Sydney punchbowls

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For the Sydney suburb, see Punchbowl, New South Wales.
SLNSW punchbowl showing beach where Circular Quay is now located
ANMM punchbowl showing interior indigenous image common to both bowls

The two Sydney punchbowls are the only known Chinese export porcelain hand painted with Sydney scenes and dating from the Macquarie era (1810–21).[1] The punchbowls were procured from China about three decades after the First Fleet's arrival at Port Jackson when the British settlement at Sydney Cove was established in 1788. The punchbowls have since been donated independently, one to the State Library of NSW (SLNSW) in 1926 and the other to the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) in 2006.

The harlequin pair: similarities and differences[edit]

View from eastern side of Sydney Cove on SLNSW bowl looking towards the Rocks area. The foot ring has a single narrow gold band and gilded lower edge.
Gilded monogram initials in copperplate script on SLNSW bowl and traditional Chinese outer border design in vermillion, rose and gilt
View from Dawes Point on western side of Sydney Cove on ANMM bowl. The foot ring has inscribed in black 'View of the Town of Sydney in New South Wales'
No visible monogram on ANMM bowl and trim of looped circles on a blue cobalt ground, edged with narrow gold bands

The punchbowls can be considered a harlequin pair as they are similar but not exactly matching. They are both Chinese ceramics ware of Cantonese origin, made of clear glaze on hard-paste porcelain and painted with polychrome famille rose [2] overglaze enamel and gilding. They are similar in size, each approximately 45 cm in diameter, 17 cm high and weighing about 5.4 kg. Whilst the Indigenous Australian groups painted within the inner centre of both bowls are identical, the outer panoramic views of Sydney Cove are not. The SLNSW punchbowl has a view from the eastern side of Sydney Cove whilst the view on the ANMM bowl is from Dawes Point on the western shore. This pairing follows a standard convention in late 18th-and early 19th-century topographical art of painting two views of the same scene from opposite vantage points.[3]

Whilst the Cantonese ceramic painters would have worked from images of Sydney Cove and the Aboriginal group provided by the customer commissioning the punchbowls, the border and edge trims were generally left to the choice of the ceramic painters.[3] The traditional floral motif of such Chinese flowers as chrysanthemums, peonies, cherry and plum blossom has been applied to the internal borders of both bowls in a similar pattern. However, the external borders differ considerably. The Library bowl has a more traditional Chinese outer border design in vermillion, rose and gilt whilst the Museum bowl has a trim of looped circles on a blue cobalt ground, edged with narrow gold bands. There are other differences. The Library bowl has large, gilded monogram initials on the outside and the foot ring has a single narrow gold band and gilded lower edge. However, the Museum bowl has no visible monogram but the foot ring does have lettered in black 'View of the Town of Sydney in New South Wales'.

Commissioning[edit]

Punch bowls were not part of the ordinary dinner ware exported from China but would be ordered individually.[4] The gilded monogram initials on the Library punchbowl are perhaps the only current clue as to the original commissioner of the punchbowls. The initials are difficult to decipher because of partial loss of the gilt Copperplate script. Possibilities include HCA or HA, TCA or FCA over B. Several candidates have been suggested including Henry, 3rd Earl of Bathurst, and Sir Thomas Brisbane, NSW Governor after Macquarie (1821–25), but the main contender is Henry Colden Antill (1779–1852).[3] Henry Antill [5] was appointed aide-de-camp to the fifth NSW Governor (1810–1821), Lachlan Macquarie, on his arrival in Sydney on January 1, 1810. He was promoted to Major of Brigade in 1811 and retired from the British Army in 1821. Antill settled on land first at Moorebank near Liverpool and then in 1825 on his estate near Picton—named Jarvisfield [6] in honour of Governor Macquarie's first wife, Jane Jarvis.[7] He was buried at Jarvisfield on 14 August 1851. Antill had subdivided part of the estate in 1844, making possible the founding of the town of Picton.[8] It has to be said that when the State Library acquired its punchbowl in 1926, the Antill family [9] of Picton [10] — Henry's antecedents — had no knowledge of the punchbowl's provenance.[11] In fact, there is no evidence that the bowls had ever been in Australia — until they were donated to SLNSW and ANMM.

Illustration sources[edit]

Sydney Cove[edit]

engraving of landscape
View of Sydney engraving in 1820 2nd ed. of W.C. Wentworth's A Statistical, Historical & Political Description of NSW. Ascribed to artist John William Lewin
photograph of landscape on SLNSW punchbowl
View of Sydney Cove on SLNSW bowl looking towards the Rocks area, with Billy Blue's house in front and beach (now Circular Quay) to the left.

The other mystery is the source of the two illustrations of Sydney Cove and of the Aboriginal group. The ceramic colouring bears a general resemblance to contemporary Sydney Cove images which implies that an original watercolour or hand coloured engraving was used for copying rather than black and white images.[3] In the case of the Library's punchbowl, the Sydney Cove image relates most closely to an engraving after a now lost drawing by the artist John William Lewin (1770–1819),[12] which may date back to 1814.[13] This Sydney Cove engraving appeared as the frontispiece to the second edition of A Statistical, Historical and Political Description of New South Wales and its dependent settlements in Van Diemen's Land etc [14] (London, 1820) by William Charles Wentworth (1790–1872), with a later, smaller, version as one of ten Port Jackson harbour views illustrated on Map of Part of New South Wales [15] (London, 1825) by publisher and engraver, Joseph Cross.[16] Lewin was Australia's first professional artist who produced many paintings for Governor Macquarie and his senior officers, as well as several commissions for pastoralist and merchant Alexander Riley (1778 –1833). Lewin had a close association with Henry Cobden Antill [17] and both were part of Governor Macquarie's 50-strong excursion party to inspect land and the new road over the Blue Mountains from 25 April to 19 May 1815.[18] The road had been built by convicts in 1814 after the first European crossing by Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth in May 1813.

watercolour painting of landscape
View of Sydney Cove from Dawes Point, with fortifications and gun enplacements in foreground, 3 European figures to right and Robert Campbell's warehouse beyond. Convict artist is Joseph Lycett and publication date 1819.
engraving of landscape
View of Sydney Cove from Dawes' Battery with British soldier and civilian to right and Robert Campbell's warehouse beyond. Publication date 1821.
photograph of landscape on ANMM bowl
View of Sydney Cove from Dawes Point on ANMM bowl with no Battery in foreground and, instead, a grassy slope with indigenous figures.

Unlike the Library punchbowl, the Sydney Cove image on the Museum punchbowl is not known in its entirety in any other version so it can be assumed that the original artwork provided by the commissioner to the ceramic artists in China has been lost. The only similar Sydney Cove view of the period is an original watercolour by convict artist Joseph Lycett (c.1774 – c.1825) ,[19] which first appeared in an engraved version as page 86 in Views in New South Wales, 1813–1814 [and] An Historical Account of the Colony of NSW, 1820–1821 [20] (Sydney, 1819) by soldier, James Wallis [21] (1785?–1858). A second engraved version appeared on page 74 of a similar folio edition Album of original drawings by Captain James Wallis and Joseph Lycett, ca 1817–1818 etc [22] by publisher Rudolph Ackermann (1764–1834) in London, 1821. However, the Dawes Point fortifications — designed by the convict architect Francis Greenway (1777–1837) — and its gun emplacements, dominate the foreground of both engravings. The Museum punchbowl view pre-dates this as it has, instead, a grassy slope and figures of an Aboriginal man and woman in the equivalent location. The Lycett version has other major differences, including a less extensive vista of the eastern side of the Harbour.[3]

Aboriginal group[edit]

Aboriginal group image within tondo of SLNSW reproduction punchbowl.
Port Jackson indigenous pre-marriage ceremony. Attributed to Nicolas-Martin Petit. Published 1824–44
Both SLNSW and ANMM bowls have the same indigenous group image at the centre.

Another mystery is the source of the composition of the Aboriginal group which forms the inner centre piece in the tondo of both bowls. As the same image was used for both bowls, the implication is that the Chinese ceramic painters were copying from the same drawing and finishing them at the same place and time. The image is of a group of four Aboriginal men with club, shield and spears, one woman with a baby on her shoulders – standing and turned slightly away from the rest of the figures – and another woman cowed by the men. This is thought to depict a preliminary marriage ceremony.[23] As with the Museum bowl's Sydney Cove image, no directly related, surviving, version is known that would have been used by the ceramic artists to paint the Aboriginal group. The closest match is a drawing after an apparently now-lost original sketch by Nicolas-Martin Petit [24] (1777–1804), artist on the 1800–1803 French expedition to Australia led by Nicolas Baudin (1754–1803).[3] Recent research has indicated that during Baudin's expedition, a report was prepared for Emperor Napoleon (1804–1815) on the feasibility of capturing the British colony at Sydney Cove.[25][26] As this expedition progressed around coastal Australia, Petit began to specialise in the drawing of portraits of indigenous peoples.[24] The French expedition arrived at Port Jackson on 25 April 1802.[27] Petit's drawing was copied for publication as plate 114 in the Voyage autour du monde : entrepris par ordre du roi (Paris, 1825) ,[28] regarding a voyage around the world (1817–1820) led by Louis-Claude de Saulces de Freycinet (1779–1841).[3] The engraving is entitled Port Jackson, Nlle Hollande. Ceremonie preliminaire d'un mariage, chez les sauvages [29] (ceremony before a marriage among the natives, Port Jackson, New Holland). Port Jackson Aborigines are from the Eora group of indigenous people living in the Sydney Basin. It is worth noting that only indigenous people are portrayed on both punchbowls.

Sydney Cove panoramas[edit]

The panorama on the Library's punchbowl begins with a view of the eastern shore of Sydney Cove.[30] In the foreground is an octagonal two-storey, yellow, sandstone house, built by Governor Macquarie in 1812 for his favourite boatman and former water bailiff, Billy Blue. The drawing of this little house – now the site of the Sydney Opera House — is out of all proportion to its actual modest size. Billy or William Blue (1767–1834) was an African-Jamaican who had been given a seven-year sentence in London for stealing raw sugar. To the left of the house is a sandy beach where the Circular Quay ferry wharves now stand. Facing the beach is First Government House where the Museum of Sydney is now situated.

SLNSW punchbowl panorama of Sydney Cove from the eastern shore looking across to the Rocks. The Monogram initials are visible on the left. The view extends from First Government House on the left, moving right to the military barracks , St. Philip's Church , the Commissariat Stores and Robert Campbell's warehouse and home on the right. In the forefront is Billy Blue's house .
Contemporary Sydney Cove map with red numbers to significant locations, also shown on both the above SLNSW punchbowl panorama image and the above text.

On the western shore is the Rocks district, with two windmills on the ridge. Known as Tallawoladah by the Cadigal people, the Rocks became the convicts' side of the town. They built traditional vernacular houses, first of wattle and daub, with thatched roofs, later of weatherboards or rubble stone, roofed with timber shingles. They took in lodgers – the newly arrived convicts – who slept in kitchens and skillions. Some emancipists also had convict servants. After November 1790, large numbers of Aboriginal people also came into the town to visit and to live. By 1823, about 1,200 people lived in The Rocks, most of them emancipists and convicts and their children.[31]

To the left of The Rocks area is a long, low, military barracks, built between 1792 and 1818 around Barracks Square/the Parade Ground – which is now Wynyard Park.[32] It was from here that, in 1808, the New South Wales Corps marched to arrest Governor Macquarie's predecessor Governor William Bligh (1754–1817), an event later known as the Rum Rebellion. Heading east is St. Philip's Church – the earliest Christian church (Church of England) in Australia – erected in stone in 1810 on Church Hill – now Lang Park.[33] In 1798, the original wattle and daub church – on what is now the corner of Bligh and Hunter Streets – was burnt down, allegedly by disgruntled convicts in response to a decree by the second NSW Governor (1795–1800), John Hunter, that all colony residents, including officers and convicts, attend Sunday services.[34] The jail had earlier suffered a similar fate.[35]

Further along the ridge to the east is Fort Phillip, flying the Union Jack, on Windmill (later Observatory) Hill where the Sydney Observatory is now located. Fort Phillip was commissioned in 1804 by the third NSW Governor (1800–1806), Philip Gidley King, partly as a response to external threats and partly due to the internal unrest reflected in Australia's only major convict rebellion at Castle Hill in March 1804. This was dubbed the Battle of Vinegar Hill as most of the convict rebels were Irish. Windmill Hill was chosen as a fort location as it was the highest point above the colony, affording commanding views of the Harbour approaches from east and west, the river and road to Parramatta, surrounding country and of the entire town below.[36][37]

On the waterfront below Fort Phillip is the yellow, four-storey, Commissariat Stores, [38] constructed by convicts for Governor Macquarie in 1810 and 1812. One of the largest buildings constructed in the colony at the time, it is now the site of the Museum of Contemporary Art. The foreshore buildings on the extreme right are the warehouse and 'Wharf House' residence of merchant, Robert Campbell (1769–1846) who was to become one of the colony's biggest landholders.[39][40] This is now the site of the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons and is just to the left of Dawes Point.[41] Three British Sailing ships, flying either the red ensign of the Merchant Navy or (more likely) the white ensign of the Royal Navy, are anchored in the Cove [3] along with four sailboats and five canoes.

The Sydney Cove panorama on the Museum punchbowl can be dated between 1812 and 1818. The vantage point is from beneath Dawes Point, shown with its flagstaff and before the Dawes Point fortifications built 1818 to 1821. Looking directly into Campbell's Cove, the immediate focal points are Robert Campbell's warehouse and the 'Wharf House' roof of his residence. To the right of Campbell's Wharf are extensive stone walls marking boundaries between properties in this part of the Rocks district. First Government House can be seen at the head of Sydney Cove in the distance and around the eastern shore a small rendition of Billy Blue's 1812 house. The Governor and civil personnel lived on the more orderly eastern slopes of the Tank Stream, compared to the disorderly western side where convicts lived. The Tank Stream was the fresh water course emptying into Sydney Cove and supplied the fledgling colony until 1826. Further along is Bennelong Point – with no sign of Fort Macquarie [42] built from December 1817 – and Garden Island – the colony's first food source. The distant vista of the eastern side of the Harbour goes almost as far as the Macquarie Lighthouse – Australia's first lighthouse – built between 1816–18 on South Head.[3] There are seven Sailing ships flying the white ensign of the British Royal Navy in the Harbour, along with three sailboats and two canoes.

Function[edit]

Whilst the drinking of punch from punchbowls was a real social practice of the times, the Sydney Cove punchbowls were specially commissioned and expensive items which had other purposes.[43] Such punchbowls were prestigious items owned by individuals of high rank in society, such as Sydney's first elected Mayor, John Hoskin [44] (1806–1882) – the two Hoskin punchbowls [45] are the first Chinese objects acquired by the Australiana Fund – and the punchbowl acquired by New York's fourth Governor, Daniel Tomkins (1774–1825).[46] The bowls could also have been commissioned as commemorative gifts, like the 1812 Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania Union Lodge punchbowl gift.[47][48] and the New York City punchbowl presented to the City of New York on 4 July 1812.[49][50] It has also been suggested that, given the Aboriginal marriage motif, the Sydney punchbowls may have been a marriage gift.[3] Of course, the bowls could have simply been a souvenir of life in Sydney at that time.

It is also possible the Sydney punchbowls may have had other purposes – to promote the fledgling settlement and to encourage new settlers. In 1820, John Lewin's patron Alexander Riley, looking for ways to promote the NSW colony, stated: "It has long been a subject of our consideration in this Country that a Panorama exhibited in London of the Town of Sydney and surrounding scenery would create much public interest and ultimately be of service to the Colony".[51] This purpose is clearly set forth even in the title of W C Wentworth's tome on NSW, which contained the engraving of Lewin's Sydney Cove painting. The full title ends "... With a Particular Enumeration of the Advantages Which These Colonies Offer for Emigration, and Their Superiority in Many Respects Over Those Possessed by the United States of America".[52] The punchbowls were also an opportunity to present the art of topographical panoramas in the form of a high status object and to portray the new colony in a more glamorous way than that of simply a remote convict colony as perceived at the time.[53]

Ceramic origin[edit]

The Notes accompanying the State Library's acquisition of its punchbowl indicate that on 25 February 1926, William Bowyer Honey (1889–1956), Keeper, Department of Ceramics, Victoria & Albert Museum, an expert in Chinese porcelain and author of many books on the subject, had appraised this particular punchbowl. Honey concluded that the bowl was made in China during the reign of Chinese Emperor Chia Ch'ing (1760–1820), who ruled China from 1796 to 1820.[11] In 1757, foreign trade had been restricted to Canton. Chinese exports, consisting largely of tea, porcelain and silk, had to be paid for in silver. The European (and soon the American) presence was restricted to the Thirteen Factories known as hongs on the harbour of Canton (Guangzhou). The Canton hongs themselves are frequently illustrated on punchbowls – known as hong bowls [54] – whereas the portrayal of ports that traded with Canton – such as Sydney and New York [55] – are extraordinarily rare. The Canton System [56] lasted until the defeat of China's Qing Dynasty by the British Empire in the first of the Opium Wars in 1842. In fact, virtually no Chinese export porcelain was produced from 1839 to 1860 because of the Opium Wars.[57][58] Canton hong trade was subsequently overshadowed by the rise of Hong Kong as a trading centre – territory ceded to the British as a consequence of China's military defeats – and the subsequent establishment of 80 Treaty ports along China's coast.[59] The punchbowls therefore are a product made on the eve of China's eclipse – commissioned in Canton, where they were painted and glazed by Chinese ceramic artists. The unpainted bowls, however, would have first been manufactured in Jingdezhan – a town 800 km by road from Canton – where pottery factories have operated for nearly 2,000 years, and still do today.[3]

20th-century provenance[edit]

The SLNSW – Mitchell Library punchbowl[edit]

SLNSW punchbowl with traditional Chinese outer top border design, in vermillion, rose and gilt.

Photograph of the outside of a painted punchbowl
View across Sydney Cove to the Commissariat Stores and Fort Phillip - indigenous figures shown on the foreshore
Photograph of the outside of a painted punchbowl at a different angle
British sailing ship anchored in Sydney Cove

The State Library's punchbowl was the earlier of the two to have arisen from anonymity. It was presented to the Library by Sydney antiques dealer, auctioneer and collector, William Augustus Little, in November 1926, an event reported in the Sydney Evening News on 3 November 1926. The punchbowl discovery itself was reported in several Australian newspapers earlier in March, including the The Sydney Morning Herald on 4 March 1926, with the title Bookshop Find : Relic of Early Sydney.[60] These newspaper articles state that Little bought the punchbowl from London antiquarian bookseller, Francis Edwards Ltd [61] of 83 Marylebone High Street and that Little subsequently had it appraised by experts from the V&A in February 1926. The newspapers report that the V&A wished to keep the bowl. The articles also state that the bowl had "paintings of Sydney in 1810, executed to the order of Major Antill who was Governor Macquarie's aide-de-camp". It should be noted that among the clientele of Francis Edwards Ltd were some of the great Australiana collectors of the day, including William Dixon, James Edge-Partington, David Scott Mitchell and the Mitchell Library itself.[3][62]

Before Little's purchase, the punchbowl had been the property of Sir Timothy Augustine Coghlan (1855–1926), New South Wales Agent-General in London, who bought the bowl for ₤40 in 1923 from one Miss Hall for his own collection. The bowl was subsequently in the possession of Francis Edwards Ltd before Coghlan's unexpected death in London on 30 April 1926. Coghlan had personally collected the bowl from a Miss Hall at 'Highfield', 63 Seabrook Rd, Hythe (Kent), England, a few months after she had decided to offer the bowl to the NSW Government for ₤50. Earlier, a visit to Miss Hall by a Sydney schoolteacher, Jessie Stead, on 6 August 1923, resulted in the proposal that the bowl ought to be the property of the City of Sydney. Jessie Stead later indicated that she was informed by Miss Hall that her father had acquired the bowl in the late 1840s – the earliest dating for the punchbowls' provenance – and that Miss Hall believed the bowl was commissioned for William Bligh (1754–1817), NSW's fourth Governor (1806–1808).[3] In 2002, the State Library of NSW digitised the punchbowl images [63] with the support of the Nelson Meers Foundation [64] and the bowl became one of the 100 extraordinary library objects [65] to be exhibited as part of Mitchell Library's centenary celebrations in 2010.[66]

The ANMM – USA Gallery punchbowl[edit]

Traditional Chinese flower border pattern with gilt edges on both SLNSW and ANMM bowls
ANMM punchbowl on permanent display in the Australian National Maritime Museum's USA Gallery

The second Sydney punchbowl had a much more circuitous journey to the present. The bowl first appeared in May 1932, when Sir Robert Witt, chairman of the British National Art Collections Fund, wrote to James MacDonald (1878–1952), Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, inquiring if a Sydney museum would be interested in acquiring the second punchbowl. The Gallery Director referred the offer to William Herbert Ifould[67] (1877–1969), Principal Librarian of the Public Library of NSW, in August 1932. Ifould wrote directly to Sir Robert Witt indicating that the bowl was not required by the Library as a very similar one was already held. Ifould received a reply dated 31 October 1932, stating that during the intervening months the owner of the bowl in England – whose name was undisclosed – had since sold the bowl to another undisclosed buyer. The bowl's subsequent whereabouts was unknown until 1988.[3] It is interesting to note that in the original offer by Sir Robert – who had also co-founded the Courtauld Institute of Art in London – a suggestion was made that this bowl had been made to the order of Arthur Phillip (1738–1814), the first Governor of NSW (1788–1795) who established the settlement at Sydney Cove. However, no evidence to support this view was given in Witt's letter.[11]

1988 was the bicentenary of non-indigenous settlement in Australia and, as such, there was renewed interest in the 'lost' second Sydney punchbowl. The bowl eventually turned up in a catalogue for a Chinese export porcelain exhibition at Newark Museum,[68] New Jersey, USA, titled Chinese Export Porcelain: A Loan Exhibition from New Jersey Collections. The bowl had been lent by Peter Frelinghuysen Jr (1916–2011), a former US Congressman (R,NJ,1953–1975).[69] The discovery was made by Terry Ingram, a Sydney journalist specialising in antiques and art, who wrote about it in his Saleroom column, titled Newark Museum packs Aussie punch, in The Australian Financial Review on 25 August 1988.[70] It transpired that in the early 1930s, the bowl was acquired by Frelinghuysen’s parents in a private negotiation with the owner at the time the National Art Collections Fund was attempting to raise interest from Sydney's cultural institutions. This discovery drew the attention of Paul Hundley, senior curator of the ANMM's USA Gallery, the Gallery itself a bicentennial gift of the American people to Australia. In May 2006, the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) announced it had acquired the bowl as a part gift from Frelinghuysen through the American Friends of the ANMM, a charitable organisation recognised by the US Internal Revenue Service which enabled Frelinghuysen to receive appropriate taxation benefits.[71][72] The Australian Financial Review reported the acquisition in its Saleroom column, titled Museum bowled over, on 18 May 2006.[73] The punchbowl has been on display in the Museum's USA Gallery ever since. It also features as one of the 100 Stories from the ANMM,[74] has digitised images in the ANMM catalogue [75] and can be viewed on YouTube.[76] At the time the ANMM acquired the punchbowl in 2006, the bowl was valued at $A330,000.[77]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Canton famille rose porcelain by Feller, John Quentin in Magazine Antiques, October 1983, Vol. 124 Issue 4, p.748 and October 1986, Vol. 130, p722-731, 10p
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Further reading[edit]