The Man Who Loved China: The Extraordinary Life and Collection of Sir Percival David

Thursday, 12 October 2023
6:30PM - 8:00PM (AEST)
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Chinese porcelain dish with overglaze enamel decoration.

A lecture about the story behind the finest collection of Chinese ceramics outside China: the Sir Percival David Collection gallery in the British Museum in London.

PDF A821: Porcelain dish with overglaze enamel decoration, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722).

The finest collection of Chinese ceramics outside China can be seen in the Sir Percival David Collection gallery in the British Museum in London. Created by Sir Percival David (1896-1964) in the first half of the 20th century, the collection contains some of the rarest and most valuable pieces in the world today and is a benchmark for dating, identification and scholarship.

Renowned in his time as a collector and expert, David was instrumental in establishing Chinese art globally as a field of collecting, scholarship and in museums. Yet, unknown to his peers in the art world and most scholars of his collection today, David was a member of the famed Baghdadi-Jewish Sassoon family who played an active role in some of the fundamental historical events of WWII, supporting institutions and refugee scholars, while struggling with his own debilitating illness. In this talk, the story of David’s parallel lives will be recounted, revealing the extraordinary context in which his remarkable collection was created.

Co-presented by the Power Institute and VisAsia at the Art Gallery of NSW.


Headshot of Stacey Pierson.
Stacey Pierson

Dr Stacey Pierson is Professor of the History of Chinese Ceramics at SOAS, University of London. In addition to teaching and supervising research students in the School of Arts, she is President of the Oriental Ceramic Society (London) and series editor for the Routledge title Histories of Material Culture and Collecting, 1550-1950. Previously, from 1995 – 2007, she was Curator of the Percival David Foundation of Chinese art, also at the University of London, which housed the world-renowned David collection of Chinese ceramics. She has published widely on aspects of Chinese ceramics and the history of collecting and exhibitions, including Collectors, Collections and Museums: the Field of Chinese Ceramics in Britain: 1560-1960 (2007), Chinese Ceramics: a Design History (2009), From Object to Concept: Global Consumption and the Transformation of Ming Porcelain (2013), Private Collecting, Exhibitions and the Shaping of Art History in London: the Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1866-1950 (2017) and the edited volume Visual, Material and Textual Cultures of Food and Drink in China, 200 BCE – 1900 CE, Colloquies on Art and Archaeology in Asia, no. 25 (2022). Her most recent research project focused on Dr Johnson’s Chinese teapot, which is on display in the British Museum.