Riot of Rotterdam saucer

Riot of Rotterdam saucer



A blue and white saucer decorated with the 'Riot of Rotterdam' scene, marked to the back with the character 'jade' within a double circle.

In 1690 an event occurred in Rotterdam so significant that it was commemorated on Chinese porcelain. For days the local population revolted against the disliked and corrupt municipal administration. Due to an earlier incident, anger was aimed at the despised bailiff Jacob van Zuylen van Nijevelt in particular and the scene depicted on this 'Riot of Rotterdam' saucer shows the plundering and destruction of his house.

As head of the city's law enforcement van Nijevelt had sentenced Cornelis Costerman, a popular member of the city militia, to death for the procurement of untaxed wine. Taxes on wine were as unpopular as the bailiff and an outraged mob took to the streets. As the militia turned a blind eye, troops had to be sent from The Hague to quell the uprising. Van Nijevelt's reputation had been irrevocably damaged though and the jubilant citizenry of Rotterdam indulged in various forms of satirical propaganda to mark the event.

One of these was the medal struck by Jan Smeltzing in the same year. One side shows the destruction of van Nijevelt's house with the slogan
Where murder is permitted, so is destruction, the other with Costerman's decapitated head on a plinth and 'good shall return to his head and lineage' The enduring resonance of the episode is illustrated by the fact that it was considered viable to send one of these medals to China to be copied onto porcelain - a lengthy and highly expensive undertaking.

This porcelain saucer is therefore datable to circa 1691-95 and is an early example of a European subject on Chinese porcelain and arguably the very first depicting a social scene.

Condition: small sealed hairline of approximately 1.5 cm from rim, otherwise fine.

Kangxi period, circa 1691-95.


Diameter 11 cm / 4 "