Beautifully enamelled in vibrant colours, the centre of this plate is decorated with two flowers, an iris and possibly a peony variant, on which both a crawling caterpillar and a flower.
The earliest known illustration of a plate with this decoration, dates to 1862, when Jacqmart and Le Blant took the first steps in categorising Chinese ceramics in their massive three volume work2. The terms introduced, such as famille rose, blanc de chine, famille verte etc. are still used today.
Although long thought that the source for the decoration of this plate originates from work by the Dutch botanist Maria Sybille Merian (1647 – 1717), scholars have not been able to find any matching prints in her work. Furthermore, the fact that two different flowers are depicted together, does not make it likely that the design was taken from Merian’s work, as she usually illustrated individual species.3
Similar examples can be found in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the RA Collection, Brasil, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem.