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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst


Title:game: gaming counters
Date Made:ca. 1780
Type:Recreational Gear
Place Made:China
Measurements:overall: 1/16 x 7/8 x 2 1/2 in.; .1588 x 2.2225 x 6.35 cm
Accession Number:  HD 67.110
Credit Line:Gift of Good & Hutchinson

Collection of 13 mother-of-pearl gaming or loo counters - 4 large round, 3 smaller round, 2 oval and 4 rectangular, used to keep score and as stakes in games. Two matching rectangular counters have the initials "RH" in script on one side, and on the other the motto: "VIXI LIBER ET MORIAR" or 'I have lived free, and will die so' of the Ibbetson family. Sir James Ibbetson, 2nd Baronet of Denton Park in Yorkshire, England, ordered a Chinese armorial porcelain set around 1780; however, the Ibbetson family service does not have the same arms as these game counters. Unlike arms, mottos are not granted by the English College of Arms, nor are they exclusive to just one family but are rather assumed by a family. Mottos often began as battle or rallying cries, but more recently were simply a play on the family surname, such as the Dover family's motto, 'Do ever good.' This coat of arms is not clear: The crest has an eagle or similar bird preying on a wing, similar to the Browne, Robottom or Robotham, or Stones crest, but their arms are different than this chevron between three herons. The only family with similar arms is Heron, listed by D. Howard for c.1795 CEP set as 'Sable two chevrons or between three heron', with an unrecorded crest. Mother-of pearl counters were often ordered at the same time as porcelain services; Howard thinks that perhaps as many as a 1/4 or 1/3 of all armorial porcelain services were accompanied by mother-of-pearl counters, although frequently with simplified armorials such as a crest and initials. He notes that these orders were carried by captains and supercargoes who gained considerable profit with these additional commisssions which required no cargo space. As with armorial porcelain, engraved book plates, paintings, and drawings provided prototypes for the Chinese artisan to copy; the carving on these game counter reflect the high quality of workmanship lavished on even simple, small objects, which continued into the 19th century.


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