The Forbes House Museum at 215 Adams St. in Milton invites visitors to a lecture, “The Story of Canton,” by Richard Mellin on Saturday, May 18 at 3 p.m.
This lecture complements the museum’s “Tiles to Teapots” exhibit featuring many examples from its varied collection of antique Chinese porcelain and related artifacts.
“The Story of Canton” offers a brief history of Chinese export porcelain with the Canton design, an analysis of its decoration, and a review of a variety of forms detailed in the book “Collecting Canton: In Pursuit of the Best,” co-authored by Mellin and his wife Gail.
“Gail and I have shared a 45-year journey of collecting Canton. It has been a learning experience that taught us much about our country’s history, 19th century porcelain in America, and trade with China. We have had many wonderful adventures in our collecting journey and the pleasure of not only the hunt for the best forms of Canton but the opportunity to share our experiences with so many wonderful people,” Mellin said.
“My journey was greatly influenced in the early 1980s by Dr. H. A. Crosby Forbes. Our exchange of information opened a whole new vista of knowledge and understanding for me about early blue and white Chinese porcelains and the impact of the China trade in the Americas. This lecture is a small thank you for his inspiration and help with my story about Canton,” he added.
Through their many voyages, Forbes family members prominent in the China trade amassed their collection, including rare patterns as well as more widely available Canton china.
The Canton pattern is based on the monochromatic drawing techniques of ancient scrolls and is filled with symbolism that echoes the interconnection of all forms of nature.
“Blue and white Canton was one of many services brought back by the Forbeses for others as well as their own family use. Inexpensive and full of exotic symbolism, Canton remained one of the most popular patterns and is still in production today,” said Susan Lachevre, the exhibit curator and head of the museum’s collections committee.
The “Tiles to Teapots” exhibit, which will be open until the middle of July, also features the large “Forbes Forever” bowl, an example of Chinese export porcelain made for the European and growing American markets.
Traditionally called an “Election Bowl” or christening bowl, it was likely commissioned during the late 18th or early 19th century and decorated specifically for a member of the Forbes family in Scotland with thistles, the national flower, and panels believed to illustrate ancestral homes of the clan.
The museum will be open prior to the lecture for tours at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.