"If you should be in want of a new set of china it is in my power to procure a very genteel set, table & tea - what renders this china doubly valuable & handsome is the order of the eagle engraved on it in honor of the Cincinnati - it has upwards of 306 pieces and is offered at the prime cost, 150 dollars." - Col. "Light-Horse Harry" Lee to George Washington, July 3, 1786.

As the Revolutionary War drew to a close in spring 1783, French and American officers formed the Society of the Cincinnati in the name of mutual support and friendship. Titled after legendary fifth-century B.C.E. Roman farmer Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, who left his plow to defend Rome and returned home following the conflict, the Society was open to all officers allied with the American cause and their descendants.

George Washington, who like Cincinnatus resumed a private life of farming after the war, purchased an extensive Chinese export porcelain service decorated with the Society's insignia. Each piece features the winged figure of Fame, trumpeting and holding aloft the Society's emblem - a bald eagle with oval medallion containing a depiction of Cincinnatus' receiving the sword. Although Col. Lee estimated the service contained "upwards of 306 pieces," Washington's accounts record he acquired 302 pieces. Approximately 130 of these are known to exist. Mount Vernon's teapot is believed to be the sole extant example.

See also soup plates, W-483, W-2559, and W-519; round dinner plates, W-1436/B, W-1436/G, W-1436/I, W-1436/ J, and W-1436/K; platter, W-1436/D; tea bowl, W-1436/A; tea caddy, W-3024/A; custard cups with lids, W-1436/C.1-2 and W-1436/F.1-2; custard cup lid, W-3045; tureen stand, W-4069; sauce tureen and lid, W-1436/H.1-2; and sauce tureen stand, W-4522.

Description

E1:
Colorless feldspathic-glazed white porcelain (hard-paste) tea pot molded into a drum shape with an extruded strap handle of two entwined lengths and leaf-and-berry terminals. Decorated in hand-painted under glaze blue and over glaze polychrome enamels. Along the foot rim a thin band of joined circles, each containing a dot, followed a blue band. In the center of the wall is a polychrome enamel winged figure, representing "Fame," in a green robe and pink sash. The figure holds a trumpet in its right hand and the insignia of the Society of the Cincinnati in the left. The badge hangs from a knotted blue and white ribbon. On the top and bottom of the spout is a single flower and stem painted in blue; two additional blue foliate sprays flank the base of the spout on the teapot body. The exterior of the strap handle is embellished with two stemmed flowers in blue and their leaf-and-berry terminals are painted blue and gilded. Running along the shoulder of the tea pot is a border of gilded husk chain. Extending towards the lip is a variation of that is commonly called the Fitzhugh design - a border featuring a hexagonal diaper pattern with alternating butterflies and foliage. Above which is a blue band surmounted by a gilt band, followed by a border of hexagonal diaper pattern.

E2:
Colorless feldspathic-glazed white porcelain (hard-paste) molded into a flat top lid decorated with a molded strawberry finial and leaves. Along the edge of the lid is a thin band of joined circles, each containing a dot. It is surmounted by a blue line and a small scale Fitzhugh border that terminates in a gilded husk chain. The strawberry finial is painted blue and has evidence of gilding.

Date

c. 1784-1785


Geography


Material/Technique

Porcelain (hard-paste), enamel, gilt


Dimensions

Overall (teapot): 4 1/2 in. × 9 in. × 5 1/8 in. (11.43 cm × 22.86 cm × 13.02 cm)
Overall (lid): 1 1/4 in. × 3 3/4 in. × 3 1/2 in. (3.18 cm × 9.53 cm × 8.89 cm)


Credit Line

Purchase, 1944


Object Number

W-1436/E


Colors (Beta)


Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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