China of All Colours: Painted Enamels on Copper
Exhibition catalogue; Chinese painted enamels on copper are an intriguing but little-studied group of wares developed during the first half of the 18th century. These brightly coloured enamelled copper pieces were created for the imperial court, domestic and export markets, and often influenced by China’s principal artistic export, porcelain. This catalogue presents a selection of shapes and decorative motifs found in the West and explores the possible links between porcelain and enamelled copper.
‘I have bought some china here … of a very particular sort; its greatest merit is being entirely new. They are of metal, enamelled inside and out with china of all colours‘.
In a letter from The Hague of 13th August 1728, the British Ambassador, Philip Dormer Stanhope regaled Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk (1689-1767), with news of an exciting discovery. Describing a very particular sort of ware, wrought in metal and painted with china of all colours, the Earl’s account is one of the earliest known records of Chinese painted enamels on copper in the West. This intriguing but little-studied group of objects were developed during the first half of the 18th century, predominately produced in the Qianlong period (1736-1795) and continuing into the 19th century. Made for the export and domestic markets, as well for the imperial courts in Beijing, this type of ware was referred to as yang ci in Chinese literally – ‘foreign porcelain’ – becoming known as ‘Canton enamel’ after the main centre of production in China. Produced in a range of forms, these copper objects were coated with an initial layer of white or turquoise enamel and over-decorated with designs in polychrome enamels, some of which are comparable to those found on Chinese porcelain. This catalogue and accompanying exhibition of over 160 enamelled copper pieces provides a valuable opportunity to study a variety of shapes and decorative motifs, to pose some questions concerning the medium’s history, while exploring the possible formal and decorative links with China’s principal artistic export, porcelain.; »This catalogue is a welcome addition to the existing literature on Chinese export art. Focusing on a relatively little know and studied area – enamel painted on copper – it provides a comprehensive survey of past works on the subject, a well documented article by Christian Jörg, and a rich catalogue subdivided in 93 entries illustrating more than 160 objects, mainly from the 18th century and collected in Europe and the Americas.(.) This catalogue will certainly become one of the standard references on Chinese painted enamels and its clear summary of previous works and a comprehensive mapping of key collections should encourage further research in the fields of technology, consumption and cultural exchange. » excerpt from the book review by Luisa Mengoni published in The Art Newspaper, section 2, number 283, October 2016.