Chinese Export Porcelain – Plate, 9" diameter, circa 1760
Iconic animal images such as the dog Nipper in the original RCA "His Master's Voice" logo and the World Wildlife Fund's panda are distant cousins of similar symbols used 300 years ago.
The mahout and his pachyderm exemplify how historical themes revolve. Centuries ago, Britain solidified its world trade dominance, adding the Indian subcontinent, as celebrated in this plate created by Chinese craftsmen, probably for families of British merchants in India.
In 1757, after the British victory at Plassey, the East India Company found itself ruling over the country. Warren Hastings (1732-1818), the first Governor-General of Bengal (1773-1785), introduced British rule and tried to acquaint Great Britain with India's culture. The value of elephants in local culture, evident in iconic images of them used throughout history in India's art, is celebrated in these porcelains.
Three services of Chinese export porcelain were made with variations of the design. Most are decorated in opaque enamels, with the most prominent a thick opaque white enamel (biano sopra biano).
Christiaan J. A. Jorg, Chinese Porcelain in the Collection of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, The Ming and Qing Dynasties, The Rijksmuseum, 1997, 296, plate 348.
Rose Kerr, Luisa Mengoni, Ming Wilson, Chinese Export Ceramics V&A Publishing 2011, 114, plate 165.
Thomas V. Litzenburg Jr., Chinese Export Porcelain in the Reeves Center Collection at Washington and Lee University, London 2003, 67, plate 50.