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The de Pinna cup, an unrecorded, unmarked silver-mounted Chinese porcelain bowl with mounts dated to circa 1580-1600, estimated at £6,000-£8,000 ($7,700-$10,000) at Chiswick Auctions.

Enigmatic Elizabethan-style silver and Ming porcelain goblet lands at Chiswick June 11

LONDON, UK — At the third time of asking, an enigmatic Elizabethan style silver and porcelain goblet carries an estimate of £6,000-£8,000 ($7,700-$10,000) at Chiswick Auctions on June 11. The so-called de Pinna cup, cataloged as dating from circa 1580-1600, appears at auction following an examination by a committee of experts and two episodes of testing at Goldsmiths Hall in London.

This is the third time this piece, fashioned by an English goldsmith using a tea bowl imported from Ming China, has been prepared for sale. However, on two previous occasions, it was withdrawn following a disparity in opinion regarding its date. The decision on each occasion was to subject the cup to scientific testing.

Chiswick Auctions’ head of department John Rogers is now confident the item is 16th century.

When the piece was inspected by the Antique Plate Committee in June 2023, it was deemed “an amalgam of different elements, some of which may be older than others”.

Nonetheless, science suggests that all the metalwork is of the period. The first three metal samples taken in August 2023 were compared against a database of results of genuine English pieces of silver at Goldsmiths Hall and found to have a probability of 96.33% for the date range 1500-1600, with 0% after 1697. A second series of samples taken in May 2024 were again found to have a probability of 99% for the date range 1500-1600.

It was early in 2023 that Rogers received an image of the 5in (13cm) high goblet via email. It combines a Kraak blue and white porcelain tea bowl from the reign of the Wanli emperor (1573-1620) with a strapwork and openwork silver mount of a type that was fashionable between circa 1580 and 1600.

The full history of this piece is unknown. However, it comes by descent from Arthur Abraham Clifford De Pinna  (1889-1947), a furniture dealer in Piccadilly whose cousin was the London dealer in Oriental porcelain Alfred Samson de Pinna  (1868-1963). It shares the same provenance history as a Ming blue and white porcelain ‘canteen bottle’ now in the Smithsonian Museum, which was sold by the vendor’s family through Sotheby’s in 1957.

It is exceptionally rare for an item of Elizabethan silver-mounted porcelain to have remained in private ownership for more than a century and not be published.

At a time when Europeans poured and drank from relatively crude stonewares and earthenwares, snow-white porcelain imported from China was hugely expensive in 16th-century Europe. The handful of pieces that made the journey to England were held in the utmost esteem and often mounted in gold and silver in much the same way as other items described as ‘exotics’, such as coconuts, nautilus shells, and Iznik pottery. Very few pieces have survived intact.

The earliest-dated piece of English silver-mounted Chinese porcelain is the Lennard Cup of 1569, which is in the British Museum. Four items of silver-mounted Wanli porcelain once owned by Sir Walter Raleigh are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.