Collections: Decorative Arts: "Chinese Argument" Figural Group

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    "Chinese Argument" Figural Group

    This sculpture reflects the debate surrounding the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which virtually ended Chinese immigration until 1943. Chinese immigration to the United States began in earnest with the California Gold Rush of 1848. After the completion in 1869 of the transcontinental railroad, largely built by Chinese workers, and an economic downturn in the 1870s, many Americans began to resent competition for scarce jobs. Anti-Chinese riots and overt discrimination culminated in 1882 with the passage of the act. Although this figural group incorporating nineteenth-century stereotypes has been interpreted as a statement in support of Chinese exclusion, it is more likely a cry against it. A child wearing the cap of liberty shares the American eagle’s nest with a black child, who, though included, is pressed down, and the Chinese man’s attempt to join them is clearly futile.

    • Designer: Karl L. H. Mueller, American, born Germany, 1820-1887
    • Manufacturer: Union Porcelain Works, 1863-ca.1922
    • Medium: Porcelain
    • Place Manufactured: Brooklyn, New York, United States
    • Dates: ca. 1882
    • Dimensions: H: 11 1/4 in. (28.6 cm)  (show scale)
    • Inscriptions: on front bottom of base in black: "Chinese Argument"
    • Collections:Decorative Arts
    • Museum Location: This item is on view in American Identities: A New Look, Orientation Gallery, 5th Floor
    • Accession Number: 2009.70
    • Credit Line: Gift of John D. Rockefeller III and Eleanor Wallace, by exchange
    • Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY
    • Caption: Karl L. H. Mueller (American, born Germany, 1820-1887). "Chinese Argument" Figural Group, ca. 1882. Porcelain, H: 11 1/4 in. (28.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of John D. Rockefeller III and Eleanor Wallace, by exchange, 2009.70. Creative Commons-BY
    • Image: overall, 2009.70_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2013
    • Catalogue Description: A complex sculptural group depicting a nest on top of a tree trunk. In the nest are an eagle at the back, and at center a nude putto in a slouching Phrygian cap with right arm about the neck of the eagle and left arm extended and holding down a young black boy at the front of the nest. On the tree trunk is a Chinese man trying to climb into the nest. There are rodents nestled in holes in the tree, all on a raised stepped circular base. Overall matte glaze.
    • Record Completeness: Best (84%)
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