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Title:tea canister
Date Made:ca. 1760
Type:Food Service
Materials:ceramic: hard paste porcelain, overglaze polychrome enamels, gilding
Place Made:China
Measurements:overall: 5 1/4 x 2 7/8 x 1 7/8 in.; 13.335 x 7.3025 x 4.7625 cm
Accession Number:  HD 71.052
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Chinese export porcelain ovoid tea canister with cover decorated with floral sprays and a lotus-petal design in the Famille rose palette. The Chinese considered the lotus ('nelumbo nucifero'), a plant native to China, to be a powerful symbol with several meanings: association with harmony since the Chinese name, 'hehua', and the word for harmony have the same pronunciation; symbol of Buddha representing his purity and transcendence; symbol of fertility and abundance with its seed pod representing the wish for many children, especially sons; and symbol of Daoism where it is the emblem of 'He Xian Gu', one of the eight Daoist immortals. The lotus was both a popular design on Chinese porcelain found on ceramics as early as the Han dynasty (206 B.C. - 9 A.D.) and in the export market; while Westerners appreciated the design, few understood its significance to Chinese culture. Godden suggests that the above average quality of many of these wares meant that they were Private Trade goods ordered by the individual supercargoes, but Howard states that it is likely that larger consignments were also ordered by the East India companies. The domed cover has an acorn finial and row of overlapping pink lotus petals outlined and highlighted in iron red; the body has a band of red and gilt stylized foliate sprigs, over two rows of overlapping lotus petals with two oval reserves or panels with a gilt and red scrolling lotus plant. This version of the lotus pattern with overlapping lotus petals in variegated pinks and panels of gilding was popular in the English market around 1755-1765. This form of canister with its short neck, arched shoulders and gilt, molded wave-scroll border around the base was most common in the mid 18th century, around 1735-1765.

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