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c. 1300-40

The Fonthill Vase

Hard-Paste Porcelain with qingbai glaze

This object with its Chinese origins and much travelled history, is a story of survival, but also of a world that has always been interconnected. When the present world is withdrawing behind borders, now is the time to remind ourselves of these connections and the richness they bring.

The Fonthill Vase is an object of major international importance.

Of qingbai porcelain, it was made about 1300 AD. When the vase was brought to Europe shortly afterwards, it was treated as semi-precious stone and given elaborate mounts of filigree and enamel while in the possession of the royal Hungarian House of Anjou.

As Europeans were unable to make porcelain until over four centuries later, such objects were treated with great respect.

The vase is the earliest documented piece of Chinese porcelain to have reached Europe. The Franciscan missionary monk Giovanni di Marignolli, who spent several years in China (1339-1353) during his travels in the East, is believed to have brought the vase to Europe. Between 1354 and 1355, he stayed in Prague as a court chaplain to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. The Fonthill Vase (as it later became known) is recorded through the centuries in the collections of Louis the Great of Hungary, Charles III of Durazzo, the Dauphin of France and William Beckford of Fonthill Abbey.

Unrecognised because the mounts were removed in the 19th Century, the vase was acquired by the Museum at auction in 1882 for £28 and 7 shillings.


The Fonthill Vase is located at:
Decorative Arts & History

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Bell of St Patrick and its Shrine

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Wooden plank with Viking Ship and Weathervane graffiti

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