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Tureen in the wild

Tureen in the wild

On Wednesday, Mr S and I will mark our twentieth wedding anniversary, and due to some unfortunate timing, one of us has a medical procedure scheduled for that day, so we won’t actually celebrate on the day itself. (In sickness and in health, you know…)

Instead, we went antiquing in New Bedford on Sunday, after Mr S spent Saturday clearing brush at Minute Man National Historic Park. New Bedford was a nice change from the places we usually go in Rhode Island, and I always enjoy looking in Massachusetts, because objects there are typically free of Rhode Island connections, which means I can actually make encumbrance-free purchases.

I don’t know how encumbrance-free this purchase was…for now we are encumbered with a large hard paste porcelain tureen decorated with cranes and a federal eagle.

The platter it sits on may not be its original platter, but do I care? No. Look at that fantastic, crazy thing. The face the Young Mr made when this was unwrapped in front of him was priceless, but he has long questioned my sanity; now he will question my aesthetics.

Pride of place, with a friend's painting and Mr B's hats

Pride of place, with a friend’s painting and hats by Mr B

It sits in pride of place on our mantle now, and as far as I can tell, it’s typical of the shape of tureens made for the American market ca. 1790-1810. I’ve not seen the cranes before, and I still haven’t found this pattern in a museum or auction house, though Winterthur’s tureen collection is pretty amazing.

If the thing is real (and it looks and feels like the real ones at work), its voyage has been  incredible: from China to a port in Massachusetts, down through time to a shelf in an old mill building, to my mantle.  Think of the person who ordered this– and the set it was likely part of– by letter, and then waited for months for the goods to arrive. Some sets were as large as 250 pieces, custom-monogrammed at the factory, and then packed into barrels and crates lined with straw and loaded onto ships bound back to the East Coast.

I’d love to know this piece’s story, but even without a provenance, the object itself is pretty astonishing, and fits into our already eclectic china (and yes, mantle business).  Now, for a soup party!