The First Fleece, 2017

Translucent porcelain with Xin Cai painting and 24ct gold foil on stopper

Made by the artist in Jingdezhen, China and Paros, Greece

Pictured alongside RBe67 for illustrative purposes

Height 14cm (5 1/2")
Width 8cm (3 1/8")
Depth 3cm (1 1/8")


Private Collection, London, 2020


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More about The First Fleece, 2017

John Macarthur, known as the ‘father of the sheep industry’ in Australia, was a lieutenant in the British army and arrived in Sydney with his wife Elizabeth in 1790. He took up a holding of 200 acres to breed sheep on Elizabeth Farm and in 1796 he resigned from the army to devote himself entirely to breeding sheep. His wife Elizabeth played a major role in the enterprise. Macarthur, amongst other landowners including the priest Samuel Marsden, obtained his first merino sheep from The Dutch Cape Colony where they were being auctioned as part of a deceased estate. It appears the merino sheep were descended from the distinctive Escorial flocks of Philip II, King of Spain. Samuel Marsden was later credited with introducing merino sheep to New Zealand and was the first person to export wool to England. The Golden Fleece The story goes that Poseidon sired the ram that sported The Golden Fleece when he mated with the nymph Theophane, granddaughter of the sun-god Helios. This ram not only grew a golden fleece but also sprouted wings, which later saved the life of Phrixus who duly sacrificed it in the house of Aeetes, son of Helios the sun god. He hung the Golden Fleece on an oak in the grove sacred to Aries - the symbol of the ram becoming the constellation Aries. ‘The Golden Fleece itself is protected by bulls with hooves of brass and breath of fire and is also guarded by a never sleeping dragon’. There are many versions of the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece, but essentially Jason is charged with recovering the fleece so that he may rightfully claim the throne of Iolcus in Thessaly. One version of the story as told by the ancient Greek poet Pindar employs the quest for the Golden Fleece in his Fourth Pythian Ode, written in 462 BC. Aeetes challenges Jason to yoke the fire-breathing bulls, with the fleece as the prize: "Let the King do this, the captain of the ship! Let him do this, I say, and have for his own the immortal coverlet, the fleece, glowing with matted skeins of gold". Robin Best

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