N° 51
Cup and saucer with grisaille and gold decor

South China
Qing Dynasty, circa 1740
Cup: ø 7.5 cm; saucer: ø. 12 cm
Paris, National Museum of Asian Arts - Guimet
(G 161)

This cup and saucer in fine porcelain with a border of gilded scrolls recalls St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491?-1556), founder in 1541 of the Society of Jesus.

After a mystical experience at Manresa, he took vows of poverty and chastity with seven of his disciples, including Francis Xavier, apostle to India and Japan, in the church of Saint-Pierre de Montmartre in Paris on August 15, 1534. At the end of his life he returned in retirement from Manresa to write the Constitutions and Spiritual Exercises. He is portrayed here as elderly, dressed in a chasuble embroidered in gold, his left hand on a book on which can be read the motto of the Society of Jesus: AD MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM.

This representation seems to derive from an engraving by S. A. Bolswert after a painting by Rubens, “Saint Ignatius and Francis Xavier Considering the Name of Jesus. ” In studying the tea caddy which belongs to the same service and which is in the Mottahdeh Collection, Howard and Ayers suggested that its creation might be linked to the bicentenary of the order in 1741.

The surprising chiaroscuro effect which gives the piece its charm had already tempted certain Chinese artists such as the painter Wu Bin as early as 160 .

Jean-Paul Desroches