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Oriental China - Famille Verte

( Originally Published 1911 )

The green family in its finest form is undoubtedly a Kang-he production, but all of the decoration was not in green. Brilliant enamel colours were combined with gilding, and flowers such as the white chrysanthemum, the lotus, the prunus are frequently found in conjunction with black speckled diapers and large panels decorated with various subjects with small reserves decorated with fishes, crabs, and prawns. Figure painting in the green family is not uncommon. Si-Wang-Mu on the borders of the Like of Gems, mounted warriors in a battle scene or simply marching, and various other military subjects are not uncommon. The ancient pine-tree and the peony are frequently met with, but it is the green, one of the most beautiful enamel colours ever need, which constitutes the attraction in this " famille verte" class, to which family belong many of the figures now known as Ming figures, such as the dog of FO, having a white body with yellow, green and gold protuberances, green head and green, grey, and red mane and tail. The bases of such figures are usually in diamond or other diapers, which may be further decorated with a single red peach blossom. The earlier Ming figures as a rule have the flesh, face arms, and hands unglazed.


A rare and very beautiful oviform Vase, containing on the body two large panels, one with a bird on the branch of a plum-tree, the other with a peony on the branch of a tree under which is a large chrysanthemum and foliage. On each side there are two other panels, one circular, the other leaf shape ; these contain as to the former insects, and the latter,cocks. All the panels are surrounded with a narrow border of yellow, black, and aubergine; the body of the vase richly enamelled with flowers and foliage in blue, green, and aubergine, on a bright black ground. At the base is a broad band of formal design in aubergine, yellow, and rouge de fer, on apple-green. At the bottom of the neck is a broad band with flowers in rouge de fer, green, blue, and aubergine, on a stippled black ground; this is divided by four reserves containing carp and other fishes in rouge de fer, green, and black, on white, the borderings of green and yellow ; under this is a band of Joo-e-heads in aubergine, blue, and green, alternately, depending from a narrow margin containing a formal design in rouge de fer and green on a black ground. The neck has two leaf-shaped panels containing river scenes; the remainder deconated in uniformity to the vase. At the top of the neck is a key design in black on green ; depending from this a wave pattern border in aubergine, black, and green ; this is repeated at the base of the neck, having unden it a narrow band containing chrysanthemums and foliage in rouge de fer, aubergine, green, and yellow on stippled green ground. The whole of the panels in rich "famille verte " colours. Kang-he period.

NOTE.—The connoisseur will at once detect in this vase qualities hardly ever met with in Chinese porcelain. The technique leaves nothing to be desired, and the quality of the enamels and porcelain is of the very highest.


The long, slim ladies figures so often found in the decoration of very fine Kang-He blue and white represent what were known to the Dutchmen as Lange Lijsen, Lange Lysen, or "slender damsels." This name is familiar in its English form of " Long Elizas." The older pieces gave these figures very large heads, which later were drawn smaller. The style of hairdressing is also different. Bearing in mind the fact that imitations continued right down through the dynasties, drawing alone cannot be relied on as an indication of age.

Our illustration is an egg-shell Lantern, one of a pair, in the finest quality "famille verte" on white. It shows a court lady and gentleman playing " Go," seated upon a terrace. At the table is also seated a nobleman of high rank, five other female figures being attendants. The remainder of the decoration is of trees with flowering branches, clouds, rocks, &c. Surrounding the neck is a diaper design in aubergine and black on a bright green ground, this band being intersected with four small reserves containing flowers in green and yellow on a white ground ; the neck has trellis design in rouge de fer on a white ground, relieved with four flowers in green and black ; the base is similarly treated, and above this is a broad band of brilliant green enamel decorated with a pencilled Grecian key design in black. Kang-he period.


The illustration is a set of three Vases of the highest quality "famille verte," square-shaped, tapering towards the base, decorated with enamel colours in which green predominates, but with fine blues, soft yellows, and black. The middle wase represents two views. On the left is a mountain stream running through a deep gorge with rocks and mountain peaks rising in the middle and far distance. In the foreground is one man riding and another walking across the bridge over the stream. On the right is a similar background of mountains. Down the stream is a boatman steering his laden boat by the aid of a pole. Nearer is a house with a lady looking out at the door. Below is a man fishing.

On the left vase there are two scenes from everyday life. One represents a man playing the Kin, or Chinese lute; below a man is talking to a boy; a horse stands behind them. The other shows two men playing "go bang" whilst a lady looks on, near them, on the other side of the hedge, two men are conversing during a walk. On the neck of the vase is a cheou or show character, meaning longevity.

On the right vase, left side, is a house in the foreground with a mountain scene stretching away in the distance. From the window of the house a Taoist is speaking with Leu Tung-pin, one of the eight immortals, whose feet are on the clouds, whilst his sword is as usual slung across his back. On the other side, high up amongst the hills, are Lange Lyzen, one of whom is dancing. Below are two dignitaries in conversation with a servant standing near. In the foreground of both sides are trees in a landscape. Kang-he period.


This example shows how faithfully the Chinese could utilise the scenes of their daily life for illustration. In this respect it is well worthy of careful study. It belongs to the Kang-he period.

A large beaker-shaped Vase of the highest quality " famille verte," finely drawn, and decorated with subjects illustrating the rice industry. Near the base is the figure of a man ploughing the rice field, with a water buffalo, in aubergine and yellow. Just above, inside a building, which is of aubergine and green, is a man sorting the rice. Again, above this, on the left, are two girls, one in a yellow robe, the other in blue, preparing the twine necessary for laying out the field. On the other side are children and women in green, yellow, and blue nobes, gathering the rice ; whilst underneath these are two men showing the process of weighing. In the centre, above this, are three other figures, one carrying the rice in a tray, and the others showing the process, of winnowing. The remainder of the body of the vase has finely drawn trees with flowering branches thickly enamelled, whilst at the top is a broad diaper-pattern band with yellow flowers on a green ground; his band has at top and bottom a narrow margin of aubergine, and is intersected with four small reserves containing utensils in green, yellow, aubergine, and black, on a white ground. The neck is similarly enamelled, and shows on one side men sowing the rice, and on the other a lady is reclining, whilst in front of her are two attendants.


Large hexagonal Arrow Stand

Although the Chinese think very highly of a life free from worldly turmoil, yet they were warriors too. Here we have a fine example of a porcelain arrow stand, decorated with raised ornament, with pierced ornament, and with fine enamel colouring. We note the peach branch emblem of marriage and long life—to which magic virtues were attributed. Possibly this emblem indicated the reward of the warrior; when his work as a soldier was finished. The presence of the immortals, again, was the expression of the universal desire for long life which has always existed in China, and the immortals, who had eaten the peach—the fruit of immortality—represent this ever-to-becoveted object. Referring to the illustration, the arrow stand is deco-rated in high relief, with peaches on branches in aubergine, rouge de fer, green, and yellow, on a white ground. At the top is a broad band richly enamelled in "famille verte" colours with flowers and foliage on a stippled ground bordered with the key design in black on bright green. Separating a band of Joo-e-heads, enamelled in yellow, blue, green, and black, is a narrow margin in plain apple-green. At the base are six reclining figures of immortals in "famille verte " colours, whilst above these is a band similar to that at the top. This is sup-ported on a hexagonal base richly enamelled with flowers in "Tamale verte" colours. Period, Kang-he.


The Vase given as an illustration belongs to the "famille verte" class, and deserves careful attention from the fact that it is useful to be able to read off the points in any given piece. Take the shape first. It is a gourd-shaped bottle with spreading mouth. On it are teen three circular panels, called also reserves or compartments. The bottom one, as may be easily seen, contains a basket of flowers with a ribbon on the top. The one on the left is filled with utensils—a word used for this kind of decoration. Note the vases with flowers, the books bound with a filet and the leaf symbol. The other round panel shows a bird on a branch of the peony in flower. Butterflies, &c., are also shown.

The groundwork of the two bulging bodies is a diaper pattern of the most elaborate curl-work, through which runs a conventional pattern of stems, leaves, and flowers of the peony.

Now begin at the spreading mouth and trace the diapers downwards. The first pattern is the " flowered honeycomb," then a small rectangular diaper. Passing to the base of the first bulge, we find a narrow t' Joo-ehead " band, below that " flowered octagons and square;"then flowered" triangle-work " in another band. Still more " flowered octagons and squares" follow, having next below a diaper of "treble scale " pattern. Last of all comes alternately a light and dark rectangular pattern. It will be noted that the diapers are broken by small " Joo-e-head " reserves painted with utensils, flowers, and views. Kang-he period. Decoration of the reserves in "famille verte."

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