Vase covered with Wucai

A model of the Chinese art of porcelain
This vase constitutes a paragon of the Chinese art of the china of XVIII ° century. Indeed, China became famous for its control and its refinement in the work of the ceramic, in particular the china. Porcelain  is a variety of ceramic of which composition differs from a so said “more classic” ceramic. The China is compact and waterproof. She is only made with kaolin, a naturally white primary clay, to which we add some ” porcelain stone “, a variety of silica. The work is fired around 1400C, allowing a complete vitrification, the silica having melted inside and outside. 
The shape of the vase is obtained by molding. It is then a question of fixing the covered decoration. Colors are obtained from oxides which act as colouring agents depending on the atmosphere of firing. In the case of the Chinas, we held the technique of reductive cooking; the various nuances of red being obtained from copper oxide, greens with an iron oxide, whereas blues are realized from oxide of cobalt. Decorations are slightly incised, then the covering is, which is going to become transparent with a reductive cooking. Decoration are thus revealed. 
This vase belongs to the Wucai family. The wucai are caracterised by a lack of patterns lines, but, unlike traditional blue and white chinas, Wucai defines itself by an association of 5 colors which are hand-painted. The main colors are indeed blue and the green, which are however enhanced by red, yellow, white being the fifth color. 
A period favourable to the emergence of new styles. 
Traditional blue and white porcelain is known in China since the 14th century under the Ming dynasty. This dynasty enables the access to new decorations and techniques, more and more developed, encouraged by the policy of great emperors. It may be explained by the intense development of exchanges with Europa, whose attraction for these “chinoiseries” is closely linked to the ambiant cosmopolitanism and the orientalist fashion. A new practice consisting in giving porcelain objects to the foreign courts is actually instaured by the Emperor Kangxi, contirbuting to the spread of the taste for these objects. It is then in order to answer the increasing demand of the foreign courts that new forms and new designs are created. 
Under the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), the factory of Jingdezhen establishes its superiority, introducing new patterns. It is in fact in the 15th century, under the reign of the Emperor Chenghua (1465-1487) that appear wucai decorations, category to which belongs this vase. This wucai are so successful that they become caracteristics of the reign of the Emperor Wanli (1573-1620). This object dated between 1650 and 1660 belongs however to the said period of Transition, more precisely under the dynasty T’sing, during the reign of Tchouen-tche (1644-1661).  The china is then mainly intended for a clientele of men of letters or for an export. Indeed the decorations are based on religious legends and historical litterature. 
This new decorative freedom is thus intrinsically linked to the emergence of the wucai, whose considerable progress at the end of the period of Transition are turned into designed enamels of the green family, characterized by the presence of several nuances of green.  
A very symbolic vase. 
The whole belly of the vase is figurative. All the represented scenes are successive and take probably place in a garden, each scene being separated from the other by a boulder. The vase’s neck is decorated with floral motives. The lid is ornamented too with characters in a green space. The narrative representation of the belly takes place in three stages.
The face A presents two ladies of the court face to face. Their row might be recognize in the wealth of their clothes’s designs. One of them is represented by three-quarters and holds in his right hand a branch of cherry tree, symbol of the spring, which justifies the continuation of the events presented on this china. The other women wears a purple coat. Around these women, we note the presence of male children, their sex being characterized by their hairstyle, a bald head, stocked with a tuft of hair in front. Some of these children are in movement, maybe dancing.
The face B is much more significant. Indeed the scene displays from left to right and presents the woman in purple holding in her arms a child. She is also surrounded with children among whom a yellow-dressed one plays cymbals. These characters form a procession to the right of which is held a lion. It is in fact a costume worn by two people, evoking the dance of the lion made during certain occasions as here the Children Party. This party is generally held in spring which explains the image of the cherry tree branch, symbol of the spring, on the face A of the vase. Besides, this dance is a mythological reference and belongs to a frequent ornamental directory in chinas of the period of Transition. It is indeed a dance bringing Happiness and Prosperity and which finds its origin in a myth older than the Tang period (618-907). Legend has it that one day a lion came down from his mountains to feed in a village. The adults, frightened, would have fled the village leaving behind them the hidden children. The lion attracted by these children would have aroused a wave of panic, a spring of a heavy crash, pushing him to the flight. The tradition wants that this dance of lion is made in memory of this events. Besides, the color of the lion is not insignificant. Choosing the yellow, in addition to the possible will of realism, symbolizes the kindness and the power of the emperor, testifying of a certain imperial propaganda in the well-read circles.
The face C represents the end of the procession. The woman dressed in purple is still present, surrounded with children, who are this time dancing. There is an upper register of mountains appearing of one stratum of clouds above this scene. These mountains have a double symbolism. It is above all about the legendary representation of the mountain from which the lion came down. The second symbolic is linked with the Taoism in which mountains are the vectors of the prosperity and the eternal life.
The lid of the vase is decorated with servants, recognizable in their too-large clothes and represented in a green and picturesque space. The set of decorations highlights the public for whom these chinas are intended. The symbolic representations show well that they are addressed to a public of men of letters and cultivated people, whereas the natural representations correspond to the picturesque landscapes of the very fashionable chinoiseriesin the European courts.
China  1650-1660
Height : 40 cm – Diameter 26 cm
 

 

 

 

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