Pater Gratia Oriental Art

The Hatcher Junk (1643-1646)


The Hatcher Junk




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)


Shipwreck Porcelains - The Hatcher Junk (1643-1646)


Object 2010C327








Provenance: The Hatcher Collection, Christie’s Amsterdam, 12 and 13 June 1984.


Height 93 mm (3.66 inch), diameter of rim 201 mm (7.91 inch), diameter of footring 80 mm (3.15 inch), weight 673 grams (23.74 ounce (oz.))


Bowl on footring with high, slightly flared sides, a bracket-lobed rim. Decorated in underglaze blue. The central medallion is decorated with a river scene with rocky mountains, a pagoda and a banner in the distance. The cavetto is decorated with a border formed by alternating flaming wheel and ruyi-heads. The rim is painted with a continuous border with rocky mountains, pavilions, pagodas, banners flying from masts, tres and rowing boats. On the outer wall a bird perched on tree branches alternates with fruit and flower sprays, below a continuous border of horses flying among flames and crested waves. On the inner rim the glue remains of the original Hatcher Collection Christie's Amsterdam June '84, circular auction lot label. On the base the original orange/red Hatcher Collection Christie's Amsterdam June '84, circular paper auction label. (Welsh 2008, p.277)



This bowl belongs to a special group of kraak bowls, ranging from about 20 to 22 cm in diameter, which are decorated in the interior with an unusual border formed by alternating flaming wheels or chakras and ruyi-heads. The chakra, the Sanskrit word for wheel, is represented as a flaming disc or wheel and is one of the Eight Buddhist emblems. It represents the teachings of the Buddha, thus is a symbol of enlightenment. It also symbolises sovereignty as it is one of the attributes of the Hindu God, Vishnu.

Thos group of the chakra and ruyi-head border is typically combined with landscape scenes or with a design of white flower-heads on blue crested waves. These landscapes scenes are used in both the central medallions and the inner rim borders.

Bowls with landscapes in the central medallion and inner rim borders are usually decorated on the outside with ten alternating panels with birds perched on trees and fruit and flower sprays below a border of horses flying among flames and crested waves, as can be seen on another example in the collection of the Groninger Museum ( blauw).

The fact that a large number of bowls with similar decorative designs were recovered from the Hatcher junk (c.12643) demonstrates that this type of bowl was popular for about fifty or more years. (Welsh 2008, pp.277-281)


The horse, the seventh of the twelve creatures of the Chinese zodiac that represents the lunar months within a traditional twelve-year cycle, is a symbol of speed and perseverance. It appeared often on Jingdezhen blue and white porcelains of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. (Welsh 2008, p.202)


According to Rinaldi this bowl can be classified as a Shape II.1 with straight rim and cakra (or flaming wheel) motifs (c.1580-1645). (Rinaldi 1989, pp.146-150)


In total only sixty-eight identically shaped, sized and decorated bowls, divided over the lots 858-869 were sold on 12 and 13 June 1984. (Amsterdam 1984/2, lots 858-869)


For identically shaped, sized and decorated The Hatcher Collection bowls, please see:

Condition: A firing flaw to the base. Some fleabites a frit and shallow chip to the rim.



Amsterdam 1984/2, lots 858-869

Amsterdam 1985, pp.7-8)

Sheaf & Kilburn 1988, pp.8-19 & Pl. 79

Rinaldi 1989, Pl. 170

Welsh 2008, p.202 & pp.277-281


Price: € 1.499 Currency Converter


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