Object Thursday: Soup Tureen

Water Buffalo soup tureen. RIHS Museum Collection
Water Buffalo soup tureen. RIHS Museum Collection
With the cold weather we’ve had lately, soup seems especially appealing. This Chinese export porcelain tureen in the shape of a water buffalo head was bought at auction in New York in 1848 by Crawford Allen. Originally owned by Forbes Family of New York City, the set features a gold phoenix crest that once held the monogram of the Forbes family.
When filled with hot soup, steam rising from the open nostrils would animate the tureen, and provide a moment of drama in a candle-lit dining room. If you’re in the mood for soup, you could try some historic recipes, like this one for onion soup, from Colonial Williamsburg’s History is Served site. Onions and root vegetables keep well over the winter, and would have formed the basis of many winter dishes in the early 19th century Rhode Island.  In the summer, a cold green soup could fill the tureen, which might be decorated with fresh-cut flowers in its open mouth.
This dramatic piece, the gift of Mrs Henry D Sharpe, is on view at the John Brown House Museum this winter, on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 until 4.
~Kirsten Hammerstrom, [former]Director of Collections

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