Famille Rose Ceramics in Our Asian Art Auction

By: Dara Vandor

A rose by any other name…

Lot 123 – Famille Rose ‘Quails and Chrysanthemum’ Charger, Guangxu Mark and Possibly of the Period 粉彩菊花鹌鹑纹盘 光绪款 或光绪时期

You may have noticed examples of famille rose ceramics in many of our Asian Art auctions.

But what exactly does this term mean? Translating as “pink family,” famille rose porcelain refers to Chinese ceramics that are decorated primarily with a pink- or carmine-coloured opaque overglaze. Opaque yellow and opaque white are also used in this style to great effect. The enamel paint used in this process was originally used for decorating metal wares such as cloisonné, and was modified by the Chinese for use on porcelain during the 18 century.

Famille rose ceramics were commonly referred to by the Chinese as yangcai (洋彩) which translates to “foreign colors,” as they were introduced most likely by the Jesuits around 1685 and required the use of imported materials and techniques. It has also been suggested that the use of the word yangcai can be linked to the aesthetic’s popularity abroad as an export, which at the time overtook the demand for blue and white wares. The Rococo style was emerging in Europe around this time, and the Western desire for delicate pastel colours may have played a role in heightening demand for famille rose wares. Currently, the term fencai (粉彩), which translates to “pink color,” can be used to refer to famille rose pieces, and is nearly interchangeable with yancai—though fencai only appears in official records beginning in the 20th century.

The finest examples of famille rose are said to date from the reign of Emperor Yongzheng, also known as the Yongzheng period (1723-1735) in the Qing dynasty, replacing the famille verte as the dominant style. Famille verte, which translates as “green family,” was an assertive style emblematic of the previous Kangxi period (the reign of Emperor Kangxi, 1654-1722) and was characterized by decoration painted in shades that included yellow, blue, red, purple, and green, with green sometimes being used for the ground.

The new pigments used in famille rose ceramics could be fired at a lower temperature and gave artisans a wider colour spectrum with which to work. The resulting palette appeared to be softer and calmer than preceding styles, referred to as ruan cai(软) or “soft colours.”

The famille rose style continued with great success through the Qianlong period (Emperor Qianlong, 1735-1796) and new techniques continued to develop. Variations began to emerge: while in the earliest examples, colours were laid down on a white ground, artisans began to experiment with pigmented backgrounds such as yellow, green, blue, pink, coral, brown and taupe. Designs complexified as well.

Examples in our Current Asian Art Auction

We invite you to view several fine examples of famille rose wares in our Asian Art auction, including:

Lot 117– A Pair of Famille Rose Buddhist Wine Cups, 19th Century 粉彩八吉祥纹小杯一对晚清釉彩或为后加彩

Lot 123– A Large Famille Rose ‘Quails and Chrysanthemum’ Charger, Guangxu Mark and Possibly of the Period 粉彩菊花鹌鹑纹盘光绪款或光绪时期

Lot 224– A Small Canton Famille Rose Vase, 19th Century 广彩花口人物瓷瓶19世纪

Lot 227– A Group of Four Famille Rose Dishes, Qing Dynasty 粉彩盘一组四件清代

Lot 237– A Famille Rose ‘Deer’ Vase, Qianlong Mark, Republican Period 粉彩百鹿尊乾隆款民国

Lot 121– A Famille Rose ‘Eight Immortals’ Footed Dish, 19th Century 粉彩人物纹菱口盆19世纪

Lot 122-A Famille Rose Double Gourd Shaped Washer 粉彩葫芦纹洗

Lot 125– A Famille Rose ‘Shoulao’ Vase, Qianlong Mark 粉彩寿老纹瓶乾隆款

Lot 131– A Large Famille Rose ‘Crane and Bird’ Covered Jar, 19th Century or Later 五彩孔雀盖罐19世纪或之后

Lot 135– A Canton Famille Rose Sweetmeat Set with a Lacquer Storage Box and Cover, 19th Century 广彩果盘一组九件带漆盒19世纪

Lot 225– A Group of Three Canton Famille Rose Tea Wares, 19th Century 广彩开窗人物花鸟纹茶具一组三件19世纪

Lot 226– A Group of Three Imari Wares and One Canton Famille Rose Dish, 18/19th Century 伊万里瓷器一组及广彩镂空盘共四件18或19世纪

Lot 228– A Famille Rose Porcelain Figure of Guanyin, together with a Figure of an Immortal, Qing Dynasty and Later 人物瓷塑一组两件清代或更晚

Lot 236– A Famille Rose Porcelain ‘Phoenix’ Dish, Qianlong Mark, 19/20th Century 粉彩龙凤纹盆乾隆款19/20世纪

Auction Information

This auction is offered on online July 11-16; the auction begins to close at 2 pm EDT. Please note all transactions are in Canadian Dollars (CAN).

View the Auction.

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