Chinese mug with fireworks decoration, c.1760

In honor of Independence Day I am pleased to share with you a Chinese porcelain mug with a fireworks theme, made for export to North America and Europe during the Qianlong period (1736-1795). It stands 4-3/4″ high and is decorated in the Mandarin style with cloud-shaped cartouches executed in famille rose enamels, and containing floral sprigs and a family tableau depicting a child lighting fireworks.

I wouldn’t be surprised if during the first organized 4th of July celebration in 1777, a raucous party involving the lighting of fireworks forced this mug to fly off a table and crash to the ground, causing its handle to shatter and the bottom to fall off. Rather than throw out the expensive and cherished mug, it was brought to a local tinker who fashioned a sturdy brass replacement handle. To help insulate the handle from its hot contents, it was wrapped in decoratively woven rattan. The bottom was reattached to the body using five large brass staples with a bond so tight it could hold liquid without leaking. As china menders typically did not sign their work, there is no way to know who was responsible for this repair, but I imagine they each had their own signature style in weaving the rattan so that they could distinguish their work from each other.

These mugs of similar form show what the original handle on my mug might have looked like.












Photo courtesy of Mount Vernon’s Mystery Midden

Tags: , , , ,

5 Responses to “Chinese mug with fireworks decoration, c.1760”

  1. PatC says:

    I like the fixed one so much better…

    Sure do love your posts – enjoyable education

  2. That firecracker that the kids are lighting on the foot of the woman looks like an M80.

  3. Alva says:

    MUCH prefer the brass handle!

  4. Lynne Rutter says:

    So charming. What I love about this is that someone took such care to repair and keep using a beloved precious thing. The repair seems to be as much work as decorating the mug in the first place.

  5. Richard R Bruce says:

    This excellent repair must show the value of the mug to its owner, even in different times it must have been costly! Maybe it was like my Dads mailbox… about 1947 a group of YFC (young farmers club) NZ 4F club,, after shooting jack rabbits on our farm got overly trigger happy on the trip home , three ute loads of lads delivered broadsides to pappys mailbox seemingly believing it was Stingy Macs box (he had refused permission to shoot his ranch) Hearing the triple fusillade my Dad (a WW1 Veteran) checked it out and followed the hunters into town with the riddled mailbox… He refused a new replacement , insisting on a REPAIR JOB!!! took the tinsmith 6 hours &2 lbs tin solder …cost 3 times a new Mailbox. Hmmmm. Love your site thanks.

Leave a Reply