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Tea cup from a Canton famille-rose dinner service made for George Francis Train in China

Date: c 1856
Dimensions:
Overall: 63 x 80 x 67 mm, 0.1 kg
Medium: Ceramic
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Cup
Object No: 00030771
Place Manufactured:Zhonghua

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    Description
    This cup is part of a Famille-rose dinner service made for George Francis Train, a prominent merchant during the mid 19th century. The piece features scenes of Mandarin court society taking place in traditional buildings and landscapes which was a popular theme on export porcelain to America at the time.The inside rim is embellished with famille-rose butterflies, fruit, flowers and birds and a monogramed gold "T" on a gilt background.
    SignificanceGeorge Francis Train was an American entrepreneur and merchant who opened a shipping office in Melbourne in 1853. He returned to New York via China in 1856. This dinner set was a specific commission by Train on that visit to China and each piece features a monogrammed "T". Train made a significant social and economic impact on Melbourne during his relatively brief stay there and he went on to have a highly visible public profile on his return to America, even running for President in 1872.
    The commissioning of such a richly decorated dinner service is also testament to not only the social status that was attached to owning one, but also to the established export trade from Canton to America that enabled the wealthy class in America to procure such goods.
    HistoryIn the early years following the American Revolution there was a demand for Chinese trade to supply manufactured products such as porcelain, silk and tea, which were not yet available in America. This meant that by the 1830s trade routes from America to China were well established. As a result many wealthy families and merchants of the time possessed numerous Chinese manufactured items in their homes.

    George Francis Train was born in Boston in 1829 and became famous for his entrepreneurial achievements, merchant adventuring and wealth. After a stint as a grocery clerk, Train began his career in shipping in 1845 when he joined his uncle's clipper shipping business. He established his own shipping firm in Melbourne, Australia in 1853. Throughout his mercantile career, he circumnavigated the globe four times (an exploit some believe was the inspiration for Vernes "Around the World in Eighty Days"). In 1856 he spent a year in China and it is thought that he ordered this Famille-rose dinner service set during this time. Upon his return to America Train heaily invested in steel railways and railroads, formed a Finance Company and built various properties ensuring the growth of his fortune.

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