Part of an armorial service made for Thomas ap Catesby Jones
Made circa 1823, this dish was part of set of wedding china ordered when Commodore Thomas Ap Catesby Jones (1790-1858) of “Hickory Hill,” Westmoreland County, Virginia married Mary Walker Carter (b. 1803-d. 1870) of adjoining Richmond County. We currently have a handsome vegetable dish from the same service for sale here in the gallery. It is one of a pair, from which the other is now in the Colonial Williamsburg collection.
The vegetable dish hails from one of the few sets of Chinese export porcelain bearing the insignia of any Virginia family. The emblem consists of a heart-shaped cartouche of entwined scrolls that encompass the owners’ initials, and is capped by the crest of an eagle’s head with a laurel branch. A decorative grapevine border adorns the perimeter of the piece.
This is a striking service—as colorful as Thomas Catesby Jones’s career. Indeed, as Commodore of the United States Pacific fleet, he negotiated the treaty that added Hawai’i to the United States territories. However, he is also remembered for an unsanctioned 1842 mission—four years before the beginning of the Mexican War—that embarrassed America on the international scene. While in the eastern Pacific, he received a false report that war had erupted between Mexico and the United States. In response, he ordered his officers to sail northward to attack and capture Monterey, California. The unsanctioned action caused such a hue and cry, that the American government returned the city to Mexico, and relieved Commodore Jones of his command. In short, pieces from the Jones service offer a compel- ling opportunity to illumine a broad spectrum of American and Virginia history.