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Subject:Rose Medallion Cups/Saucers - Query
Posted By: Peter Tue, Apr 28, 2020 IP:


A few months ago I acquired three Rose Medallion cups and saucers as part of a larger lot.

All three cups share the same design within the medallion (ie to be found at the opposite end to the handle).
All three saucers also share a common medallion design (ie in the centre of each saucer), but is different from the design found on the cups.

I assume, therefore, that the cups and saucers were from two different sets.
However, whilst checking for similar items on line, it appeared that a surprising majority of these were also 'composites'.

My questions for the experts out there are :

i) Is my assumption correct that cups and saucers of this type were 'matched' by the same medallion design ?

ii) If so, are composite sets significantly less desirable that 'matched' sets ?

Many thanks for your help !


Subject:Re: Rose Medallion Cups/Saucers - Query
Posted By: Bill H Wed, Apr 29, 2020

You don't quite illustrate the perceived problem, as the picture shows a 'normal' circa 1870 'Rose Medallion' cup and saucer set in the standard variant pattern with what is called the 'scroll motive' surrounding figural reserves with a central medallion usually containing a garden scene, which variously contains rocks, flowering plants, birds, butterflies, other insects and occasional figures. Unless the saucer's medallion contains an armorial crest or something besides a garden scene of some sort, then nothing is amiss.

But while I have your attention, I will take a bit of time to digress into the history of this pattern. All Chinese Rose Medallion dishes were made for export, and they were all hand painted from the advent of the pattern in a variant form around 1850 until transfer decoration technology was introduced in the early 20th century. Demand was huge in the late 19th century, when the industrial Revolution produced a new rich class, which competed with the Robber Barons and others with the means to afford this "highly decorated China", as the dishes were called at the time.

It is my sense of export porcelain workshops that the same person who painted plates and saucers did not necessarily paint the cups and bowls. And there were more than a few workshops maintaining stables of artisans to meet the demand. So while Rose Medallion dishes were canvas to what in the late 19th century arguably was the most widespread form of hand-painted genre art on the planet, the pattern was not set in concrete, but exhibited countless personal flourishes and affectations of the painters who created the scenes of daily life in the home of a successful Chinese scholar.

Accordingly, while the form of the motif had great structural integrity over several distinct variants of the pattern, the substance filling its reserves was fairly fluid. In sum, it was more of a complementary pattern than matching.

Below, some photos of cup & saucer sets with examples of the aforementioned variances.

Best regards,

Bill H.

Subject:Re: Rose Medallion Cups/Saucers - Query
Posted By: Peter Thu, Apr 30, 2020

Hello Bill,

Many thanks for your prompt reply. I apologise for not adequately illustrating my query. Hopefully the attached pics will be of more use, which show the medallions found on both the cup and the saucer.

To put it in a nutshell, my qustion, is : Were such Rose Medallion cups and saucers sold as a 'matched' pair with the central medallion motif on the saucer being identical to the medallion motif to be found on the side of the accompanying cup ?

Many thanks for your time and help.

Best Regards,


Subject:Re: Rose Medallion Cups/Saucers - Query
Posted By: Bill H Thu, Apr 30, 2020

The closest thing I'm aware of in the way of matching sets in late 19th century rose medallion wares are those with armorial crests in the medallions, or sometimes just the cyphered initials of customer not claiming royal lineage. Usually these devices were rather faithfully copied onto sets of dishes ordered for export, but errors did occur.

You’ll see a glitch in the first picture below, which isn't rose medallion but an 18th century jug or creamer, which I’m using in the absence of a suitable rose medallion piece with an example of such an error. The jug is a rare piece of Chinese export ware featuring the Hanoverian arms of England's King Georges I-IV with Masonic symbols displayed underneath in a cartouche patterned after one used by the Holy Roman Emperor. At the base of the crest on a mauve ribbon, there is supposed to be the motto in French, "DIEU ET MON DROIT" ("God and my right"), but in this instance "Mon/my" has been spelled "MOU", which means "soft" or "limp' in French. There is a companion tea caddy to this creamer in the Delaware Winterthur Museum, which piece has the correct spelling..

The second picture shows three armorial crests attributed to the Scottish Mackintosh Clan by Christie's, though Wikipedia has a page with a somewhat similar crest said to be of the Macpherson Clan. The one in the center comprised the medallion on a Rose Medallion cup, while the one on the left was on the base of a Rose Medallion teapot, and the one on the right was on the base of a 8-inch bowl from a service in the same variant pattern as the teapot (with melon-shaped reserves instead of those with scroll motive borders).

If you want almost perfectly matched Rose Medallion, I believe you would have to start collecting early 20th century transfer decorated wares with repeating patterns, however you would find that the color washes applied to many of the sets would still create a mismatched variety of color tones and textures.

Best regards,

Bill H.

Subject:Re: Rose Medallion Cups/Saucers - Query
Posted By: Peter Thu, Apr 30, 2020

Hello again, Bill

Thank you very much indeed for your reply. It is now clear to me that, as seen in your exhibit FRM-F-003, that a 'mated pair' is the closest thing to a 'matched' (my term) Rose Medallion pattern cup and saucer. I am obliged to you for your help.
Furthermore, the additional information you supplied on the history of Rose Medallion is both very interesting and much appreciated.

Although I only started collecting Chinese porcelain some six months ago, my modest collection is slowly growing, fostered largely through advice and information from experts, like yourself, on the Asianarts website.
I am indebted to you all.

Best Regards,

Subject:Re: Rose Medallion Cups/Saucers - Query
Posted By: plasticman Mon, May 04, 2020

The pitcher with the royal arms is quite interesting. It was probably given to a Masonic lodge and honored the monarch then in power. Most likely was made prior to 1760. At that date George the 3rd dropped any claim to the French throne and the fleur de lys were removed from the arms. A really nice piece of armorial work.

Subject:Re: Rose Medallion Cups/Saucers - Query
Posted By: Bill H Tue, May 05, 2020

The British Museum 'Curator's Comments' accompanying its history on a similarly patterned teapot in their collection states the following:

'Harrison-Hall and Krahl 1994: This coat of arms and motto were employed by successive English monarchs from 1714 until 1801, when George III renounced his title of King of France and the arms were altered to remove the French fleurs-de-lis (Howard, 1974, p. 499; for a bowl from the same service). However, it is unlikely that the service to which this teapot belonged was made for a member of the English Royal Family. Although George III's son, Henry Frederick, was Grand Master (i.e. highest member of the Freemasons), his period of office was from 1782 to 1790 and would seem to postdate this piece. The royal arms may refer instead to the name of a tavern in which a particular group of Freemasons met, such as the King's Arms (see BM Franks. 741+ and BM Franks. 741+A). The shape of this teapot with its branch-like spout is copied from European ceramics. Other pieces with this design include another teapot with a replacement spout in the Mottahedeh collection (Howard and Ayers, 1978, vol. I, no. 319) a punchbowl in the Bullivant collection (Howard, 1974, p. 499), a teapoy in the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, U.S.A. (mentioned by Howard, 1974, p. 499), and a tea cup in the Freemasons Hall Museum, London.'

The Winterthur Museum has the following notes in its file on the tea caddy:

'Biblio. Refs. : [Book] Palmer, Arlene. 1976. A Winterthur Guide to Chinese Export Porcelain.
Notes : Published as Figure 67 (pp. 102-103). Date is given as 1750-1760. ...

[Notes : A related, but not identical, arms of England on a dish in the V&A collection,
p. 48, fig. 60. ...

Event History :

Winterthur Object Report (Detailed: General): 1956.0046.071 Page 2 of 3:

As per Palmer (see references): "Only a few Chinese porcelains are known that bear the royal arms of England. The form of this tea container and its simple spearhead border suggest that it was made during the reign of George II, but not for the royal family." (p. 102)

As per a previous cataloguer (before /4/09): "The arms are of King George I, II or III. The piece did not belong to the Royal family."

"An old note in the record states that David Howard dated this piece circa 1780; however, the spearhead border suggests a date of 1750-75." '

Best regards,

Bill H | Associations | Articles | Exhibitions | Galleries |