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14 février 2024

'Story of an Artistic Style- The Imperial Porcelain with Painted Enamels' at National Palace Museum

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Taipei - The exhibition shows that porcelains with painted enamels of the three reigns of the Qing dynasty, Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong (1662-1795), are the most iconic porcelain wares in the 18th century. Also, it elaborates these three stages of styles were established with the invention and development of the pigments as well as the different requests for the official wares from the Emperors.

This exhibition is divided into three sections in chronological order. "Novelty from the Emperor's Experimental Workshop" compares the testing pieces and final works to present that the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662-1722) invited Western missionaries and local masters to produce the Kangxi-reign-style painted enamels. "Imperial Exclusive Style" shows that the Yongzheng Emperor (r. 1723-1735) promoted painted enamels as court-limited works based on his request of an imperial exclusive style. "Imperial Design & Craftsman's Skill" presents that the Qianlong Emperor (1736-1795) reinitiated the dialogue between the Imperial workshops of the Forbidden City (or the Old Summer Palace) in Beijing and Imperial kilns in Jingdezhen to embody the concept of one "official ware" so that they could share the same decorative style, and therefore create yangcai and falangcai, two styles of painted enamels.

Novelty from the Emperor's Experimental Workshop

The falangcai painted enamels had originated from the early 18th century. During the initial stage of development, Western missionaries and local craftsmen devoted their efforts to colouration trails and pigment processing. However, even till the end of the Kangxi reign(1622-1722), the goal was still unsuccessful, which resulted in the need for imported materials.

However, almost every test piece had included without a reign mark, and after the final firing, the "Kangxi yuzhi 康熙御製" was then labelled as recognition. Differentiated by the location of its colouring procedure, the falangcai stands for porcelains with patterns painted in falangcai pigments and reign marks written on the white base body that produced in Jingdezhen Imperial kilns, and followed by the second firing by the imperial craftsmen. In contrast porcelains having their base body and painted patterns both fired in Jingdezhen Imperial kilns, are known as the yangcai.

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Glass gallbladder-shaped vase with peonies in painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662-1722). © National Palace Museum.

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Bowl with flowers of the four seasons on a pink ground in painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662-1722). © National Palace Museum.

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Yixing tea bowl with flowers in painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662-1722). © National Palace Museum.

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Copper square dish in painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662-1722). © National Palace Museum.

  Decorated with imported pigments, wares with painted enamels were popular during the Kangxi reign. With the emperor's encouragement, painted enamels were applied on various materials. Can you tell the difference? These four works are respectively glassware, porcelain bowl, Yixing bowl and Copper dish. They all have decoration painted with enamels on the surface.

Testing Pieces from the Emperor's Experimental Workshop

The Kangxi Emperor adored the Western wares with painted enamels, and further began the development of new pieces locally. The exhibits reflect this development, so they can be regarded as the testing pieces from the emperor's experimental workshop in the starting stage.

 Every collection from the Qing palace in the National Palace Museum is issued with an archival number, and through the registration method from the early public period, we are able to trace the original storing location of these pieces before the 14th year of republic period (1925). The testing pieces have " lu 律" in their archival numbers, which provides us with the storing circumstance in the Jingyang Palace, Forbidden City. From the decorating glaze colours and patterns, these artworks can be divided into two categories; the first group is the rouge colour series, which was produced by craftsmen with local techniques to imitate the Western gold-red colour. The "gold" element was added into the glaze to achieve the innovative finish. The other group is with white porcelain bowls and plates, and attempting to paint polychrome figures and flowers with imported pigments on the pieces.

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Bowl with coiled chi dragon and cubic patterns, Mark of da ming hongzhi nian zhi, Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662-1722)© National Palace Museum.

This bowl is decorated with five coiled chi dragon patterns. To compare with the porcelains made from Jingdezhen during the same time and the copper-base products manufactured in Guangdong in the later period, we can approximately illustrate the phenomenon that similar coiled chi dragon patterns appeared in the reign of Kangxi, gradually becoming a trend, and then to be adorned continuously throughout the 18th century. Besides, the exterior of the bowl is painted with the cubic pattern on the background, which is formed by overlapping squares in even sizes. The blue-colour cross is placed on one side of each cubic shape, and not only does it accentuate the design, but also enriches patterns on the surface.

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Bowl with flowers on a yellow ground, Mark of da ming hongzhi nian zhi, Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662-1722). © National Palace Museum.

Bowl with portraits of Western lady and geometric pattern

Bowl with portraits of Western lady and geometric pattern, Mark of da ming hongzhi nian zhi, Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662-1722). © National Palace Museum.

Each of the four panels on this bowl is painted with a Western lady in varied facial expressions and postures. Since the painting style and technique are different from the original mainland's model, thus the period is referred to the mid-17th century and later, when the miniature portraits appeared and popularized in the development of Western painted enamels. This also indirectly responses to the descriptions from the missionary, Matteo Ripa's letter in 1716, which stated that the Kangxi Emperor demanded him and Giuseppe Castiglione to do painted enamels, and explained the Western style existing in the starting stage of imperial porcelain with painted enamels of Kangxi.

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Wine yuan cup with rouge glaze, Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662-1722). © National Palace Museum.

 Words from the Local

 Yang Ling (?-1724), who once posed as the governor of Guangdong and the governor in general of Guangdong and Guangxi. Yang had submitted three memorials to the throne (1716-1718) during his duty, and not only had he reported the purchase of Western enamel pigments that travelled through places, but also he suggested strongly in his words in repeat regarding the process of the local talents enthusiastically attempting to produce wares with painted enamels and to develop rouge pigments.

Memorial Presented by Gioroi Mamboo

Memorial Presented by Gioroi Mamboo, January 30th in the 58th year of the Kangxi reign (1719)© National Palace Museum.

Memorial presented by Cao Fu

Memorial presented by Cao Fu, February 2nd in the 59th year of the Kangxi reign (1720) © National Palace Museum.

Production Year

  None of the testing pieces in this group stated that they were made in the reign of Kangxi. The only recognizable mark is the " you xin chou nien zhi 又辛丑年製" (1721). There are some pieces marked as from the Ming dynasty. If we compare them with the standard marks from the Ming dynasty, we will recognize the marks from the reign of Yongle, Xuande, Chenghua, and Hongzhi have obvious differences to the standard marks; therefore, it is known that they are imitations of the Ming mark in a later period. Moreover, since the forms of some of these works have the characteristics of the Kangxi period, thus the earliest production year is inferred to be from the reign of Kangxi.

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Cup with rouge glaze, Mark of yongle nian zhi, Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662-1722). © National Palace Museum.

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Saucer with sky-blue glaze on the exterior and incised dragons in rouge glaze on the interior, Mark of xuande nian zhiQing dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662-1722). © National Palace Museum.

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Saucer with rouge glazeMark of da ming chenghua nian zhiQing dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662-1722). © National Palace Museum.

Bowl with flowers on a light-purple ground

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Bowl with flowers on a light-purple groundMark of da ming hongzhi nian zhiQing dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662-1722). © National Palace Museum.

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Bowl with rouge glazeMark of you xin chou nian zhiQing dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662-1722). © National Palace Museum.

Imperial Exclusive Style

In the 6th year of Yongzheng reign (1728), the Imperial workshop had eventually obtained the technique of processing enamelling pigments. The additional colour selections and abundant supply widened the possibilities for the Yongzheng Emperor to improve the style of falangcai porcelains which had focused on delivering the "elegant" and "intricate" style, and endeavoured to make a difference from the commercial products. The craftsmen had taken the surface of bowls, plates and vessels as painting canvas; apart from continuing the floral compositions of the Kangxi reign, the decoration they created had further elaborated on the depiction of landscapes, flowers and birds, sceneries, and figure portraits. The combination of the poem, painting, and stamped mark presents an exclusive style of the Imperial court that was discrete from previous eras.

Bowl with ink peonies in painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng reign (1723-1735)

Bowl with ink peonies in painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng reign (1723-1735). © National Palace Museum.

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Bowl with willows and swallows in painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng reign (1723-1735). © National Palace Museum.

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Bowl with plum blossoms and bamboo on a red ground in painted enamels, , Qing dynasty, Yongzheng reign (1723-1735). © National Palace Museum.

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Bowl with peonies in painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng reign (1723-1735). © National Palace Museum.

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Bowl with cotton roses and osmanthuses on a green ground in painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng reign (1723-1735). © National Palace Museum.

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Bowl with landscape and figure in falangcai painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng reign (1723-1735). © National Palace Museum.

Imperial Design & Craftsman's Skill

Continuing the development of the Kangxi and Yongzheng reigns (1662-1735), the porcelain with painted enamels of the Qianlong reign (1736-1795) shows the spirit of striving for new designs. From the angles of form, decoraton and collecting history, the Qianlong painted enamels could be interpreted through three sections "Connotation of Poems and Narrative of Paintings", "Novelty of Brilliance", and "Storage and Collection".

"Connotation of Poems and Narrative of Paintings" presents those painted enamels inheriting the imperial exclusive styles from the Yongzheng reign (1723-1735). The works are decorated with the divine painting-like composition by the imperial craftsmen. Including the ancients' poems and seals to match the composition, each design presents the characteristics of the previous emperor, but also changes in the details. On the contrary, yangcai porcelain produced by the Jingdezhen craft masters had incorporated the Emperor's poems into the decorations to reveal the style of this period. "Novelty of Brilliance" shows the innovative decorative ornaments appearing in the Qianlong period, including the shared motifs on yangcai porcelain and falangcai porcelain as well as the characteristics solely for each of them. "Storage and Collection" examines the extant wood storages, to retrace the process of categorizing, storing, and packaging of the old Qing court's collection and new additions of 18th-century potteries.*

Connotation of Poems.Narrative of Paintings

This group of works is characterized by decorations taking on the theme of the ancients' poetry and the auspicious meanings delivered by seal stamps. Under the regulation of the court, each step of the creation of a work, from drawings, inscription to reign marks, has a specialist responsible for it. Judged from the inscriptions, most of the works are from the previous emperor's period, and only a few are inscribed with newly selected poems. However, in terms of the interpretation and arrangement of patterns, it focuses more on the richness of the scene, whether it is on the inside or outside of a vessel and the themes are related or not. The imperial craftsmen especially wished to create a bustling and lively atmosphere for the decorative ornaments on painted enamels through the unexpected details.

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Dish with blue landscape in falangcai painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng reign (1723-1735). © National Palace Museum.

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Bowl with 'Longevity Mountain and Fortune Sea' motif in falangcai painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign (1736-1795). © National Palace Museum.

Vases in Various Styles

The development to final achievement behind accomplishing the techniques of painted enamels, as the story presented by exhibits in Gallery 207, was a success fulfilled after a series of experiments. Nonetheless, as seen from the exhibition, there are mainly plates and bowls, and it was until the Qianlong reign (1736-1795) that the vase production had gradually increased. The reason caused this transition might be more than one. However, the archival records reveal that the emperor had demanded the production of varied vases more than once, and explicitly required to have the enamelling finish, which should be regarded as one of the crucial factors.

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Vase with two handles and orchid and bamboo in falangcai painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign (1736-1795). © National Palace Museum.

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Vase with flower in falangcai painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign (1736-1795). © National Palace Museum.

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Vase with flower in falangcai painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign (1736-1795). © National Palace Museum.

Designing Pairs

Catering for the Qianlong Emperor's ideas on producing and collecting artworks in pair, the decorative arrangement on the Qianlong porcelain in falangcai painted enamels often reveals the ingenuity of one echoing to another. Take porcelain dishes with poems for example. One dish has the design on its left side while the other one has the design on its right side. Ornaments on two dishes also show slightly different techniques. The arrangement presents the feature of designing pairs.

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Dish with flower and bamboo inside a carved green exterior in falangcai painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign (1736-1795). © National Palace Museum.

Newly Selected Poems

     Since the poems complemented with paintings selected in the Yongzheng reign (1723-1735) mainly sourced from the poetry collection compiled under imperial order of the Kangxi Emperor (1662-1722), the porcelain in falangcai painted enamels produced in the Yongzheng reign could be fundamentally considered as within the same context extended from the Kangxi reign. As seen from the extant pieces, even if the selection of poem had appeared some pieces unseen in the Yongzheng reign, but generally remain within the scope of the Kangxi's poetry collection.

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Bowl with "Lantern Lit for the Peacefulness" motif in falangcai painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign (1736-1795).  © National Palace Museum.

Spotlight on Figures

With this gallbladder-shaped vase decorated with landscapes we can interpret the decorative ornaments arranged by the Imperial craft masters. The first scene begins from the bottom of the vase, depicting three long-gowned scholars standing on the riverbank ready to cross, and a boatman punting the raft from across the river. The second scene relocates to the entrance of the woodland, with a scholar leaning on his cane, followed by his valet holding a zither, as they walk to a friend's residence. Possible intention to portray the moment of dusk, the third scene captures an industrious woodcutter carrying chopped timbers on his way out of the woods; as we trace his footsteps forward, we can notice a sight-seeing figure leaning against the window.

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Gall-bladder-shaped vase with landscape in falangcai painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign (1736-1795). © National Palace Museum.

Red Landscape

The sceneries and figures painted in red falangcai pigments are known as the red landscapes. In the third year of the Qianlong reign (1738), he held a copper snuff bottle with red landscapes, and complimented on the brilliance of its drawings. As the result, the craftsmen in the imperial workshops had transferred the red landscapes onto the porcelains.

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Dish with red landscape inside a carved green exterior in falangcai painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign (1736-1795). © National Palace Museum.

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Dish with red 'Longevity Mountain and Fortune Sea' motif inside a green exterior in falangcai painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign (1736-1795). © National Palace Museum.

Towers and Pavilions in Mountains of the Immortals

Ever since the 16th century, the palaces from the Tang and Han dynasties had been embraced by the workshops in Suzhou Province as the significant inspirations to create paintings. Relatively speaking, the motif of "Towers and Pavilions in Mountains of the Immortals" appeared on the porcelain in falangcai painted enamels from the Qianlong reign should be regarded as an innovated pattern that coloured and enriched the polychrome paintings of the Yongzheng reign. According to the archives, it was no later than the 5th year of the Qianlong reign (1740) that this type of decoration had been produced.

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Bowl with landscape and pavilion in falangcai painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign (1736-1795). © National Palace Museum.

Motifs Based on Imperial Album of Painting

This porcelain vase in front of you has a similar shape with the token of backgammon ( Shuanglu ) in the ancient painting. Therefore, this vase is called Shuanglu vase. This work is coated with light blue glaze and painted with pink peach blossoms. The composition and colour remind of ‘Peach Blossoms' in the album "Gathered Fragrance of Collected Beauty" by Jiang Tingxi (1669-1732). It reflects that under the control of the emperor and the pottery supervisor, motifs on the yangcai porcelain wares produced by the Imperial kilns were designed possibly based on the imperial album of painting.

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Shuanglu vase with peach-blossom and poem on a blue ground in yangcai painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign (1736-1795). © National Palace Museum.

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Jiang Yingxi (1669-1732), Gathered Fragrance of Collected Beauty, Qing dynasty. © National Palace Museum.

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Women of the House Playing Double Sixes. Attributed to Zhou Fang (fl. late 8th c.), Tang dynasty. © National Palace Museum.

Imperial Poems by the Qianlong Emperor

Is it true? This emperor claimed that his leisure activity was writing poems. In all his life, he had written more than forty thousand pieces. As seen on the exhibits, the yangcai artworks produced in Jingdezhen are adorned with Imperial poems, with diverse contents that consist of the poems complemented with paintings that serve dual purposes, reflections and thoughts across four seasons, and even sights while crossing a bridge.

Guanyin vase with landscape and figure in yangcai painted enamels

Guanyin vase with landscape and figure in yangcai painted enamels, with Imperial poem by the Qianlong Emperor, Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign (1736-1795). © National Palace Museum.

Foot-revolving Bowl

 On the bottom of a bowl in general, there is a platform to have contact with the tabletop, which in pottery terms is named the "ring foot", and so the bowl with a body could be revolving on the ring foot is known as the "foot-revolving bowl." In 1744, Tang Ying presented nine styles of porcelains including the double-layered vase with open works and intricate revolving design. In the following year (1745), the Archive of the Imperial Workshop also recorded a piece of "large stemmed bowl with poem and landscape in yangcai painted enamels on a stand", due to the close timings of these two events, which reveals the production timeline of this type of artworks.

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Revolving bowl with "Finding Pleasure in a Fishing Village" motif in yangcai painted enamels, Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign (1736-1795). © National Palace Museum.

 

 

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