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Canton Famille-Rose dinner service made for George Francis Train

Date: c 1856
Medium: Ceramic
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Dinner service
Object No: V00030771
Place Manufactured:Zhonghua

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    Description
    A 61 piece Canton famille-rose partial dinner service made for George Francis Train in around 1855 on his return from Melbourne to Boston. Each piece in the set is painted in an expanded famille-verte palette that was very popular on export porcelain to America at the time. Each piece is ornately decorated and features Imperial court scenes taking place in garden settings. During the Qing dynasty, the garden becomes a significant location and outward expression of many important Chinese ideals such as scholarship, self-contemplation, the appreciation of nature and the refined arts.

    SignificanceThis particular dinner set is significant as a private commission from such an important historical figure such as George Francis Train. Train had a significant impact on the mercantile scene in Melbourne during his stay there. The set is also representitive of the high quality of porcelain that was part of the export trade to Europe and America prior to and at that time. In 1856 the renowned porcelain factories at Canton were destroyed by fire and the European market was diminishing. These events, in addition to various social and political conditions in China, became part of a general decline in the popularity and quality of export porcelain from China in later years.
    HistoryOn his return route to Boston from Melbourne in 1855, George Train ventured to China where he spent most of the following year and most likely ordered this particular dinner set then.

    From her independence in 1784, America had become an official and strong trading partner with China, establishing with other nations a trading base from Canton. As with the European market, American agents in China were able to procur special orders and requests from their American clients.

    Famille-rose ware was introduced from China around 1720 and remained a popular export throughout the 18th and the 19th centuries, particularly in America who favoured the more elaborate and decorative style. Famille-rose pieces predominantly feature flowers, landscapes, human figures and themes from Chinese legends or as in this case, Mandarin court life. Although these traditional Chinese themes were popular, much of their meanings or symbolism were largely incomprehensible to their owners.

    Canton ware in general became part of Post Revolutionary American history, an age when wealthy society eagerly awaited their shiploads of porcelain from China. By the early 19th century porcelain trade with Europe had significantly declined due in part to the establishment of local compnies such as Wedgewood who were creating their own high quality ware. America was now the most lucrative market. Elaborate dinner sets very much suited the pretensions of the newly prosperous merchant class.

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