Call Again. New exhibition on Chinese porcelain tankards and mugs

Call Again. These two words painted in gilt on a Chinese export mug during the 18th century, were surely an invitation for a special occasion. This very mug is one of over 70, included in our exhibition of the same name dedicated to Chinese export porcelain mugs and tankards.

Once again, we invite you to “Call Again” at our London gallery. From the 1st to the 22nd of July, the exhibition is a rare opportunity to see such a large group of these drinking vessels. Produced between the 17th and 19th centuries, of varied decorations and including a number of rare examples, each one tells a different story.

Chinese export mugs copied Western forms in precious materials such as gold, silver and glass, as well as cheaper substances such as pottery and pewter. Although they were often decorated with patterns conveyed to China from Europe, they could also be painted with traditional Chinese designs and motifs, thus embodying intercultural influences. The evolution of their porcelain body material from relatively thick and sturdy in the 17th century to thinner in the 18th, and of their decoration from blue and white to famille verte and then famille rose, chronicled the evolution of materials and techniques.

Chinese export tankards and mugs act as an index of social evolution in the 17th-20th centuries. They illuminate aspects of Western social history, and their decoration gives vivid expression to life and customs of the time. Smaller pieces were used to entertain family and friends at home, while larger containers were commissioned by guilds, clubs and other social and trade bodies. Thus the vessels were symbolic of kinship and harmony. Communal drinking implied good fellowship, guests wishing one another ‘good health’ as a toast. Chinese porcelain mugs were costly, particularly if they bore specially-commissioned decorations like coats of arms or other commemorative devices, and thereby demonstrated their owner’s honour, riches and breeding. They were status symbols and confirmed social rank. They were often beautiful objects, thereby reflecting the owner’s aesthetic appreciation and good taste.The exhibition will coincide with the launch of the book Tankards and Mugs: Drinking from Chinese Export Porcelain written by Maria Antónia Pinto de Matos and Rose Kerr with the presence of the authors on the 1st of July. The book illustrates almost 200 Chinese porcelain tankards and mugs, from 11 different countries including those from 23 museums and 18 private collections, dating from the 15th-19th centuries, each catalogued and referenced in detail. They range from blue and white to delicately enamelled vessels, some emblazoned with western designs and coats of arms. The introductory essays discuss the history of a vessel that played an important role in society, stimulating design and decoration while also being symbolic of kinship and harmony.

We look forward to your visit at our London gallery.

1 - 22 July

Monday - Friday 9.30 am to 5.30 pm

Saturdays - 10.30 am to 5.30 pm

Saturday 16th July - by appointment