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Chinese export porcelain guglets and wash basins were ubiquitous in elite colonial residences, and George Washington's estate inventory lists them in nearly every bedchamber. The guglet, a long necked vessel for holding water, received its name from the "gug-gug-gug" sound it made when water was poured into a basin. Such equipment allowed the Washingtons and their contemporaries to maintain the cleanliness of face and hands that was indicative of gentility. This guglet and basin descended in the family of Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Martha Custis Peter, and according to the Peter family tradition, they once stood in Mrs. Washington's bedroom.


Globular-form guglet with a slightly everted lip and long, knopped neck on a high foot ring, decorated in underglaze cobalt blue and overglaze polychrome enamels and gilt. The front and back of the guglet feature large circular reserves containing large-scale figures of two women, several children, and a government official at center, all standing on a terrace with a landscape behind. Two smaller circular reserves on the sides of the body feature a large bird on rocks or branches. Two small circular reserves on opposite sides of the neck feature birds on branches. All the reserves are framed with blue scrollwork. The ground of the guglet is filled with spot motifs of underglaze blue flowers surrounded by an overglaze iron red Y-diaper fill with gilt highlights. The knop is decorated with an underglaze blue cell-diaper band. The foot and interior are undecorated.

Pattern Name: Mandarin


c. 1775



Porcelain (hard-paste), enamel, gilt


Overall (H x W x D): 9 3/4 in. x 5 1/8 in. x 5 1/8 in. (24.77 cm x 13.03 cm x 13.03 cm)

Credit Line

Purchase, 1985

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

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