Twenty years ago I bought a large, ugly, chinoiserie brass vase made of sheet brass which had been hammered and chased with crude mock-chinese dragons, bats and symbols. It would never had held water due to the folded joint construction. It was of square section with a tapered body, square foot, shoulder, with ring handles at the four corners of the shoulder and a flared neck. What had caught my eye was a strange stamped, circular trademark of a sailing ship underneath the name "Muntz". The mark was almost hidden amongst the busy decoration on the top surface of the square foot.
For whom was the vase made, for what purpose and when? I discovered that Muntz metal was a brass alloy invented in 1832 for making machine parts and had to be worked hot. It was not intended for decorative art. After concluding that the vase had been not been made in China, I then thought it must have been made as decoration for a theatrical set or a dance hall or fun fair where all that was needed was something that looked Oriental, from Old Cathay, to the public. To be honest, it was only rubbish but interesting rubbish.
For twenty years it appealed to no one, not even on eBay, until yesterday when I pointed it out to a Chinese art student who is interested in Western representations of China. I managed to sell it to her for £25. Her plan is to use it in an installation she is working on for exhibition next summer in her Degree Show at Edinburgh College of Art. I look forward to seeing what she does with it.