Pater Gratia Oriental Art

The Hatcher Junk (1643-1646)

 

The Hatcher Junk

 

1643-1646

 

The Hatcher Cargo was recovered from the wreck of a Chinese junk in the South China seas port of Batavia (today Jakarta) by Captain Michael Hatcher in 1983, and was later sold in the Netherlands. They were a small part of what, at the time, was the largest cargo of Chinese porcelain ever recovered in good condition from the sea. Captain Michael Hatcher and his crew brought up about 25,000 pieces of unbroken porcelain from the Hatcher junk those sold through four sales at Christies Amsterdam. The very wide diversity and quality of many of the pieces created great interest, and the date was established by the existence in the find of two pieces with the Chinese cyclical date for 1643.

 

Captain Michael Hatcher and his crew brought up about 25,000 pieces of unbroken porcelain from the Hatcher junk. Those sold through four sales at Christies Amsterdam. Captain Hatcher returned to the site in 1985 and salvaged over 2,000 more pieces, most of which were sold through a London dealer, Heirloom and Howard. The great majority of the 25,000 pieces were Jingdezhen blue and white, but there were also interesting groups of celadon, blanc-de-Chine, coloured wares and provincial blue-and-white. (Sheaf & Kilburn 1988, pp.8-19)

 

The ship was almost certainly sailing from China to the Dutch base at Batavia from where cargoes were purchased and transhipped to Dutch East Indiamen for their journey to Europe.

 

The range of shapes of wares available in the Hatcher junk illustrates what a south Asian porcelain trading vessel of the mid-17th Century might be expected to contain. The cargo also includes objects which normally did not reach the West. This wreck should be seen in its historical context. There was a Dutch pewter jug found in the wreck, which certainly suggests a connection with the Dutch East India Company, (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie VOC), headquarters at Batavia. The native Ming dynasty was overthrown in 1644 and the resulting civil war substantially upset Chinese trade with the VOC and other western powers. The rebellion interrupted Junk trade to the VOC headquarters at Formosa, the entrepot for ceramics bound ultimately for Batavia. The contents of this wreck suggest a considerable conservatism in the production of Chinese domestic blue-and-white for the first half of the 17th Century. Types of kraak porcelain which were discovered in the Witte Leeuw wreck (which sank in 1613) are closely mirrored in the porcelain of this ship, 30 to 40 years later, it is often said that the Dutch were very conservative in their porcelain taste during the first half the 17th century. It may well be that the VOC went on buying kraak type wares, and the reason why such large amounts of dishes, bowls and jars survived especially in the Netherlands, is that, in fact, there was no export porcelain alternative readily available which the VOC could buy in quantity from Chinese trading Junks. Many of the smaller pieces offered from this wreck bear earlier reign-marks, mostly of the late Ming Emperors none unfortunately of Tianqi or Chongzheng, but equally none with Kangxi marks or cyclical dates for the earliest years of the Manchu Qing dynasty. (Amsterdam 1985, pp.7-8)

 

Currently there are no "The Hatcher Junk" wares for sale.