Object Details

ca. 1920-1930
China, for export
ceramic; porcelain with overglaze polychrome enamels
Overall: 5 1/4 in x 13 1/2 in; 13.335 cm x 34.29 cm
Herbert Schiffer Antiques, Exton, Pennsylvania; to the Fine Arts Committee through purchase.
Credit Line
Funds donated by Mrs. Jeannette R. Marks
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Accession Number

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Object Essay

On October 17, 1777, General John Burgoyne (1722–1792) surrendered his five thousand British troops to General Horatio Gates (1728–1806) at Saratoga, New York, after an unsuccessful retreat and a disastrous battle with Gates and his twenty thousand Continental troops at Behmis Heights. The victory proved to be a turning point in the Revolutionary War because of its effect on the attitude of the French government toward the American cause. As a result of the subsequent French donation of both troops and weapons, American independence was secured at Yorktown. The punch bowl commemorates the moment when Burgoyne offered his sword to Gates.      

The source for the illustration on the bowl was probably Nathaniel Currier’s lithograph of 1852, The Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga taken from John Trumbull’s paintings of the same name. Although the tent with American flag on the right appears in the paintings, the composition on the bowl has been greatly simplified in other details. The bowl’s vignette lacks Trumbulls landscape, a cannon, and many of his figures.  

Trumbull painted a life-size version of the event for the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol about 1820 and executed a smaller version between 1822 and 1832 for his gallery at Yale.1For a discussion of Trumbull’s Rotunda paintings, see Prown 1982, 39–41; for an illustration of Trumbull’s The Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga, see ibid., 87. The Department of State owns a second piece in the Surrender of Burgoyne pattern, 80.6 (gift of Mr. and Mrs. Henry S. McNeil). In 1817, President James Madison commissioned the four Rotunda paintings from Trumbull on authority of the House of Representatives, indicating that Burgoyne’s surrender was long recognized as a key event in the struggle for independence. The Declaration of Independence, The Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, and The Resignation of General Washington are the other three paintings.

Although the eagle bears some resemblance to those on Fitzhugh services of the early 19th century (see Acc. No. 71.71), the uncertain handling of the figures and loose painting of the flowers suggest a date much later for this bowl. 

Ellen Paul Denker and Bert R. Denker

Excerpted from Clement E. Conger, et al. Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991.