Unearthing a Valuable Surprise: £2800 Found Tucked Away in Brown Paper – David Harper

30th November 2023

This opulent gold thread and silk cloth has a repeating design of octagonal and square panels enclosing confronting phoenix and flowerheads on a densely patterned geometric ground.  The bolt is wrapped in brown paper secured with ‘Tate and Lyle Ltd Granulated Sugar’ tape and inscribed ‘Navy and Gold Chinese material brought back by Ad. Robert Coote‘. Chinese, circa 1880.

Provenance: Admiral Robert Coote and thence by descent. 

Admiral Robert Coote CB (1820 – 1898) was born in Geneva and educated at Eton College. He enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1833 and served on Royal Yachts Royal George and Victoria and Albert. By 1851 he was Commander of Volcano, West Africa Squadron.  He served on Victory (1860), Gibraltar ( 1864) and Arethusa (1867) as Captain.  Between 1874-1878 he was Commander-in-Chief, Queenstown and his final rank was Commander-in-Chief, China Station.  He retired in 1885.  

The China Station, established in 1865, had bases in Singapore, Hong Kong and Wei Hai, and was responsible for overseeing the coast of China and its navigable rivers, the western part of the Pacific Ocean and the waters surrounding the Dutch West Indies.

During his time at the China Station, Admiral Coote amassed a considerable collection of Chinese works of art which he sent back to his wife Lucy, daughter of the Arctic explorer Admiral Sir William Parry.  These items were then indexed and placed on display at Shales House, Admiral Coote’s residence in Southampton.

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