Yongzheng reign: An Imperial Yellow-Ground Famille Rose ‘Cranes and Floral’ Dish.

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DESCRIPTION.

The dish is finely potted with the rounded sides rising from a tapered foot, the whole interior surface superbly enameled in vibrant tones of luscious rose pink, shaded of green, yellow, sepia and turquoise with four cranes, one flying in racing down toward another three in frolic under the dense of delicately coloured in shaded tones of whitish and yellowish rose to subtle raspberry-pink peony bloom and buds with green auspicious grain and foliage growing from the riverside adorned with varieties of chrysanthemum flowers and plant sprigs issuing from rock pile and sand bar over the yard, all set against a brilliantly lemon-yellow enamel ground, the exterior left undecorated showing a lemon-yellow glaze, the base inscribed with overglazed blue four-character yuzhi mark of Yongzheng reign  within double square.

RESEARCH & ESSAY.

In eighteenth century, the famille rose wares reached its zenith, which replaced and refined the famille verte of the Kangxi reign and became the dominating palette in more delicate overglaze decorations. Starting from late Kangxi reign of the Qing dynasty, many new enamels of the palette (洋彩 “foreign colors”) were imported from Europe countries such as foreign red (yang hong), foreign yellow (yang huang), foreign green (yang lu) and foreign white (yang bai). These entire imported elements of enamels and pigments were mixed together fired at a low temperature resulting in a wide range of shade of colors and appearing the softer and gentler ‘soft colors’ when it is compared to that of famille verte wares. The decoration applied on the yellow ground (huang di qing hua) is the technique firstly appeared in the Ming of Xuande dynasty, where the yellow glaze was used to fill in the white ground of a blue-and-white vessel after which the vessel undergoes a glost firing.

In the late Kangxi reign, the famille rose against a yellow ground was evolved in various designs. For examples, two yellow-ground Kangxi bowls in the Palace Museum, Beijing, painted with peony designs, are illustrated in Kangxi, Yongzheng, Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, pp.99ff., pls 82 and 84. Also, a yellow-gound falangcai ‘peony’ bowl, puce-enamel yuzhi mark and period of Kangxi reign, from the Palace Museum, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Porcelains with Cloisonné Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, Hong Kong, 1999, pls. 4 – 6 (see fig. 1). The imperial yellow-ground falangcai ‘floral’ bowl also appeared in the Kangxi reign. See an imperial yellow-ground falangcai ‘floral’ bowl, Kangxi pink-enameled four-character yuzhi mark, sold at Christie’s Hongkong, 28th May 2012, lot. 2913, for HKD 16,840,000, initially estimated between HKD 12,000,000 – HKD 18,000,000 (see fig. 2). Famille rose of peony design against a yellow ground is also found in Yongzheng period. For example, see a cup with famille rose of peony design with an enameled blue four-character yuzhi mark of Yongzheng reign, from Percival David Foundation, is illustrated in Qing Ceramics in the Percival David Foundation, Rosemary E. Scott, the American Federation of Arts, New York, 1997, p. 47 (see fig. 3). Further, the related dish rigorously painted in famille rose ‘bamboo and plum’ on a yellow ground around the exterior, dated to Yongzheng period, from National Palace Museum, Taipei, is illustrated in Emperor Treasures, Chinese Art from the National Palace Museum, Jay Xu and He Li, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 2016, p. 180, cat. 120.

The soft enamel and design of famille rose in 18th century is not separated by the Jesuit missionaries’ arrival inspiring the potters of Chinese porcelain. Jesuit missionaries arrived at the imperial court during the late Kangxi period, who introduced the imported enamels to China and then were practiced at Jingdezhen in the Kangxi reign. Meanwhile, the design of cranes around peony flowers and auspicious grain on the present dish is an example of a subject from classical painting executed in porcelain. The design of the present dish is reminiscent of hanging-scroll paintings ink and color on silk by the famous artist, Leng Mei (Active 1691-1742 AD) of Qing dynasty. See a hanging scroll painted in ink and color on silk, with ‘Nine White Egret around auspicious grain and foliage subject, painted by Leng Mei, dated yisi (1725 AD) of the Yongzheng reign, published and illustrated in Heritage of the Brush: The Roy and Marilyn Papp Collection of Chinese Painting, Phoenix Art Museum, 1989, cat. 24, pp. 76-77. The painting was previously sold at Christie’s New York, Fine Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy, June 4, 1986, lot 75, and was sold again at Sotheby’s New York, 14th September 2016, lot. 600 (see 4). Since the Kangxi and Yongzheng practice of famille rose design commonly shows only flowers without bird elements, the design on present dish as a new repertoire including the birds, rocks and landscape that is enhanced in more meticulously manner and taste. The delicate coloration of cranes and various flowers in highly detailed brushstrokes on the present dish made the current design ideal to show off the new famille-rose palette on a lemon-yellow ground.

Although no exact counterpart of famille rose dish of Yongzheng period depicting ‘cranes and floral’ design against a yellow ground has not yet been found, certainly the design of cranes enamels against a yellow ground appears on bowls in different styles. See the related example of bowl from the Qing Court collection in Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. 1999, op.cit, pl. 84; another from the Baur collection is published in Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, John Ayers, Geneva, 1999, pl. 204; compare with a pair of yellow-ground ‘cranes’ bowls, Yongzheng mark and of the period, from Sotheby’s New York, 17th September 2013, lot. 346, for USD 335,000, initially estimated between USD 80,000 – USD 120,000 (see fig. 5); another in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is illustrated in A Handbook to the W.G. Gulland Bequest of Chinese Porcelain, London, 1950, pl. Via (see fig. 6). The famille rose ‘deer and floral’ design against a lemon-yellow ground in the form of dish like the present piece is rarely published. The dish form is usually applied either with a lemon-yellow enamel without design element or with incised design elements. For example, see a pair of plain lemon-yellow dishes without design elements, mark and period of Yongzheng reign (14.6 and 14.9 cm in size), illustrated in Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, Regina Krahl, London, 1994-2000, vol. 2, no. 910, and then it was sold at Sotheby’s Hongkong, 9th October 2012, lot. 4 (see fig. 7).

The present dish is painted in elegantly sobber manner, which its composition of design is executed symmetrically and gorgeously. The features of cranes and peony blooms were rendered with the utmost care accompanied with the meticulous brush craftsmanship that represents the European taste. In the Kangxi period, the famille rose dish had a wide range of pastel shades of famille rose, from a fresh green and yellow to pale rosé tone over a yellow ground was never otherwise displayed more impressively. It was only in the Yongzheng period that the porcelain painters could begin painting nature scenes in naturalistic design as perfectly demonstrated by the present famille rose dish.

With the rich colour palette and the delicacy of the design employed to decorate the vibrant cranes and flowers on a brilliant lemon-yellow ground, the present dish was obviously created by the superb craftmenship of the Enamel Workshop at the Qing Imperial Workshops of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The cranes motif on the current dish, in Chinese mythology, is generally symbolically connected with the idea of immortality. The motifs of cranes may vary in a range from reference that to transform the Taoist immortals (xian), who sometimes were said to have magical abilities to transform into cranes in order to fly on various journeys. Crane among peony flower design is also widely celebrated in Chinese legends that symbolizes the prosperity and longevity. It is also reputed to be the patriarch of the feathered kingdom, and is endowed with many mythical attributes. It reaches a fabulous age, and hence it is a common emblem of longevity, which became the Emperor’s longevity and legacy.

Citation:

  1. Kangxi, Yongzheng, Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, pp.99ff., pls 82 and 84.

  2. The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Porcelains with Cloisonné Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, Hong Kong, 1999, pls. 4 – 6.

  3. Qing Ceramics in the Percival David Foundation, Rosemary E. Scott, the American Federation of Arts, New York, 1997, p. 47.

  4. Emperor Treasures, Chinese Art from the National Palace Museum, Jay Xu and He Li, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 2016, p. 180, cat. 120.

  5. Heritage of the Brush: The Roy and Marilyn Papp Collection of Chinese Painting, Phoenix Art Museum, 1989, cat. 24, pp. 76-77.

  6. The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum., 1999, cit, pl. 84.

  7. Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, John Ayers, Geneva, 1999, pl. 204.

  8. A Handbook to the W.G. Gulland Bequest of Chinese Porcelain, London, 1950, pl. Via.

  9. Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, Regina Krahl, London, 1994-2000, vol. 2, no. 910.

CATALOGUE ENTRY.

Yongzheng Reign