Percival David

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Percival David
Room 95, British Museum.
The David Vases, said to be two of the best-known Chinese porcelains in the world, part of the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art collection
An unadopted hand-drawn essay for the 1878-83 Large Dragon stamps of China once in Percival David's collection.[1]

Sir Percival Victor David Ezekiel David, 2nd Baronet (21 July 1892 – 9 October 1964) was a Bombay-born British financier who is best known as a scholar and collector of Chinese ceramics.[2] He also formed a collection of Chinese stamps and postal history that has been evaluated as one of the greatest ever assembled.

Early life[edit]

Percival Victor David Ezekiel David was born in Bombay on 21 July 1892 into a Jewish family in British India that originated in Baghdad. His father, Sir Sassoon David, 1st Baronet, founded the Bank of India.[3]

He was educated in India at Elphinstone College and the University of Bombay, and then at the University of London (D. Lit.).

Personal life[edit]

David married in 1912,[4] and Sheila Yorke Hardy was his second wife[5]

He married in 1920, in London, and inherited his father's baronetcy in 1926.


David was a financier and the chairman of Sassoon, J. David and Co Ltd., in Bombay.

Chinese ceramics[edit]

After his marriage in 1920, David began to collect Chinese art, and to study the Chinese language. He first visited China in 1923, and became fascinated by Chinese ceramics, devoting most of the rest of his life to their study and collection. He joined the Oriental Ceramic Society in 1930 and then sponsored exhibitions in London. He translated the Ge Gu Yao Lun, a fourteenth century Ming period manual by Cao Zhao. This was published as Chinese Connoisseurship: The Ko Ku Yao Lun, The Essential Criteria of Antiquities. (Faber & Faber, 1971).

The Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art is his collection of Chinese ceramics and related items in London. The Foundation's main purpose is to promote the study and teaching of Chinese art and culture. The Collection consists of some 1,700 pieces of Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing ceramics, mostly porcelain, from the 10th century to the 18th, "high-quality Chinese-taste Song, Ming and Qing ceramics", as the British Museum puts it.[3] It concentrates on the ceramics made for the imperial court, and includes examples of the rare Ru and Guan wares and two important Yuan dynasty blue and white porcelain temple vases (the "David Vases") the oldest dated blue and white porcelain objects, from 1351 A.D.[6]

It also holds a large library of Western and East Asian books related to Chinese art. In 1950 the collection was presented to the University of London and until 2007 was displayed in a house in Gordon Square. Since 2009 it has been shown in a separate gallery, Room 95, at the British Museum, where it is on long-term loan. Percival had already donated several pieces to the British Museum.[3]


David built a collection of Chinese stamps and postal history that is thought to be one of the greatest ever created.[7][8] The collection, which included material that David acquired from John A. Agnew (died 1939),[1] was sold by Robson Lowe between 1964 and 1975, with many items entering the collection of the Japanese philatelist Meiso Mizuhara. David joined the Royal Philatelic Society London in 1939[9] and subsequently became a fellow of that society.


He was an officer of the Legion d'Honneur; F.S.A., F.R.A.I., F.R.S.A., Hon Advisor 1928-29 National Palace Museums (Beijing); Governor of School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London; Director of the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, 1935-6.[3]

Death and legacy[edit]

David died on 9 October 1964 after which the baronetcy became extinct.


  1. ^ a b Auction: 16012 - Meiso Mizuhara, The Exhibition Collections, The Chinese Customs Post Lot: 1514. Spink. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  2. ^ S. H. Hansford, Obituary: Sir Percival David, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 28, No. 2 (1965), pp. 472–475
  3. ^ a b c d Sir Percival David, 2nd Baronet (Biographical details). British Museum. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  4. ^ "The Percival David Collection : A Brief History Of The Collection". Chinese Antiques. Retrieved 13 October 2016. 
  5. ^ Stacey Pierson (2007). Collectors, Collections and Museums: The Field of Chinese Ceramics in Britain, 1560-1960. Peter Lang. p. 175. ISBN 978-3-03910-538-0. 
  6. ^ British Museum Press release
  7. ^ Meiso Mizuhara The exhibition collections: The Chinese customs post. Hong Kong: Spink. pp. 7-8.
  8. ^ "Designs for the first Chinese stamps: Proofs and essays from the Meiso Mizuhara collection" by Neill Granger in Spink Insider, No. 23 (Winter 2015), pp. 66-67.
  9. ^ "Philatelic Societies' Meetings", The London Philatelist, Vol. XLVIII, No. 569 (May 1939), p. 178.

External links[edit]