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Dinner plate from a Canton famille-rose dinner service made for George Francis Train in China

Date: c 1856
Overall: 249 x 250 x 28 mm, 0.52 kg
Medium: Ceramic
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Plate
Object No: 00030792
Place Manufactured:Zhonghua

User Terms

    This dinner plate 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. This particular plate features two females holding a long sword, possibly a "jian" type which was very popular in the Qing dynasty. The border around the plate is embellished with famille-rose butterflies, fruit, flowers and birds and a monogrammed "T".

    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.
    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 manufacture 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. In 1856 he spent a year in China and it is thought that he ordered this Famill-rose dinner service set during this time. Upon his return to America he invested in steel railways and railroads, formed a Finance Company and built various properties ensuring the growth of his fortune.

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