The Butler Collection is recognised to be the finest collection of 17th century Chinese porcelain in the world. It was put together by the British Diplomat, Sir Michael Butler, G.C.M.G. (19272013). The collection started with the acquisition, in 1961, of a greenglazed, bambooshaped winepot for a couple of pounds, but gradually grew in size and repute until it was over 850 pieces, and had travelled around the world in many solo exhibitions.

The famous collection shows the evolution of styles from the Late Ming, into the Transitional Period when Imperial oversight of the production was withdrawn, and then into the Kangxi style of the second Qing emperor who died in 1722. This collection covers most types of porcelain produced at Jingdezhen, in Jiangxi province, during the 17th century. The variety of the pieces carefully acquired by Sir Michael reflects the great innovative spirit of the highly skilled Jingdezhen potters and painters at a time when they were released from the controls of Imperial patronage, between the end of the reign of the Ming Emperor Wanli in 1620 and the reestablishment of the Imperial kilns by the Qing Emperor Kangxi in 1683. 

It is an important study collection unrivalled in its breadth and rarity. The sheer number of pieces illustrates the extraordinary variety and innovations of this unique period when potters and painters experimented with new shapes, decorations, narrative scenes and glazes.


Selection committee for Shanghai Exhibition in 2004

Sir Michael in front of the Musee National in Luxembourg in 2008 for the inauguration of the Late Ming exhibition of Butler porcelain

Professor Wang Qingzheng and Sir Michael in 2004

Katharine, James, Charles and Caroline Butler standing and Sir Michael sitting in the “apple shed” museum in 1987

The Gathering of the Eagles, Sir Michael, John Curtis, Qianshen Bai, Ni Yibin, Dominic Jellinek, Julia Curtis around the Tyson Jar in Virginia USA in 2003



Team photo before the Shanghai Museum exhibition in 2005