The technique used for enamelling on metal-bodied ware was introduced in Guangzhou by Jesuit missionaries around 1684, when the ban on overseas trade was lifted. Guangzhou artists had been most immediately exposed to wares from Europe and had mastered the technical skills of enamel painting earlier than those working in the Palace Workshop in Beijing. In the 58th year of the Kangxi reign (1719), the French missionary and enamel specialist, Jean-Baptiste Gravereau, also known as Chen Zhongxin, was sent to Beijing by the Viceroy of Guangdong to teach enamelling techniques to craftsmen working in the Palace Workshops (see the catalogue to the exhibition Treasures from Guangdong to the Qing Court, Art Gallery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1987, p. 54).
The present bowl captures the luxuriousness and exoticism of the Western enamelling technique with the familiarity of traditional Chinese floral motifs. Closely related examples, with Kangxi yuzhi marks, include one in the Palace Museum, Beijing, included in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Metal-bodied Enamel Ware, Hong Kong, 2002, pl. 177; one from the collection of Rev. Victor Farmer, sold at Christie’s London, 8th June 2004, lot 467; another included in the Min Chiu Society Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition. Selected Treasures of Chinese Art, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1991, cat. no. 225, and subsequently sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 27th October 2003, lot 725; and a fourth bowl, from the collection of Elizabeth Halsey Dock, sold twice in our New York rooms, 1st June 1993, lot 101, and 24th March 1998, lot 459, and a third time at Christie’s Hong Kong, 31st May 2010, lot 1863.
During the Kangxi reign, porcelain designs often drew inspiration from the more developed palette and associated design scheme of Beijing enamelled wares; compare Kangxi yuzhi marked bowls of shallower form with related designs, such as one, which even includes the stippled effect on the petals, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Museum’s Special Exhibition of Famous Enamelled Painted Wares of the Ch’ing Dynasty, Taipei, 1979, cat. no. 4.
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