A 17th Century Blanc de Chine Porcelain Brush-Washer

A Blanc de Chine Porcelain leaf-shaped brush-washer, Kangxi c.1660-1700. From the Dehua Kilns in Fujian Province. The leaf-shaped form with sharp points to the leaf edge has a stalk handle and is supported by moulded leaves to the underneath.


In perfect condition.
Length : 7.6 cm (3 inches)
Robert McPherson Antiques. The John Drew Collection.
Stock number



The John Drew Collection of Chinese and Japanese Ceramics :
John Drew was born in 1933 in Tideswell, Derbyshire, where his father was curate. The family moved to Norfolk whilst he was still a baby and his father became the rector of the parish of Intwood and Keswick. He was educated at Sedbergh School and after National Service in the R.A.F. being taught Russian, he went to Queens College, Oxford to read Greats (Classics). He spent nearly all his working life in various African countries as an archivist, moving to a post at Cape Town University in 1978. He remained in Cape Town after his retirement until his death in 2006. He had a great love of the English countryside (but not the climate) and this is shown in many of the pieces he collected. His taste was varied and ranged from Neolithic right through to the 18th Century. When we sent photograph to his home in Cape Town of pieces we thought he might be interested in, he would write long funny well observed letters back, wanting to add many of the items to his growing collection. Over the years we got to know him better and better, and during the last few years it was very rare for him to not want all the pieces we offered him. We knew his taste, even though his taste was so varied. This was in no small part because he had a very good eye and it was a pleasure finding things that interested him, because they were also very interesting to us. He never got to put his collection on display, something he hoped to do while on retirement in England, so it is with a mixture of pleasure and sadness that we offer these pieces from his collection. Each piece has a John Drew collection label, so when the collection is split up there will be some lasting record of the love and hard work he put into his two decades of collecting.


Blanc de Chine Leaf-Dishes :
Leaf-shaped Blanc de Chine porcelain brush-washers of this type were novelty items for the Chinese scholar`s desk, part of a range of object for the scholar that includes items such as ink-stones, wrist-rests, brushpots and small vases. However, these small Chinese leaf-shape porcelain objects were also seen as desirable novelties in the West too. Their function and symbolism were lost. Separated from their Chinese cultural surroundings, but their delicacy and beauty would have been admired irrespective of their original function or any symbolism they were meant to convey to the owner. They would though have had an oriental exoticism that would have enhanced the interest of a Kunstkammer or a collection of porcelain such as that owned by Friedrich Augustus I (1670-1733), Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King Augustus II of Poland. Very similar leaf-shaped dishes were made at his Meissen porcelain factory, in fact they were made of Böttger stoneware as well as early white Böttger Meissen, all were based on the Blanc de Chine originals belonging to Augustus the Strong himself. The stoneware copies date to around 1710-1715 and white porcelain ones from about 1720 onwards. Many other 18th century European porcelain factories made similar shaped dishes, but it is I think, very difficult to know whether these were based on the Chinese originals or the Meissen copies.