A fine and rare Chinese export porcelain monteith and matching undertray made for the American market, decorated with sepia roundels of a provincial harbor scene and overall underglaze blue and gilded borders and details. This is one of two monteiths made for a service for Thomas Lamb (1753-1813) of Boston, MA who, together with his brother James (1746-1822) ran a prominent shipping business carrying on trade with both Europe and China. The firm of James & Thomas Lamb invested in building a 150 ton copper bottomed ship named “The Margaret” which pioneered the trade route from Boston-Northwestern America-Canton- Boston. In 1791 Captain James Magee commanded the ship around the Cape Horn “bound as a voyage of observation and enterprise” to the Northwestern Coast of of this contintent. There they, and many who followed, battered with natives for sea otter skins which were traded in China for teas silks and Chinaware.
Given his shipping interests, it seems likely the harbor decoration on these pieces would have appealed to the entrepreneur Lamb. The form of the monteith with its notched edge is said to be inspired by a 17th century Scottish nobleman by the name of Monteith who wore a cloak with a similarly notched or scalloped hem. This notched border appeared in silver, as well in porcelain, on large bowls and wine coolers, and on smaller vessels such as this one which could cool and rinse the small late 18th century wine glasses at the dining table. This is rather rare and sophisticated form for an American market dinner service. The monteith measures 4″ x 12″ x 7″, its undertray 13 1/2″ x 11″. The monteith has had one handle replaced and the end of one of its crests broken off and the original piece restored. The undertray has a very small line to the edge, which appears to be a small firing line. Besides any small wear commensurate with age, and the aforementioned restoration, the pieces are in good condition. The Lamb Family papers are housed at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Circa 1795.
Previously sold at Northeast auctions, Important Americana, March 20 & 21, 1993, Lot #562 . (Provenance available)