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( Article orginally published March 1947 by Hobbies )
This type of old china ware evidently derived its name from the City of Canton, where it was decorated. The porcelain was made in several outlying districts and brought into the city in its glazed white state.
The enamels of Canton are very similar to enamels made on copper, as the art of enameling on porcelain Driginated with the enamels of metal.
In the 18th and 19th Centuries -here was a great demand by people Df Europe and America for dinner sets, tea services, vases, etc., of Chinese porcelain, and in order to satisfy this demand the making and decorating of porcelain for export trade became a thriving business. A half century or more ago much of this china was to be found in New England, having been brought there by seafaring men whose ships plied between New England and Asiatic ports via the "Horn."
There is a vast difference between the old Canton china and that of recent years. The older pieces are heavy, but many of them have a fine bell tone when tapped. There are no marks on them, but later pieces are stamped "Canton" on the bottom.
The Rose Medallion is a very popular pattern of Cantonese, and the Standard of the decorative work varies according to the skill of the decorator. The Rose Medallion plate has a round central motive in which is a blue winged bird beside a large pink rose or peony-like flower. It is bordered by a broad band of plain gold, with four butterflies placed equi-distantly on the outside. This appears to be the key motif of the pattern, as it is identical in every piece.
The remaining surface of the plate is divided into four shell shaped medallions with scroll edges. Two opposite medallions are decorated with figures - four of them - but arranged in different positions in each scene.
Many Chinese legends were embodied in the old designs, but in later years the meaning of these decorative scenes have been forgotten even by the enamelers.
In both of the other medallions 'we find two large pink roses surrounded by leaves, a bud, fruits and butterflies. Perched on a branch are two birds - the female with blue wings, and the male which resembles a pheasant. He has the five colors of the Phoenix, but is lacking the comb on his head. This type of bird s,ym.bolizes prosperity. The butterflies stand for happiness and peace, and the three fruits - peach, pomegranate and citron - are known as the three Abundances - Long Life - Many Sons, and Happiness. The spaces around the outside of the medallion are gold colored and decorated in feathery scrolls of light green enamel. The colors used in this pattern are pink, Chinese red, brown, blue, yellow, green, and a few touches of black, thus making it very colorful. I have seen a dinner set of this pattern, brought to New England years ago by a sea captain, and on the lid of a large covered tureen, placed at the base of the handle, is the initial of the Sea Captain, made in light green enamel.
These lovely pieces are surely becoming more and more scarce with the passing of the years, and to possess some of them is a joy forever.