A Chinese export Ginger Jar, decorated in England, circa 1820

When this Qing dynasty porcelain jar arrived in England from China, the sole decoration would have been an underglaze blue landscape depicting pagodas surrounded by trees, rivers and distant mountains. Blue and white jars such as this formed part of the cargo of the Diana, the East India Company ship which sank off the Malacca Straits in 1817, bound for Calcutta.

In around 1820, the jar was overdecorated (clobbered) in London with richly coloured enamels and gilding. The original Chinese landscape remains, although it has been wildly enhanced with the addition of a green ground covered with colourful flowers, monstrous butterflies, and a mythical ancient creature.

This rich decoration was particularly favoured by the Regency elite during the early part of the 19th century. At this time, the Prince Regent – later King George IV – was cultivating a vogue for the exotic orient with flamboyant projects such as the Royal Pavilion at Brighton.

Condition: The enamel and gilt decoration is in excellent order. There is some roughness to the foot rim and also a related short crack. Some chips are glazed and these must have occurred during manufacture. It is possible that some of the chipping was caused by the removal of fused kiln furniture, after firing. There are clay tears in the centre of the base and also a faint star crack. There is a small chip and a short crack to the neck. No other damage and no restoration.

Dimensions: Height 17.5 cm

European Decoration on Oriental Porcelain 1700-1830, Helen Espir (Jorge Welsh Books, 2005).

The Watney Collection of Chinese Porcelain Decorated in Holland and England (Bonhams sale catalogue, 7 November, 2003).

Ref. For a similar ginger jar, see The Atrocious Unsworth – Chinese blue and white porcelain clobbered in London in the 19th century (Helen Espir, English Ceramic Circle Transactions, Volume 29, 2018).

The British Museum has a jar from the wreck of the Diana (Museum number 1995,0619.1.a-b).