Portrait of Mary McIntosh Williams Sargent
Portrait of Governor Winthrop Sargent
Four Chinese Export Porcelain Octagonal Plates from Ignatius Sargent's Service
Set of Five American Silver Camp Cups
Services of Chinese export porcelain personalized simply by the addition of initials or monograms in shields, medallions, or borders were relatively common in the early American market. Such simple individualization satisfied the desire for something special in a manner consistent with the accepted definition of democratic behavior. A few personalized Chinese export porcelain services from the late 18th century, however, display armorial or pseudo-armorial decoration, reflecting another aspect of the American democratic attitude—the notion that social standing could be redefined simply by adopting the accoutrements of a higher class even if one was not born into it. American services with heraldic devices in the manner of Old World services include those for James H. Giles of New York (made ca. 1785), the Chase family of Maryland (made ca. 1795), Elias Boudinot of New Jersey (made ca. 1790), Charles Manigault of South Carolina (made ca. 1820), the Clement family of Philadelphia (made ca. 1800), and the Sargent family of Massachusetts (made ca. 1800).1For a discussion of these services, see Le Corbeiller 1977, 1124–29.
Four plates from the latter service are preserved in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, given by descendants of Ignatius Sargent of Gloucester, Massachusetts.2See Acc. Nos. 85.43.1–.4 for the group in the Collection. The Collection also includes eight dinner plates from another source. Forbes, 55, describes a large group of pieces from this service in the China Trade Museum (now part of the Peabody Museum of Salem) given by the same donors. In the center of each plate is the Sargent arms, as recorded in the 1682–1683 Visitation to Gloucestershire—Sargent, a chevron between three dolphins, embowed or. The crest shown here and used by some American Sargents is an eagle rather than the more traditional dolphin. The banner below the armorial bears the motto “NEC QUAERERE HONOREM NEC SPERNERE” (Neither to seek nor to despise honors). A bookplate belonging to Ignatius Sargent and engraved by Joseph Callender (1751–1821) probably was used as the source for the Chinese decorators to copy.3Although Le Corbeiller 1977, 1125, speculates that a bookplate of Winthrop Sargent, a relative of Ignatius, also may have provided the source for the Chinese painters, Forbes, 55, notes that the descent of the service is from Ignatius Sargent. (Objects from the Winthrop Sargent family in the Collection include Acc. Nos. 78.80.1–.5, 73.56, and 73.55). The Callender bookplate is illustrated in Le Corbeiller 1977, 1122.
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.