Sunday, July 15, 2012

When One Other Collects (An)other

In my collection of 19th century English transferware pottery which ranges in date from the 1840’s to the 1890’s there are many which depict Chinese or Japanese people.  Often Chinese and Japanese motifs were confused and conflated in the decorative arts of the West, so one cannot definitively say who these objects are actually representing.  Yet, whoever is being represented, what does it mean when I, an Other, (albeit fairly privileged as a white Western male) collects representations of Asian people from a moment in history where white hegemony over the world reigned supreme. 

It is a troubling question that goes beyond my love for the aesthetics of these objects and their aura of history, of use, of the people who bought them originally and handled them in their daily lives.  What was their relationship to these objects in a time of English empire and imperialism?  How did they understand these objects and the depiction of the Other in relation to their own subjecthood?  How do I understand my desire for these objects in relation to my own queer subjecthood?  Am I collecting as Europe and especially Great Britain collected peoples and territories around the world?  It is an important question to keep in mind for me as these objects adorn my domestic space.

P1010964Hong Kong by Brown Westhead-Moore & Co. circa 1868 with early Aesthetic background.

P1010965Detail of above plate

P1010969(1)Another example of Hong Kong by Brown Westhead-Moore & Co.  with a circular cartouche and different subject indicating that the pattern must be multi-motif.

P1010970(1)A detail of the above plate.


Sado by Brownfield & Sons circa 1879-1881 depicting in a cartouche a group of angry Asian children.  How does the West fetishize the children of the other?

P1010997(1)Detail of the above pitcher

P1020057(1)Plate in the Sado pattern by Brownfield & Sons, circa 1879-1881 depicting Asian children playing a board game.

P1020058(1)Detail of above plate


Small oval plate in the Jeddo pattern by Brown Westhead-Moore & Co., circa 1872-1884.  This pattern is interesting as it does not seem to be a romanticized depiction of the East, but more anthropological.  In the rim cartouches there is a man carrying water buckets and an old man walking away with a cane with a dog.  The other cartouches depict animals and landscape views.

P1020066(1)Detail man carrying water

P1020067(1)Detail old man with cane walking a dog


Soup plate in the Jeddo pattern by Brown Westhead-Moore, circa 1872-1884.  In one of the rim cartouches a man is standing in the water fishing.  In another a figure is carrying an intricate basket on his/her back.  Again the feel here is more anthropological than a romantic version of Asia.  The other cartouches depict mainly birds with one cartouche of a landscape with architecture.

jeddodetDetail of fisherman

jeddodet3Detail of figure carrying basket

jeddodet2Detail of birds

P1020061(1)Nankin possibly by Thomas Dimmock, circa 1828-1859.  Compared to the Jeddo pattern above, this pattern is a romantic vision of the East.

P1020062Detail of above plate

P1020063(1)Napier soup plate by J. Ridgeway, circa 1846-1850.  Another example of the romanticized and exoticized East.

P1020064(1)Detail of above soup plate

P1020059(1)Pekin by T. G. & F. Booth, circa 1883-1891.

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