We're open from 1pm to 5pm on Anzac Day, Thursday 25 April. Normal hours and services will resume on Friday 26 April. Find our Anzac Day opening hours here ›

[Chinese export ware punchbowl featuring a scene of Sydney Cove before 1820][before 1820]

One of the greatest rarities in the Mitchell Library, this is one of only two extant examples depicting views of Sydney, although punchbowls made in China from the 17th century depicting European and American cities are well documented and highly regarded by ceramics collectors. 
The trade in exotic goods from China for the European luxury market began with the expansion of the Dutch East India Company to the Far East in the 17th century. By the mid-18th century, the wealthy European upper classes had developed a seemingly insatiable appetite for Chinese ceramics, fabrics (especially silk), sandalwood and fashionable new drinks of tea and punch (made from wine or spirits, mixed with fruit juice and spices brought from the East). The vogue for the Chinese style (known as `chinoiserie') spread to architecture, furniture and patterns for china, fabrics and clothing. 
To cater for this market, other European nations set up shipping routes to China, notably to the southern port city of Canton, where they maintained large warehouses, or factories, in a segregated compound known as the `Hongs'. By the early 19th century, the French, Danish, Swedish, and Americans were represented, as well as the British and Dutch. The all-powerful English East India Company was a major player in the China Trade and fiercely guarded its shipping routes, trading monopolies and concessions from other rivals.
The route between the newly established colony of New South Wales and China was charted soon after the foundation of settlement at Sydney Cove in 1788, when the Charlotte, one of the ships of the First Fleet, returned to England via Canton. A few American vessels, such as the Hope in 1793, started to call in at Sydney en route to China. By 1798 English merchant houses in Calcutta and Madras began to exploit a loophole in the East India Company's monopoly which enabled trading between Sydney, India and Canton, and by the time of Lachlan Macquarie's governorship (1810-1822), entrepreneurial Sydney traders such as Robert Campbell Senior, Simeon Lord and Alexander Riley were involved in lucrative shipping deals of cargoes from Indian and Cantonese suppliers. 
The Mitchell Library's punchbowl is therefore one of the most spectacular mementoes of a time only 30 years after its foundation, when Sydney had already become a multi-national port and destination on Asian and Pacific sea trade routes. The punchbowl is of the Chia Ch'ing period (1796-1820) and of Cantonese origin. It was common practice for Chinese ceramics artists to be given an engraving or drawing by their client to copy onto a bowl for a specific order. In this case, the image relates most closely to an engraving after a now lost drawing by the artist John William Lewin (1770-1819), Australia's first professional artist who produced many paintings for Governor Macquarie and his senior officers, as well as several commissions for Alexander Riley. The engraving appeared as the frontispiece in William Charles Wentworth's A Statistical, Historical and Political Description of New South Wales, second edition, (London, 1820), with a later version as a vignette on Joseph Cross' Map of Part of New South Wales (London, 1825). -- Curator's notes, Mitchell Library, 2002
"Punch Bowl, porcelain, painted with a picture of Sydney Harbour. Chinese ; reign of Chia Ch'ing (1796-1820) / W.B. Honey, 25th Feb 1926. Dept of Ceramics", Victoria & Albert Museum, S. Kensington, London, S.W.7. -- From note accompanying punchbowl. (Ap 64/Folder 1 Mitchell Library)
W.B. (William Bowyer) Honey, 1889-1956, was the author of many books about pottery and porcelain, including works about Chinese porcelain.
Notes on the Chinese porcelain bowl (extracted from Ap 64/Folder 1 and Ap 64/Folder 2) are available at PXn 490, Mitchell Library.
Correspondence and photographs from Sir Robert Witt, Chairman, National Art-Collections Fund, London, 1932, about a similar punchbowl available at Ap 64/Folder 2, Mitchell Library. This companion punchbowl, titled `View of the Town of Sydney in New South Wales' showing a scene from the western shore of Sydney Cove, including Dawes Point and Campbell's Cove is held in the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney. -- Reference source: Signals : quarterly newsletter of the Australian National Maritime Museum, Number 76, September-November 2006, pp.40-41.
Reproduced, by the Library, as a postcard (Ref. PC 34, copy filed at PXB 188).