In the sixteenth century, Chinese porcelain occasionally arrived in England, sometimes by way of the Levant, sometimes by sea around the Cape of Good Hope. As it was very rare and considered a special treasure, the most accomplished English silversmiths were often commissioned to make mounts for it. Pieces such as these were regarded as suitable for royal gifts or for the furnishing of princely houses. The ewer shown here is one of a group of Chinese porcelains of Wanli period (1573–1620), with silver-gilt mounts made in London by an unidentified silversmith about 1585. They were all acquired by the Museum from the estate of J. P. Morgan.
Marking: [on lid, on shoulder band, and twice on plain band above base, stamped]: three trefoils voided within a shaped shield (maker's mark)
thought to have belonged to William Cecil, Lord Burghley , Burghley House, Stamford, Northamptonshire, England ; possibly bequeathed to Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter , Burghley House, Stamford, Northamptonshire, England ; possibly Sir Walter Raleigh (recently suggested, however, that bequeathed instead by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1597 to Lord Burghley's younger son Robert, 1563–1612); possibly Robert Cecil , Burghley House, Stamford, Northamptonshire, England (from 1597?); William Alleyne Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Exeter , Burghley House, Stamford, Northamptonshire, England (until 1888; Exeter sale, Christie's, London, June 7–8, 1888, lot 256; sold to Agnew); William Agnew , London (from 1888) ; J. Pierpont Morgan , New York ; J. P. Morgan Jr. , New York, (until 1944; sold by estate to MMA)