Conspicuous Canteen

Porcelain Ewer (Kraak, made in Jingdezhen), c. 1590-1610, 13,2 x 18,5 cm, London, British Museum

The arrangements of porcelain and polished brass objects adorning the walls of the Pranketing Room were utterly ostentatious. Despite their obvious pompous decorative potential, most of the objects on display had a designated practical use. While the material aesthetics of the ensemble must have been impressive, the inventory stresses the fact that the objects were actually used.

Brass Mortar (Southern Netherlands), 1601, 13,6 x 11,8 cm, London, British Museum

The inventory mentions “a very large deep vessell of Purselin (…) to make some sort of liquor with.” Ewers and basins are listed together, implying their use in pairs. The inventory also lists a mortar made of marble and one made of brass, a milk sieve, a funnel, mustard bowls, a large soup bowl, hot plates, various bottles with long necks, kettles made of brass and of marble, from small to large, and a variety of preserving jars.

Porcelain Bottle (Kraak, made in Jingdezhen), c. 1575-1600, 30,5 x 15,9 cm, London, V&A Museum

In between there are bowls made of mother-of-pearl, “salters” made of tortoiseshell, copper miniatures with depictions of women and a carved nutshell. Obviously, the space was used to process a wide range of materials with high-quality instruments.

Mother-of-Pearl Garniture: Ewers, Basin, Strainers, Bottle (made in Gujarat), Early 17th Century, London, British Museum

As Tara Nummedal argues for Northern Europe, only a few early modern laboratories were designed as such and yet easily recognizable by their equipment. Fireplaces, containers, glasses, and vessels made of metal indicate a compromise between the traditional workshop and the experimental laboratories established towards the end of the 17th century (Tara Nummedal, Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire 2007).

In the British Museum and V&A today there are over 2000 entries with pictures of all kinds of porcelain dishes, vessels, ewers and vases, making it easy to imagine the precious exotic objects used by Lady Arundel in her cooking and experimenting.

Porcelain Ewer (Kendi, Kraak, made in Jingdezhen), c. 1590-1615, 19,7 x 15 cm, London, V&A Museum


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