Rare Pickle Dish, Limehouse, soft paste porcelain, c.1745-48


Based on a Kangxi pattern and moulded from an actual scallop shell, this rare Limehouse pickle dish is painted in underglaze blue with a scroll and a vase containing two peacock feathers. In traditional Chinese symbolism the peacock represented the early manifestation of the heavenly Phoenix. The peacock is also associated with rank, divinity and power, whilst the scroll symbolises knowledge and learning. The artemisia leaf painted in the left and right hand corners of the dish represents one of the Daoist Eight Precious Things. The underside is painted with trailing foliage.

Originating at Limehouse, London, in the mid-1740s, the production of scallop shell dishes spread to Lund's Bristol and then to Worcester, where the fashion for this form suddenly ended in around 1760.

When serving pickle to improve the flavour of meat during the 18th century, underglaze decoration was usually preferred, as the acids contained in the preserves would have had a deleterious effect on any enamel decoration painted over the glaze.


Provenance: Mercury Antiques, London.

Relatively scarce, often experimental and always desirable, Limehouse porcelain wares are amongst the earliest examples of early English porcelain. The manufactory was in production for only three short years, from 1745-48, before being forced to close for economic reasons.

Condition: Excellent - no chips, cracks or restoration, just firing and glazing impurities typical of this very early period.

Dimensions: Length 9.5 cm

The Limehouse porcelain manufactory: excavations at 108-116 Narrow Street, London, Kieron Tyler, Roy Stephenson, J Victor Owen, Christopher Phillpotts (MoLAS, 2000).

Godden's Guide to Blue and White Porcelain, Geoffrey A. Godden (Antique Collectors' Club, 2004).


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