called by French 'family' names. During the Kangxi period famille verte (Kangxi wucai), with transparent overglaze cobalt blue and black pigments, often with a large amount of copper green in several shades, iron yellow and iron red, became increasingly popular. The new Kangxi overglaze blue color on famille verte possesses a special quality-it is almost always surrounded by an iridescent halo. This glaze is composed of cobalt (0.2%) combined with unusually high amount of potassium (6.2%) and chlorine (1.6%). The volatility of the chlorine and its reaction with the molten blue enamel is probably the reason for the iridescent halo around famille verte blue enamel.

In the beginning of the Qing era, the Dutch had imported large quantities of Japanese Imari porcelain, produced in the Arita region and exported from Imari, hence the name. 'Imari' is decorated with cobalt blue underglaze, iron red and mostly gold overglaze, and it was a cheap substitute for the Ming and wucai ware that became hard to come by between 1630 and 1683. Soon after the reorganization of Jingdezhen, the Chinese started to produce Chinese Imari (AW 56), which became a popular ware for the Europeans, as it was cheaper than famille verte (AW 7) and later famille rose (AW 14).

During this period until the 1710's, Sweden had been prosperous and fashionable, and the new habits of tea and coffee drinking were adopted in the upper classes. The richest families bought tableware, mostly tea services, which was more suitable for the new beverages than metals and European stone wares. Pieces made solely for decoration were very scarce and were reserved for the absolute economic elite. A good example is, in the China Pavilion, there is a big vase (one of a pair), with phoenix, crane and flowers of the seasons in exquisite enamels (fencai) (P12 early Qianlong, H. 86 cm). The Swedes' purchases were usually made from Dutch merchants, and therefore the collections were similar to but smaller than those in Holland.

The porcelain imports during the era of SOIC 1731-1806

As mentioned before, the Swedish company imported a large volume of porcelain, more than any other company, despite its small size, and this influenced the habits in well-situated families. After the first expedition to Canton with 'Friedericus Rex Suecia' (1731 Feb 09- 1733 Aug 27), approximately 430,000 pieces were sold at auction . The porcelain imports had, during the earlier expeditions, a high percentage of tea- and coffee-services, but later on the variation of shapes steadily increased.

An auction catalogue from 1736, when the cargo of 'Friedericus Rex Suecia's' second expedition was sold, states that the cargo included:

Large and small teacups and saucers (blue and white, brown, enameled and Imari)
Chocolate cups with ears with saucers and bowls for sweets (blue and white)
Bowls and plates (blue and white and with marseille decoration, which is slip painted- anhua), rice bowls (blue and white)
Soup plates, dishes, gift plates, barbers bowls, plates (blue and white and enamels)
Sugar bowls with lid and plate (blue and white, brown, gold, polychrome)
According to the packing list from 1746 for the East Indiaman 'Freden,' a total of 97 cages, 1407 bundles and 26 barrels were sent home containing the following porcelain:

All of these wares amount to 239,823 pieces but the actual total is higher since the services contained several pieces. A packing list from 1750, reports that the services were of five different sizes and ranged from 37 to 120 pieces.

The services had more pieces during the third charter and could consist of more than 250 pieces with, for example, 6 tureens with lid and plate, 12 salad bowls, 6 milk cans, 8 sauce boats, 120 plates, 40 soup plates, 2 butter tubs with lid and plate, 4 mustard pots with lid, 12 plain and 12 deep dessert plates and one fishplate with a strainer.

The shapes on the imports generally follow the European metal, glass and faience shapes. Blue and white decoration was the most prevalent during the whole period. Chinese imari was imported in large proportions in the late Kangxi period and continued to be popular until the middle of the 18th century, as it was the low-cost substitute for famille rose (fencai) enamels. Famille rose (fencai) was based on the new lead-tin- and arsenate- white glaze which required higher firing temperature and was considerably more expensive to produce.

The excavations of the ship Gothenburg, which was stranded in 1745, has given good information for the understanding of the allotment of the different types of decoration. We can tentatively see the following figures as representative of the total imports during the two first charters, although the relative percentage of famille rose (fencai) items increased and iron brown glazed were reduced. The excavation showed 51.7% blue and white, 22.0% blue and white with iron brown exterior ('Batavia ware'), 10.5% blue and white with iron red and gold (imari), 6.7% iron brown and overglaze enamels (AW 60), 3.1% white and overglaze enamels, 2.1% white and overglaze enamels with underglaze cobalt blue lines, 2.0% anhua decoration, 1.0% white monochromes and the rest in mixed combinations. Naturally we have to consider that a large amount of the cargo was salvaged already in the 1740s and in diving operations at the turn of the 19th century, so we should use these figures with a little caution. In other publications the prevalence of imari ware has been estimated to be as high a percentage as 40, but this on the other hand seems too high and might be a mathematical miscalculation. Patterns on the pieces, in this cargo, are very varied and more than 90 different cobalt blue motifs are recorded. The most frequent are landscapes, rivers and seascapes often with some lonely human being, the flowers of the season in different settings, cockfighting (AW 39), which otherwise is very rare in European imports. Motifs with people are rare but cups and saucers copying Cornelius Pronk's 'Dame au parasol' in a simplified version can be found. A teapot with a motif of a man riding a donkey followed by an attendant who carries a prunus twig might be an illustration of the poet Meng Haoran bringing the first prunus.

Objects made on direct order with western motifs are rare. There are seven different motifs made to order found in the Gothenburg excavation. One dinner service has a monogram (GAK) within a wreath under a royal crown and with flower sprays on the brims. (AW 58) The intended buyer was not Swedish and is unknown. A second dinner service has a shield with a squirrel under a crown and is very profusely decorated in a pale blue color, and was also for an unknown, maybe Dutch, buyer. Parts from five tea services were found, of which one has a Meissen motif in sepia and gilt, one a motif with a portrait, another with a coat of arms and the other two monograms under Swedish nobleman's coronets. The designs, in this cargo, are much more varied compared to the designs in the Geldermalsen, which was wrecked in 1751. One special motif, not often seen on European imports (AW 39), is seen on some plates and has been a kind of 'trademark' for the Gothenburg ship. Cockfighting is not a European activity; therefore the motif, with two contending cockerels in a garden with fence and prunus in the center and bamboo, vine on the rim with two sprigs on the reverse, seems a little strange. The reason for the existence of this pattern might be that Gothenburg had been delayed and therefore was late with their orders in Canton, so as a consequence was forced to buy 'the leftovers' from the sellers. Or did they intentionally buy the cheaper surplus stock?

The range of shapes seems to have been rather limited. Most are tableware with plates, bowls of different sizes, tea utensils including teapots, spoon plates and tea cans in the new egg shape and covered bowls. Presumably from the privately owned part of the cargo, there were also small objects such as glazed birds and dogs. The animal figures are likely to have been bought as souvenirs and brought in the private cargo, the 'pacotille.'

The distribution of the material in the present exhibition is not representative of what was imported by the SOIC because there are much fewer blue and white exhibits than the imported quantity. In the original material there was a high prevalence of items for use in daily life, such as plates, ewers, candleholders, salt containers, spittoons (AW 24) and tureens (AW 35) but also large decorative pieces as big basins (AW 70) and big jars with lids to be placed in front of the chimneys. The motifs on the vessels were flowers of the seasons, land- and seascapes with pavilions, boats, wild and domestic animals.

Imari ware was used as a substitute for the other more costly polychromes in the first half of the 18th century, and the style was relatively unchanged. However, three groups can be discernible: 1. The exterior is decorated with a foot rim and with two or three red and blue sprigs. 2. During the next ten to twenty years, there was less careful painting and fewer motifs, with just cobalt blue sprigs on the exterior and a coarser foot. 3. In the Qianlong period, there was an undecorated exterior and often the same layout as famille rose on the interior. At the beginning of the 18th century there was one type of imari where the cobalt blue color was omitted. The motif on this type was often humans in a garden setting with a brim richly decorated with lotus scrolls.

The invention of famille rose (fencai), in the end of the Kangxi era did not have the same impact in Sweden as in the rest of Europe. Therefore it is rare to see ordinary famille rose services imported to Sweden before the end of the 19th century. The tureen, a part of a large service, in oval bombe shape painted with famille rose enamels with peacocks and hens on rockwork, from the middle of the Qianlong reign, is likely to have been brought to Sweden in the 20th century. (AW 17) This circumstance is probably due to Sweden's strained economy after the unfortunate wars during the rule of Karl XII. These wars ended in 1718 when the King was killed in combat with the Danes, after which new laws were instituted, against luxury consumption, under the new rule. Of course there were exceptions such as the earlier mentioned fencai jars, early Qianlong period, with a phoenix and a crane, in the China Pavilion (P 12 H. 86cm). These kinds of large decorative pieces can be seen in collections built by the aristocracy related to the royalty and those with close contacts with the SOIC. The famille rose palette on the Swedish imports was used in connection with the earlier mentioned 'Batavia' wares with iron brown exterior and with the polychrome decoration in the interior or on medallions. These medallions were created by covering the surface with a resist before applying the iron glaze and after the firing, the cartouches were decorated with polychrome motif. (Mar.musum. Jr 01, JR 02, AW 60.17) Sometimes but quite rarely the polychrome pigments were applied directly on the iron brown surface.

As a consequence of the habit of drinking tea there was an import from the foremost content producer of teapots, Yixing in Jiangsu province. The paste of Yixing wares has a high amount of iron (FeO 8-10%). It was fired red in the kiln in a reducing atmosphere and was made from clay suitable for firing without distortion. The unglazed stoneware (zisha) cylindrical teapot (AW 1), which was fitted with silver in Sweden and accordingly stamped with the silversmith's stamp, is a typical representative of the imports from Yixing in the 18th century. The Yixing stoneware had its European counterpart in the Dresden porcelains-Europe's first porcelain, first made c.1710-and this can account for the popularity of the brown zisha ware. Glazed Yixing wares were, on the other hand, rare in the imports to Sweden. Armorial porcelain

Among the most interesting imports in the 18th and early 19th centuries are the specially ordered porcelains. Firstly there are those with the different coat of arms, 'Armorial porcelain,' for the Royal family, the nobility and other more or less important persons. Secondly there are those with special designs, and thirdly, there are pieces made as replicas of European shapes earlier produced in glass, metals or faience.

During the early 16th century, the Portuguese had already ordered special armorial porcelains (decorated with personal coat of arms) but there were few, and not before the end of the 17th century did the European patterns come to Jingdezhen to be transferred to porcelain. When the SOIC made its first expedition to China, it had already become fashionable to order services with personal design. The Swedish directors and supercargoes were of course well aware of this. In total, more than 300 services with armorials for the Swedish market are known. The plate (GM 40639) with the coat of arms of Colin Campbell, who served as the first supercargo on the company's first expedition to China with the ship 'Friedericus Rex Sueciae'in 1732-33, is from one of the first few services ordered through the SOIC, on the first two expeditions. The center of the plate has a large coat of arms almost filling the entire surface in a characteristic way. The coat of arms is crowned by a helmet surrounded by foliage and text ribbons with his motto "Memento / Deus dabit vela" (Remember that it is God who gives us the sails), and on the brim there lies a broad pink diaper and four cartouches with flower motifs. Colin Campbell had been introduced to the House of Nobility in 1731 at the same time as the SOIC was granted the East India charter. The design chosen by Campbell was modern and expensive with the dens pink diaper in contrast to the other services delivered to Sweden with the first or second voyages.

A few other services were ordered for the Swedish market during the first trips to China, two for King Fredrik I and Queen Ulrika Eleonora and the third for Baron Daniel von Höpken, who was one of the company's subscribers. If these services had been entirely manufactured and painted in Jingdezhen, it is unlikely that they could have come with the first cargo, but if they just had the coat of arms applied in Canton, on already decorated porcelain, this could have been the case.

The two royal services are decorated with iron red, gold, overglaze blue, green and pink enamels. The Kings' coat of arms, in the center, has the Swedish national arms under the royal crown, with the arms of Hessen as escutcheon of pretence under a royal crown and supported by two lions. The Queen's arms are the Swedish national arms with the arms of Pfalz under a royal crown, supported by two lions. There are also differences on the brims where the King's design has three coiled dragons alternating with three flower scrolls (7 GM :30116) and the Queen's has four flower sprays and four chrysanthemum enclosed by ruyi heads.

Both services has in the well a flower scroll (mille-fleur, which differentiate the Swedish services from most other European services), divided by four chrysanthemums in iron red and gold.

As mentioned, there was a similar order for another family and we can see on the small spoon-tray (25 GM 19221) how alike the designs are. It carries the arms of the von Höpken family under a baron's crown, surrounded by a cowberry twig, a twig of spruce, and a border of prunus and stiff flowers. On the brim are four gilded coiled dragons alternating with four gilded flowers. This design is a combination of those on the King and Queen's services. Baron D.N. von Höpken had tried to start an East India company himself, but without success, in 1720.

Variation and combinations of different pattern components can be seen on the Wrangel dish (5 GM: 40650), where the shield is supported the same way as in the former designs but the borders give the design a completely changed impression.

A couple of families ordered several services, among which one was the Grill family, which had four members who were directors in the Company between 1731 and 1766. Two of them were of special importance to the company, Abraham Grill who lived in Gothenburg and Claes Grill who was a director for a shipyard in Stockholm, where several of the company's ships were built. The family ordered at least eight different services, with at least ten different designs, between the late 1740s and 1780s: two with monograms and six with their coat of arms, which is a crane holding a grasshopper in its beak. Grasshopper is 'grillo' in Italian and the design 'crane and grasshopper' was the pseudo arms of the Grill family, who had immigrated to Sweden and was not ennobled. Several important Swedish families who were not ennobled ordered services with more or less artistic coats of arms. The Grill family, who was very successful, used designers from the most well known elite, such as Christian Precht and Jean Eric Rehn, to create patterns for their services. They ordered at least eight different designs, two with monograms and six with the coat of arms. One of the largest and most magnificent services, made for the Swedish market around 1745-1750, is considered to be designed by Christian Precht for Abraham Grill (1707-1768), who was the first from the family to enter the SOIC board. The design (22 GM 40614), in gilt and famille rose enamels (fencai), has a rococo shaped coat of arms, which is crowned by a helmet and a crane. The coat of arms is placed in a massive acanthus, covering the center, and surrounded by a gilt chain of stylized flowers in the well and with four rococo ornaments linked with leaf scrolls. Three minor variations of this pattern were made.

The blue and white plate (21 GM 40615), probably designed by Christian Precht c.1755 for Claes Grill (1705-1767), has in the center an asymmetric shield with a crane with a grasshopper in its beak and two leafy sprigs, surmounted by the crane and grasshopper all surrounded by flowers, foliage and clouds all enclosed by a laurel in the well. The brim has a diaper, interrupted by four symmetrically placed rococo ornaments and flowers, and has an iron brown rim.

A much less refined service from c.1760 seems to copy a European faience or silver. It has a scalloped rococo rim and is decorated in underglaze cobalt blue with a stiffly painted crane, with a grasshopper in its beak, standing on stones placed on a plinth (AW 23). The rim and the well are decorated with massive floral and rococo ornaments.

The second charter was very prosperous for the SOIC and several of the main participants acquired porcelains with colorful design, as did the Head of the Board of Commerce, Anders Bachmanson Nordencrantz who was ennobled in 1743. He was an influential industrialist with interests in trade, mining and industries related to mining and energy, which can be seen on the brim of the plate (AW 27). Among other things, water wheels, hammer and anvils (industry) and Mercurii staff (trade) are seen. The coat of arms is surrounded by an ermine and crowned by a bear, which also is seen on the brim. It is rare to see the crest on the brim on Swedish armorials. This design looks as if it was specially made for this customer, but the design is also seen on an English service.

The Gothenburg city arms were supposed to be illustrated on a service, but now has almost disappeared. Only four pieces of this design-one dish, one cup (GM 4978), one coffee pot and one teapot (GM 4979)-are now in Swedish museums. The design is executed in overglaze enamels, fencai, blue, pink, green, iron red, black and gold. In the center stands a Leonid figure with a human-like beard, crowned head, erect penis, bifurcated tail and carrying sword and shield. The 'lion,' however, is more like a naked bearded European man. Ornaments and a wreath of laurels surround the arms, and there are gilt flower-sprays sketched in black and iron red. Pieces from the tea and coffee service came to Gothenburg in September 1745 with the Swedish East Indiaman 'Riddarhuset,' which sailed in the same expedition as the 'Götheborg.' (P 13 Detail Göteborg coats of arms) The service had been partly damaged by fire in the Huangpu (Whampoa), in November 1743. Another well-known and perhaps slightly peculiar design (AW 26) can be seen on the Gyllenborg service. It was ordered for the Baron and later for Count Fredrik Gyllenborg, who was one of the main participants in the second charter. The arms consist of a shield under a baron's crown and mantle surrounded by a grey black cloud. The well and rim are decorated in blue, red, fencai enamels and gold. It has been suggested that the watercolor pattern had been damp-stained and blurred on the ship, and the careful artisan had imitated it with maximum realism.

In 1772 King Gustav III made a revolution, what he called 'The Honorable Revolution,' to become a dictator. In order to commemorate the event he ordered one coffee and one tea service to be given to his loyal supporters. The handled coffee cup and saucer (AW 8) is frugally decorated with overglaze enamels, fencai, with a gilt letter 'G' on a blue background under a royal crown, and a gilt laurel wrath with the text 'D.19 AUG.1772,' and four small flower sprigs and gilt rims around the medallion. On the bottom is the mark '1776' in black to show the year of manufacture. It is approximately of the same age as the famous 'Gripsholm service,' which according to tradition was a gift from the SOIC to the King Gustav III. Originally the set consisted of around 700 to 750 pieces. The design is nowadays reproduced and used at Swedish embassies (P 19).

Designs made to order, intended for Swedish consumers

Already in the 17th century, the Europeans sent models made of various material to be replicated in order to adjust the shapes to serve different uses, for example, tureens, mugs and several other glass and silver replicas. The vases in this exhibit (GM 2364) were produced by the Marieberg factory in the 1770s.

Besides the armorial, there were orders for guilds, free masons, for religious purposes and for personal celebrations, for example, the 'Utfall' saucer and the big bowl decorated with ten 'emergency minted' copper coins. As the time passed there were more individual designs, as on the big-saucer-shaped dish (AW 29). It is nicely decorated in famille rose enamels, fencai, in the well with two monograms, possibly AEP and JVU for Anna Elisabeth Pike and Jacob von Utfall. There are flower scrolls and two towers with Swedish flags, which tentatively is the arms of Utfall (slightly changed) under golden cartouches with the inscription 'PLACIDO ROBORE' ('To be safe in tranquility'). In the center are a bamboo, a gilt flower and a polychrome garland around the Latin text from Juvenalis' satire (c. AD100). The correct text should have been 'Quis ferat istas luxuriae sordes? Quanta est gula, (quae sibi totos ponit apros), animal propter convivia natum!' (Who can stand these gruesome extravagances? What a glutton he is, (who serves himself un-sliced boars) oh, you animal created for a banquet!'

As the Utfall family have a long history both as naval officers and as participants and officers in the SOIC, we have to speculate about for whom this dish was made. Could it have been made for a family celebration for the former supercargo Jacob Jeansson von Utfall (1715-1791), who made four trips to Canton between 1736 and 1745, two as supercargo? The style of the flower garlands and the witty use of the classic text are well in line with what should be fit for the owner of the Nääs estate around 1765, for his 50 years celebration. Motives with more obscure background can be found on a punch bowl, in overglaze colors, gold, iron red and brown (AW. 9). The exterior has a shell and leaf scrolls over ten 'emergency minted' copper coins issued between 1715 and 1719, during the reign of the Swedish King Karl XII. The King had shattered Sweden's finances by going to war and in the last years of his reign, he had to depreciate the Swedish currency. Therefore, he was not well thought of after his death in 1718. Now after some 25 years, the attitude towards him in the society was again more positive to the comprehension that he hade been a hero, and these kinds of bowls were probably made in his honor. Previously this pattern was considered to be of later origin but is now considered to have arrived in Sweden before 1746.

Banknotes as motifs on porcelain was a special Swedish feature, and several from the period 1760s to 1780s are on punch bowls, usually decorated in black (sepia), white enamel ('bianco sopra bianco') and gold with flowers on the exterior and a Swedish banknote on the interior, in this case issued 11 Aug 1762 by 'Riksens Ständers Växelbank' (The Bank of the Swedish Diet). (AW 31)

Owners of palaces and manor houses sent drawings of their estates in order to have them illustrated on porcelain.

From Gothenburg, there are none, but there are examples with only the name written on the object, as on the jardinicre made for the manor house 'Liseberg,' now in the center of the town but in the suburbs before, where the name is written in simple black letters (GM 15142). The style of this simple but practical flower pot is closely related to another service with the name 'Gullbringa,' another manor house, owned by H. H. Clason. He was Captain on four different ships to Canton, between 1782 and 1794, and was the brother in law of the owner of the Liseberg, H. Schultz (Rosenschütz), in the late Qianlong period.

Quite recently two plates with Swedish proverbs were found. One says (P14 Early 19th century), 'I Wälgärningarnas fjät följer Wälsignelsen' (In the footsteps of Charitable Deeds follows the Blessing) and the other says (P15 Early 19th century), 'Att lära af de Unga är att äta omogna Drufvor' (To learn from the young ones is to eat unripe grapes). These mottos do not seem to have been recorded earlier on porcelain and are likely to have been ordered by a chaplain on one of the last expeditions around 1805. The porcelain is of low quality, the shape of the plates, having a concave brim, is typical for the first decades of the 19th century. Of the previously mentioned, four designs are restrained and have a tone of moral rearmament that was in vogue in Sweden in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Many young Swedish scientists participated in the expeditions to Asia, and especially among the botanists can we see the results in porcelain decoration. One of Sweden's most famous scientists, the botanist Carl von Linné (1707-1778), was in the earlier years of SOIC's existence and was quite negative about the project but he later changed his opinion and sent several students to the East. He also got his own services made, as did others with interest in botany. One of them, Claes Alströmer, who was deeply involved with the Company, had brought seeds from Spain and had the flowers Alstromeria painted on two services in the 1770s. One has a massive fencai enamel pink diaper surrounding a spray of the flower, which carries his name, and the other, being more elegant, has light flower garlands in pink and green and a reticulated (ling long) border around the Alstromeria flower (P 16).

Topographical motifs were not seldom ordered, including both views from foreign places and from within Sweden. On a dish in the Gothenburg City museum is a nautical chart, made to commemorate the departure, from Hainan to Canton, with the East Indiaman Gustaf Adolph, April 21, 1785 (P17 GM: 5637). The expedition had been forced to make a stop.

Watercolor paintings as original patterns has been mentioned (AW 27) as not so successful. An exception is the almost exact rendering of the view from an industrial community (P 18), Forsmark, including the manor house, living quarters for the workers and the newly erected church illustrating an ideal community around 1800, in the spirit of J. J. Rousseau.

A nice little bowl decorated in neoclassic style is of special interest because it is from a dated order, 'Bäck Canton 1/1 1803' (AW 49). It was made for Lars Christian Bäck who was supercargo on two trips to Canton on the ship Östergöthland, the first trip from 1799 to 1801 and the second from 15 April 1802 to 1 May 1804. The bowl is, to our knowledge, from the latest dated order by the SOIC. 'Mail order' of an early kind was used in first quarter of the 19th century. The 'pattern plates' and other objects from services (AW 78) could be shown to the public in Sweden, and the customers could choose between the different options and then add their monogram or coat of arms.

Communication and interest in the Far Eastern trade diminished after the liquidation of the SOIC in 1813, but some orders for porcelain, were made later. For example, the family af Wirsén ordered in the beginning of the 19th century for Carl Johan af Wirsén (1777-1825) and his brother Gustaf Fredrik af Wirsén (1779-1827). The Danish East India Company probably carried out the order between 1812 and 1815. (4 GM 40626)

Trade contacts were officially resumed in March 1847, with a treaty between the King of Sweden and Norway and the Chinese Emperor (Swensk författnings-Samling No 43 1847) (Wide document AW 80) but we do not have any specific evidence for orders of porcelain commissioned for Sweden before last years of the Qing Dynasty.

One of the men, James Keiller, who had organized the 1905-1907 excavations at the Gothenburg wreckage made a journey to China, during which he and his wife ordered a large service in 'Canton'dated 1910 and with a Xuantong iron red mark (AW 15).

At that time the interest for Chinese culture had returned in Sweden, and collections were built again. In 1907 the Swedish Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf, later King Gustaf VI Adolf (1882- 1973), bought his first Chinese object: an enameled, fencai, plate from the Qianlong period. The King's interest later changed to collecting objects of a more Chinese taste and he built a very scholarly collection, which stimulated the Swedish interest in Chinese art. The King's collection was donated to the Swedish citizens and will hopefully be shown to the people of Sweden and to other nations in the near future.

Jarl Vansvik


GM: number- Illustration referring to exhibits from Gothenburg City Museum according list. Photo: Jan-Erik Nilsson
AW: number- Illustration referring to exhibits from Antik West according list. Photo: Jan-Erik Nilsson
P: number- Refers to slides for illustrations. Photo No 1, 2,9, 10, 11, 12 by: Erik Liljeroth and Sven Nilsson.
No. 3, 4, 6, 7, 13 14, 15, 16, 18, by: Jan Erik Nilsson.
No. 19 Far Eastern Museum, Stockholm
No. 5, 8, 17 by the author.

P. 1 Interior from the Library at the China pavilion at Drottningholm
P. 2 Interior from the Embroidered Room at the China pavilion at Drottningholm.
Pair of early 17th century covered jars (H. 55cm, Wanli), probably from Queen Kristina's collection. Dehua figures (H. 65 cm, Kangxi) painted in Europe
P. 3 Plate Kraak
P. 4 Bowl (H.8cm, Tianqi 1621-27) with Su Dong Pu's 'Red Cliff' poem left. Right: Bowl, (H. 7.5 cm, Chongzhen 1628-1644) with Su Dong Pu's 'Red Cliff' poem.
P. 5 Vase with bird (H.18.5 cm, Chongzhen).
P. 6 Butai (H. 13.5 cm, early 18th century)
P. 7 Salt (H. 8.4 cm, Kangxi)
P. 8 Mustard pot (H. 12.3 cm, Kangxi)
P. 9 Vase, wu cai
P. 10Vase, su san cai, famille jaune (H.25.5 cm Kangxi)
P. 11 Ducks, su san cai, famille verte (H.35 cm)
P. 12 Guan jar, fencai, famille rose (H.86 cm)
P. 13 Gothenburg coat of arms detail
P. 14 Plate with reticulated (ling long) border around the Alstromeria flower
P. 15 Dish with maritime chart sepia (GM: 5637 not in the exhibition)
P. 16 Plate with Forsmark village fencai
P. 17 Plate with proverb fencai
P. 18 Plate with proverb fencai
P. 19 Gripsholm royal service custard cup and plate 33cm fencai


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