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Oriental China - Other Enamel Colours

( Originally Published 1911 )

The decorations of the green family are rather severe in character. They might be termed Chinese classical, because they are so largely influenced by religion. The same remarks apply to the black family. The rose family, on the contrary, with its lovely borders and varied designs, generally represents familiar Chinese subjects and scenes from social life.

The enamel colours which follow are amongst the rarest and most beautiful products of China, taking rank with those pieces which are never dear, though the prices at which they are sold may be astonishing.


The coloured glazes are very numerous, but the apple-green ground is rare and consequently very much valued. Besides the painting, these pieces, having coloured grounds, are further decorated by ornament raised in relief, or pierced, when the paste is soft, with, reticulations.

The Chinese made puzzle cups with a small figure of a man inside which would hold a liquid till it reached his shoulder, when the whole of the contents were syphoned out through a hole in the bottom of the cup. They also made puzzle vases or jugs, having a raised hollow coi round the neck, which, through the handle, was connected with the interior of the vessel. The old English puzzle jug had a similar device, in which the difficulty was to drink the contents without spilling them.

Here is a Puzzle Teapot or Wine-pot in the form of peach, the Fruit of Life ; the groundwork of pale apple-green decorated with flowers in yellow, aubergine, green, and black. In the centre on either side is a large white panel containing in the one gentleman of rank with an attendant bringing him tea ; this is deco. rated in various greens, yellow, and aubergine. On the other side is house towards which is coming a flying stork ; this is enamelled in similar colours, and both panels are surrounded by a cloud design in yellow, green, aubergine, and black. The base, spout, and handle have black patches on aubergine ground; while both the latter are held to the body by branches of leaves which are in high relief and enamelled in brilliant green. Ming biscuit, so called.


An unusual form of decoration is shown in this illustration. In China the carp and perch are often found in the decoration of small reserves. Indeed, the immortals are often drawn standing upon a fish, and modelled as figures standing on fishes, crabs, or crawfish. The effects of fish culture as carried on by the Chinese is very marked in the case of the carp, which are often seen with monster-like projecting eyes and tufted or lobed tails. They are kept in garden ponds or in large jars in which are placed rocks covered with moss and water-plants, which furnish the decoration in the illustration. The wonderful drawing of the fish in all sorts of positions is to be noted. So, too, is the marvellous arrangement of the water-plants, which fall gracefully into the scheme of decoration. All is still in the deep water, but on the shoulders are the water-lilies, and above them are the waves seemingly agitated by the rough wind. To recapitulate and to give the colours we specially call attention to this fine pair of square taper-shaped vases which are in all probability unique as a pair, decorated with fishes and aquatic plants in aubergine, green, yellow, black, and white, on a pale apple-green ground ; the edges and borderings of yellow enamel. At the shoulders over each corner is a water-lily with foliage in green, yellow, and black ; the necks decorated with horses in yellow and aubergine, going through waves of green and white enamel ; the upper portion of pale apple-green. Called Lang-yao to indicate that it was discovered by Lang Ting-tso superintendent of the Imperial works at King-te-chin. This piece is Kang-he.


A double gourd-shaped Vase, of noble proportions, one of a pair, decorated with an imposing Vandyke design, containing peonies and a formal floral design in rich yellow and black enamels on a pale green ground. Each section is surrounded by a broad band of "rouge defer" containing formal flowers in white. The top of the lower portion of the vase has a broad band of diaper design containing formal flowers on various colour grounds; this band is divided with four reserves, each containing a formal design in green and " rouge de fer" on bright yellow ground. The waist of the vase has a half-section diaper design in green and " rouge de fer." Around the neck is a deep band of a bold trellis design in "rouge de fer," blue, yellow, and black. They are supported on finely chased ormolu bases of Louis XVI. period; the mounts for the lips en suite. Period, Kang-he.

Here, again, we note diaper designs. On the top of the neck is a honey-comb diaper cut with sectors of a circle forming a geometrical flower pattern, which is further decorated by white and coloured formal flowers with six petals. The top of the lower portion has the hcneycomb and square pattern decorated with geometrical flowers, whilse the lower part of the upper section has the honey-comb diaper with lines radiating from the centre so as to give a formal flower design.

Fine pieces of old Chinese porcelain are often found mounted in French ormolu. The examples from the Jones Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, are fine pieces of old Crackle porcelain with finely chased ormolu mounts.


A pair of Imperial hedge-sparrow egg tint and white Vases with a very beautiful clear glaze. The white is a series of scrolls and flowers, and geometrical designs over the whole of the body and neck. Marked on base " Kea-king." Period, 1796-1821. In these two vases may be seen some of the most delicate and beautiful work of the later period. In paste, colour, and decoration they are exquisite. The green class includes apple-green, camellia-green, Celadon, pea-green, sea-green, and turquoise-green. The delicate green, indicated by the term " hedge-sparrow egg tint," is just a shade different from all of the others, and the application of the white enamel decoration over the green is most artistic and delicate. The conventional design is based upon a flower and its leaves, though the Joo-e-head and swastika are easily seen, the former below the central flower, and two swastikas, one on each side. At the top of the neck below the lip is a diaper of Joo-eheads. The bottom of the neck has a Greek key pattern, so has the bottom rim. On the shoulder is a border of Joo-e-heads and conventional bats. The swastika is a mystical sign, with which is associated a hidden meaning of a religious kind. It is regarded as the emblem of the heart of Buddha—that is, his inner true teaching. It has also a further signification : it indicates ten thousand years. The bat and the Too-e-head are treated in the section on Symbols, but we may say that the bat is an emblem of felicity, and the Joo-e of amity and goodwill.


A very remarkable pair of aubergine flat-shaped Vases with lion -head ring handles ; the decoration is a spray of chrysanthemums in blue, green, and white, on the one side ; and a spray of hawthorn in white, aubergine, green, and blue, on the reverse, in brilliant enamels in sunk relief. Supported on carved wood stands. Extreme height, including stand, I2 1/2 inches. Ming. Aubergine is a very difficult color to describe. It is the colour of the fruit of the egg-plant, from which the name is derived. It has a remarkable range of tints, but the pre-dominant one is purple, on the one side it becomes almost sepia and on the other almost orange. It is rarely used as a ground colour as it is in this case, but it is a delightful thin wash applied when thick enamels cannot be used, and it is so transparent that a darker colour can be seen through it. Hence its frequent use in the trunks of trees and in branches of flowers where the markings of the bark may be made visible. Again, it is frequently employed in painting the roofs of houses where a wide wash gives a bold and highly decorative effect, the purple shade being transparent allows the black, in which the design is sketched to show through. In the example given not alone is the ground of aubergine, but other shades of the same colour are used in the decoration, which has this unusual feature, it is not raised, but depressed or sunk in.

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