Ceramic highlights from our collections

Our ceramics collection is vast and encyclopedic, a treasure trove numbering approximately 75,000 artefacts.

Discover some of our treasures, including an early Ming dish that once formed part of a Mughal treasury, an exquisite Japanese porcelain bowl that is also a rare relic of the Stuart court in exile, a Delft flower vase used to brighten dark interiors and a beautifully painted dish signed by a Renaissance master.

A Ming dynsaty made in Jingdezhen around 1400-25

A Ming dish from a Mughal Treasury 

This Ming dynasty dish is exceptional among historic English collections. It was made in the early 15th century, almost two centuries before Chinese porcelain began to be exported to England. It is thought to have been a gift from a Chinese diplomat to the Delhi Sultanate. A later Persian inscription identifies it as part of the treasury of Shah Jahan, Mughal emperor of India from 1628 - 1658. Ultimately it was acquired by Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan, 1st Baronet of Wallington, when he was governor of Madras in 1859–60.

A covered bowl made in Arita, Japan, around 1695-1710

For a royal court in exile 

This porcelain bowl, made in Japan and mounted in silver in Paris, is a rare relic of the Stuart court in exile. It belonged to Lady Strickland of Sizergh Castle, who fled to France with James II and Queen Mary of Modena following William III’s seizure of the throne. Together they formed part of the English court in exile at the magnificently furnished château of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Versailles. The silver mounts convert the bowl into an 'écuelle', a high-status bowl for bouillon (broth). In the fashion of the French court, bouillon was served for breakfast.

 Seven-tiered flower pyramid, Dyrham Park

A loyal courtier's homage 

Following the Glorious Revolution, aspiring courtiers used ceramics as evidence of their loyalty to their new Dutch rulers, William III and Mary II. As a result, many extravagant examples of Dutch pottery are found in historic English houses, many painted to resemble Chinese porcelain imported through Holland. This is one of two Delft flower pyramids at Dyrham Park with seven trays for holding water. Pyramids such as this were filled with brightly coloured flowers, a costly luxury changing with the seasons, enlivening dark interiors.

Maiolica dish with the arms of Pucci, painted by Francesco Xanto Avelli, 1532, Polseden Lacey

Signed by a true renaissance man 

Maiolica is a form of tin-glazed earthenware that flourished in Italy between 1470 and 1540. Of the twenty-three pieces of Italian Renaissance maiolica at Polesden Lacy, four are signed by the prolific and masterly painter Francesco Xanto Avelli. At the time, it was unprecedented for maiolica painters, indeed for any pottery worker, to sign their work. This signed, broad-rimmed dish is part of the largest table service executed by Xanto. In addition to bearing Xanto's signture, it bears the arms of the powerful Pucci family of Florence.

A Meissen porcelain figure of the Lady of the Order of the Pug, Fenton House

The secret order of the pug 

Since its creation, the Meissen figure of the Lady of the Order of the Pug has been the prized possession of many collectors. Elevated on a tall, square pedestal, the finely dressed noblewoman holds in her arms a pet pug with a pink collar, while a pug in a blue collar relaxes at her feet. The Order of the Pug was a secret Masonic-style society and its emblematic pug symbolised loyalty, devotion and fidelity.

Crimson-ground porcelain garniture, c.1762-4, Upton House

For an English Casanova? 

This perfume jar derives from the ‘pot-pourri à jour’, a model introduced from the French manufactory of Vincennes around 1752 and later copied at Chelsea around 1758–62. The elaborate handles of pierced and interlaced scrollwork imitate French rococo ormolu, the decorative use of gilt brass to imitate gold. The voyeuristic subject matter, the most erotic ever painted on English porcelain, is primarily executed in a lush palette of puce, lilac and pink.

Sèvres dessert service, 1770, Knole / NT  129394.1

French merchants and British milords 

In 1762, with the end of the Seven Years’ War between France and England, British Francophiles and diplomats flocked to Paris. For a small privileged, aristocratic circle, the purchase of a porcelain table services from Sèvres - the preeminent porcelain manufacturer in Europe - was obligatory. John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset was no exception. In 1770 he purchased an expensively decorated 68-piece dessert service. The pattern has a central motif of a rose spray and is bordered with a sinuous, shaded turquoise edged with gold entwined with a polychrome floral garland.

Wedgewood black basalt statue of Triton struggling with sea monster / The Vyne

Bernini in basalt 

This Wedgwood and Bentley black basalt figure of Triton capitalised on a revival of interest in the work of the great Roman baroque sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598–1680). Black basalt, a fine black stoneware tinted with manganese, has a lustrous sheen. Its unfired, powdered ‘bronze’ finish is well suited to imitate antique metal, as well as being durable and relatively inexpensive. This sculpture may have been acquired by John Chute who may have seen Bernini’s originals when in Italy with Horace Walpole in the 1740s.

A lustre-painted dish made by William Morgan and Co., c.1875-85, Carlyle's House

Lions of the Arts and Crafts movement 

William De Morgan was an inventive ceramic designer who became fascinated by lustrous metallic glazes and ultimately rediscovered the art of lustre decoration in 1874. The year before, he became a neighbour of the Scottish essayist and Arts and Crafts pioneer, Thomas Carlyle. This dish, painted in ruby-red and gold lustre with a rampant lion, can be seen at at Carlyle’s house.

A black-figure hydria, Charlecote Park

Ode on a Grecian water pot 

This ancient Greek vessel, known as a hydria, was designed to carry water. It has two carrying handles and a third at the back for pouring. It is an example of the type of Attic black-figure ware collected in Victorian England and displayed in dedicated rooms, libraries or long galleries as objects for intellectual enquiry.

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Phoenix from the fire

This stoneware water dropper, used by Asian scholars to create and dilute ink for calligraphy and painting, was made in Korea over 600 years ago. Miraculously, it was the first object to be salvaged by archaeologists following the devastating fire that engulfed Clandon Park on 29 April 2015. The duck had fallen from the first floor, dodging a collapsing wall, falling roof and ceiling to land safely about 40 feet away.