Augustus The Strong "Dragoneer" Vase

As a background I should mention that in the history of Chinese porcelain there is only a few pieces that are so famous that they have got individual names. Two of these are the "David Vases" at the Percival David Foundation in London, the only other pieces I can think of is the "Dragoneer-vases" of Augustus the Strong of Sachsony.

Augustus the Strong was also the very person who actually got the western porcelain Industry going, by figuring out how porcelain was made, and then in 1707 founding the Meissen porcelain factory.

By a historical coincidence two of these "Dragoneer-vases" was found in Gothenburg of which at least one have been placed in a public collection in North America.

The story of these two vases is that Augustus the Strong of Sachsony was known to have traded all in all 151 porcelain pieces against a regiment of fully equipped soldiers (Dragoneers), with a set of (probably) 16 big vases as the most important part of the barter.

How many of these vases that are still extant is hard to tell since Dresden have been in East Germany for the best part of the time since the war, and the allied Air Force are known to have taken out a column of trucks loaded with porcelain treasures from Dresden, en route to Russia by the end of WWII.

This is anyway one of the original vases from this barter, with the inventory mark of the Dresden collection inside the lid. How this came to be I will tell further down.


The provenance of these vases is as far as I know the following. I am writing this more or less out of my head but all dates and the spelling of names could be confirmed exactly:

1690 Described by the Jesuit missionary Pere d'Entrecolle then residing in Jingdezhen, China, as over three feet high jars, even higher with their lids, and of a size never previously made upon being ordered by foreign merchants "since none in China needed that big vases"

1700 Given by the English Honorable East India Company to Queen Sophia Charlotte of Hanover (1668-1705) at the castle Charlottenburg in Berlin, who were from England, and married to King Fredrik I of Preussia.

1717 After the death of Queen Sophia Charlotte traded from King Fredrik I of Preussia among a group of 151 porcelain pieces with these vases as the most important pieces, by the Emperor Augustus the Strong (1670-1733) of Sachsony, against a regiment of 600 fully equipped mounted soldiers - Dragoneers. The horses are known to not have been included in the deal, or were never delivered anyway, though.

1717-1920 Kept in the Imperial collection of Augustus the Strong in the Zwinger Castle in Dresden.

1920 October, 12-14, Sold at auction in Berlin by the German State to pay war debts, to the Swedish Industrialist James Keiller, founder of Gotaverken Shipyard.

Some time thereafter deposited in a bank vault in Gothenburg until 1994 when rediscovered and made public by the relatives.

Height: 41 inches (104 cm) inclusive the lid

Official account

Tall jars and vases of this type are often referred to as soldier or dragoon vases, after the famous group of 151 Chinese blue and white porcelains which Augustus II the Strong of Saxony received in 1717 from Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia, in exchange for 600 Saxon dragoons. Seven vases similar to the present example remain in the collection and are illustrated in situ in Ulrich Pietsch, Anette Loesch and Eva Strober, The Dresden Porcelain Collection: China, Japan, Meissen, 2006, p. 6 and pp. 18-19. Other closely related vases, with a cover, include one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, illustrated in Oriental Ceramics, The World's Great Collections, vol. 11, Tokyo, 1982, pl. 114. A pair of the same size and pattern was sold in our London rooms 9th November 2011, lot 174. One vase without lid, Sold at Sotheby, Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, 16 September 2014, New York. Lot 187.

Previous owner:

The descendants of the late James Keiller.
This vase is now in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, and published in their Treasures of Chinese Export Ceramics by William R. Sargent, 2012, item 34, p. 120-121.


Upon their rediscovery, at The Rhoss Museum for Applied Art and Design, January, 31- April, 30, 1995.

The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm, 1996 September, 9-1997 January, 1. Augustus The Strong "Dragoneer Vase"

One of the few Dragoneer Vases from August the Strong's collection. News clip from the opening of the bank vault in 1993. David Keiller shaking hands with her Royal Highness Queen Sylvia of Sweden at the opening of the Rhoss Museum exhibition. Jarl Vansvik, Jan-Erik Nilsson and David Keiller examining the the Dragoneer Vases as they are discovered at the bank vault.

Jan-Erik Nilsson