Moving Art: The Tale of the Ancient Bowl

Image of moving art examples

C&M Moving & Storage has had the pleasure of coming across some of the finest art and furniture during the company’s existence. Moving art has become second nature to the company; we are experts in moving art and antiques. Years ago, C&M Moving and Storage moved an art piece with such a rich history, Ron Merrill, CEO of C&M Moving & Storage, felt compelled to write about it.

Moving Ancient Art

The year was 1578, the place Ching-te-chen, home of the imperial Chinese porcelain factories. The Ming Dynasty was well into its’ third century and emperor Wan-Li sat on the throne. Being a generous and gracious emperor, Wan-Li presented a fine porcelain bowl to the daughter of one of his courtiers on the eve 
of her wedding. The marriage was long and successful, producing many offspring. 

For ten generations the prized bowl served its’ family. By the late 1700’s the once great family had fallen on hard times. In 1777 the bowl along with many other porcelain pieces were sold to a local antique dealer who promptly packed them up and sent them to market in Hong Kong. It was a long and perilous journey to 
Hong Kong. Not only were the roads bad, but at one point the cargo was seized by bandits and held for ransom. By the spring of 1779 the small collection made it to market and was promptly traded to British sea captain and porcelain merchant Francis Fothergill. 

Fothergill had been in Hong Kong for two long years collecting wares for the hungry English market. Upon receipt of this last collection, he packed his porcelain in sand filled crates, loaded his cargo along with fresh provisions and set off for England. Encountering typhoons, avoiding pirates and running aground twice, the grand trading ship H.M.S. Peppercorn would take another 2 years to reach the British Isles. 

In an exclusive antique shop in the fashionable King’s Row district of London, a 200-year-old porcelain bowl once again traded hands. The year was 1782 and the purchaser was Elizabeth, Countess of Devonshire. Once more the bowl would be a wedding present, this time to Elizabeth’s daughter Anne, the 
5th Earl of Bristol’s bride to be. Soon the bowl would come to rest on the mantle at Stonebidge, the Earl’s summer compound in Bath. 

The Earl was a hardy outdoorsman and spent much of his time on the hunt. It was rumored that Fox was not the only game he pursued. Anne made due and spent her time on her own pursuits. She became an excellent seamstress, built the garden at Stonebridge (which still stands today), and developed a passion for 
antiques and fine art. In addition to the rare Chinese porcelain bowl, she acquired several Etruscan pots, a fine example of roman cameo glass and a collection of pictures that included a Vandyke, a Canaletti and two Titans. Anne lived till the age of 91. She spent her final years at Stonebridge tending her garden. 

The bowl spent the next 100 years sitting quietly on the mantle at Stonebridge surrounded by Anne’s collection of antiquities. The year 1940 brought excitement to Stonebridge. The Nazi’s were bombing England and the compound served as a hospital for the injured and safe house for refugees from London. 
At the height of the bombing over two hundred people lived at Stonebridge and the bowl was put into active use for the first time in over 350 years. 

Soon the war was over and the bowl was packed away. Uninhabited, the residence fell into disrepair and by 1979 the contents were sold and the buildings gutted for renovation. In 1983 an antique dealer who had purchased a collection of boxes from a storage company in Bristol rediscovered the bowl. Later that same year the bowl sold at auction for an undisclosed amount to an American buyer. 

This is not a unique story. Antique stores and art galleries right here in Houston are filled with pieces with long and elaborate histories. These pieces are part of our history. They have outlived kings and Popes, they have witnessed the rise and fall of empires, and they have seen the redrawing of the map. I believe that it is 
our responsibility as stewards to care for these items just as we must care for the earth and for the needy. 

Several weeks ago my company, C&M Moving, had the pleasure of moving the ancient Chinese bowl. We took our responsibility very seriously and once again the bowl arrived at its new home intact. We are proud that our name has been added to the long list of caretakers of the bowl, which now stands proudly on the 
mantle in an apartment at the Huntington. 

If you are planning a move soon in the Houston, TX area and have questions about moving art, antiques or installing chandeliers, please contact us on our website.