Chinese Musicians thumbnail 1
Chinese Musicians thumbnail 2
+5
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 52, The George Levy Gallery

Chinese Musicians

Group
ca. 1755 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
The figures are grouped on a rocky base around a large circular central opening, which was probably intended to take a ceramic and glass candelabrum or lighting device. If so, the group would have been used to decorate a dining table during a very grand evening meal. Porcelain figures were first made in the 1740s for use as table ornaments during the dessert, but they were soon widely used in interior decoration.

Two versions of this group are known. One of these was probably the group offered at auction in London in 1756. This was described as 'A most magnificent LUSTRE in the Chinese taste, beautifully ornamented with flowers, and a large groupe of Chinese figures playing on music.'

People
The group was designed and modelled by the Fleming Joseph Willems (1716-1766), one of the most accomplished modellers working in the English porcelain industry. Willems worked in England between 1749 and 1766, when he returned to Flanders to become Director of the Imperial Royal Academy of Drawing and Modelling at Tournai.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and gilded
Brief Description
Group of four Chinese musicians, porcelain, painted and gilt, ca.1755. Made by the Chelsea factory, London, modelled by Joseph Willems.
Physical Description
A large group consisting of four Chinese figures: a seated woman playing a flute wearing a loose yellow coat over a pink skirt; another woman in a fur-lined caot painted with flowers in iron iron-red and gilt over a white skirt painted with sprays of leaves in gold; a seated pig-tailed man in a polychrome flowered robe lined in pink, with high black boots, he wears a round fur-trimmed hat, and holds the hand of a child standing beside him in a pink jacket and striped pantaloons. All are mounted on a rocky base, with applied flowers and leaves painted in naturalistic enamel colours, and which has a raised centre and large aperture, possibly to hold a table lustre.
Dimensions
  • Approx. height: 37.6cm
  • Maximum diameter: 37.5cm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
an anchor in red: the Chelsea porcelain Factory mark for the period ca.1752-1758
Gallery Label
British Galleries: This is the largest, most complex, and most ambitious porcelain figure group made in 18th-century Britain. The figures were sensitively modelled by Joseph Willems. He varied and balanced their poses so that the composition works from every angle. The central opening was probably for a lighting device.(27/03/2003)
Credit line
Purchased with the assistance of a special Treasury Grant, The Art Fund and A. W. Tuke
Object history
Modelled by Joseph Willems (born in Brussels, 1716, died in Tournai, Belgium, 1766) at the Chelsea porcelain factory, London
Subject depicted
Summary
Object Type
The figures are grouped on a rocky base around a large circular central opening, which was probably intended to take a ceramic and glass candelabrum or lighting device. If so, the group would have been used to decorate a dining table during a very grand evening meal. Porcelain figures were first made in the 1740s for use as table ornaments during the dessert, but they were soon widely used in interior decoration.

Two versions of this group are known. One of these was probably the group offered at auction in London in 1756. This was described as 'A most magnificent LUSTRE in the Chinese taste, beautifully ornamented with flowers, and a large groupe of Chinese figures playing on music.'

People
The group was designed and modelled by the Fleming Joseph Willems (1716-1766), one of the most accomplished modellers working in the English porcelain industry. Willems worked in England between 1749 and 1766, when he returned to Flanders to become Director of the Imperial Royal Academy of Drawing and Modelling at Tournai.
Bibliographic References
  • [Hachenbroch, Yvonne. Chelsea and Other English Porcelains in the Untermyer Collection. 1958. Fig.39.]
  • [The Cheyne Book of Chelsea China. Revised by J.V.G. Mallet. 1973. plate 12A.]
  • [Gardener, Bellamy. 'Sir Hans Sloane's Chelsea Porcelain Heirlooms'. In: E.C.C. Transactions. Vol.2, No.6 (1939).]
Collection
Accession Number
C.40-1974

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record createdJune 23, 1998
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