Europe – China – Europe: The Communication of the Painted Enamel Craft in 17th and 18th Century Xu Xiaodong



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Europe – China – Europe: The Communication of the Painted Enamel Craft in 17th and 18th Century

Xu Xiaodong

The enamel craft originated from Europe.1 The cloisonné enamel craft, which can be traced back to the old Mycenaen culture, flourished in Byzantium from middle 9th century to 1204 (when Crusade took over Constantinople), with Constantinople being its centre. The cloisonné enamel was also crafted in the surrounding areas of Constantinople (and remained so after the extinction of the Empire), such as Kiev, Georgia, Venice and Iran. Celtics had utilized the Champleve enamel craft on the copper long before Rome took over the west Europe. The same craft could also be found in the Rome-Britain decorative art. In the 12th century Byzantium, Champleve enamel took the place of cloisonné enamel and became the important means of expression of religious arts. This champleve craft was popular in middle France, Spain and England up till 14th century. 2The painted enamel craft is developed from the cloisonne enamel and champleve. This craft originated from France, Netherlands and Italy in the 15th century. Limoges (France) is renowned for the high production of the painted enamel.



1. Europe – China: The Introduction and Practice of the Painted Enamel Craft

The current studies suggested that the cloisonné enamel was introduced to China as the Mongol army was on its Western Expedition.3 The introduction, production and using condition of the Cloisonné enamel in Yuan Dynasty cannot be reconstructed due to the lack of the document and the material object. The Cloisonné enamel in Ming Dynasty can only be found in the collection of the Qing Court. The production and use of the Cloisonné enamel in this period were concentrated in the Imperial House. The popular production and use of the enamel can be occasionally found in the documents of the Ming Dynasty: 4“… painted on the copper, then fired with chemicals into colorful being, similar to the enamel. It usually can be seen on the incense burner, vase, box and bowl. The ware is suitable for the women who use it in their boudoirs, but not proper for the literal man to place it in the study. It’s also called ‘Guiguojiao’. People from Yunnan often use this craft to produce wine cup in the capital today. It’s also known as ‘Guiguoqian’. The pieces produced by the Palace Workshops are extremely glossy and lovely”. Up till now, no material object of Ming folk enamel ware has been reported. In the 12th and 13th century Europe, Cloisonné enamel was popular in Byzantium Empire. While in other European countries, champleve enamel was more frequently seen. Theoretically speaking, Mongol armies were likely to know both of the enamel crafts. Nevertheless, no champleve enamel ware of Yuan Dynasty has been found yet, and only one champleve enamel ware of Ming Dynasty has been reported. In Qing Dynasty, the amount of the Cloisonné enamel and the painted enamel outnumbered that of the champleve enamel.

The painted enamel craft was introduced to China from the West in around 1680s.5 At that time, the metal-bodied painted enamel was popular in France and Germany, while the glass-bodied painted enamel was popular in Venice, Italy. The production of other types of enamel, such as the metal-bodied transparent enamel and the relief enamel were also common in the European countries.

The Emperor Kangxi is the promoter of the enamel introduction. The small pieces of the Italian and French painted enamel brought by the European envoys and missionaries were the direct inducement of the painted enamel practice in Qing Kangxi years. In the 23rd year of Kangxi (A.D. 1684), when the Emperor was on his first Southern Inspection Tour, he received an Italian named Jean Domenico Gabianix (1623-1696) and a French named Jean Valatx (1599-1696) in Nanjing. The tribute these two foreigners offered was a snuff bottle enclosed in a painted enamel box.6 This is the earliest and the most precise record of the western enamel in China. On July 23 rd, the 26th year of Kangxi (1687), a French missionary delegation was carefully chosen and sent to China by Louis XIV. This delegation was led by Jean de Fontenay (1643-1710) and they arrived in Ningbo. The painted enamel was the gift they brought with.7 In 1700, Vatican designed a present list for the Chinese Emperor. The list included a small set of enamel wares and the silver products used for black enamel decoration.8 The Chinese Emperor was very attracted to the European painted enamel. In a letter written on August 25th, Fontenay reported to France that the painted enamel was very popular in China and he longed for more.9 In 1705, the envoy Maillard de Tournon (1688-1710), who was designated by the Pope, came to China. After the meeting with the Emperor Kangxi, Tournon wrote to the Pope that the small delicate enamel was cherished in China. The Venice enamel, especially the enamel snuff bottle was extremely popular.10

Two or three years after the arrival of the French delegation, the Palace Workshops began to produce its own painted enamel. Jean- François Gerbillon reported in a letter written on 30th November, 1691, that the Emperor Kangxi craved for clocks, especially the small enamel clocks. The Emperor wanted to find someone who exactly knew how to produce enamel and glass.11 In the letter written on 11th December, the same year, Gerbillon demanded an artist who understood the production of enamel, glass and crystal be sent to China.12 The enamel quoted in the two letters should refer to the painted enamel and transparent enamel. The correspondence of the missionaries witnessed the demand of the enamel and glass craftsman for China, which reflect the urgent need of the Emperor Kangxi.

In the 32nd year of Kangxi (1693), the Emperor sent Baijin to the Versailles with the purpose of bringing the artists, especially the enamel artists and scientists to China.13 In the same year, the Palace Workshops enlarged its establishment and officially set up Fourteen Workshops, in which the Enamel Workshop was included.14

To the Emperor’s disappointment, France didn’t send any enamel specialist. But a glass factory was established in Beijing. This factory was subordinate to the Palace Workshops and was under the direct supervision of a Bavarian Jesuit Kilian Stumpf (1655-1720). The development of the painted enamel in China was closely related to the glass in the very beginning. Parts of the first experiments on the painted enamel, if not all of them, were conducted in the glass factory. Fontenay wrote a letter to Venice on 31st October, the 35th year of Kangxi (1696), in which he reported: “On the open space next to our housing, a beautiful glass factory is under construction … according to the will of the Emperor, the Priest Kilian is in charge of the construction. I request one or two craftsmen with consummate skills be sent here from our excellent glass factories as soon as possible … and a painted enameller be sent here, too.”15 On December 15th, the same year, Fontenay wrote an urgent letter to France, asking two types of specialists be sent to the glass factory in China: the enamellers and the glass experts, for the Emperor Kangxi was in need of them. On 31st, Fontenay reasserted his request that an excellent enamel specialist should be found to assist Kilian.16 In the following year, i.e. 1697, Baijin was sent to France again. The Emperor Kangxi asked him to bring more artists to China, especially the enamel artists.17 In the 49th year of Kangxi (1710), the musician Teodorico Pedrini (1671-1746) was sent to China along with Ma Guoxian. In his letter to the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide in 1711, Pedrini demanded that the craftsmen who had excellent skills on gold-bodied and silver-bodied enamel be sent (to Beijing). The Jesuit Joao Moura (1681-1726) also claimed in a letter written in 1717 that Kilian should not only teach the glass production in the factory, but also the production of the enamel.18 The evidences suggest that after the foundation of the glass factory, the production of the glassware, enamel color and the painted enamel have been explored positively. However, the lack of the professionals remained as the biggest problem.

In the 56th year of Kangxi (1717), the missionaries in Beijing wrote to Vatican and asked the craftsman, who knew the firing of the enamel, be sent from France the next year to serve the Emperor. On May 12th, the 58th year of Kangxi (1719), the French missionary Jean Baptiste Gravereau (1690-1762) arrived in Guangzhou. On June 18th, he was accompanied by the Customs to Beijing.19 But Gravereau’s skills on enamel firing didn’t satisfy the Emperor Kangxi: “The enamel ware produced by the man is no better than that in the Palace Workshops. His skills need improving.”20 This could also be evidence by a letter of the French missionary Joseph de Mailla (1669-1748), which was written from Jehol to Paris on October 26th, the 59th year of Kangxi (1720):

“It could have been better if Gravereau had learned some skills on enamel in Europe before he came, just like Etienne Rousset (1689-1758) had learned medical skills … It has not been five or six years after the Chinese craftsmen experimented on the enamel production, but they have made considerable progresses … the Emperor found him a good painter, but the Emperor wished he had more enamel skills”21 “The enamel colors made China can barely be used”.22

The correspondences of Mailla provide information on at least four levels: 1. The painted enamel craftsmanship of the Palace Workshops at that time had reached a certain level; 2. The Palace Workshops had begun the enamel color firing; 3. The western painted enamel skills were superior to that of China; 4. Gravereau was not experienced in enamel production.

Gravereau left Beijing three years later. But the attempt to find the western painted enamel experts was never suspended. On November 6th, the 5th year of Yongzheng (1727), Stefano Signorini wrote to the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide and earnestly requested that enamel experts, painters and copper plate engravers be sent to Beijing. On November 9th, the 6th year of Yongzheng (1726), Ignatius Koegler (1680-1746) wrote to Munich: “the task of top priority now is to look for a competent craftsman on the painted enamel, for the painted enamel ware is extremely popular in the Court. The Emperor himself is obsessed with it”. On September 23rd, the 7th year of Yongzheng (1729), the meeting memorandum of the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide reported that the Thirteenth Prince wanted to find an excellent painted enamel craftsman, because the Emperor Yongzheng appreciated the technique. The chosen one should be a professional in the artistic field and should be proficient at firing, which the Chinese didn’t grasp. But the man who meets the requirements has not been found.23 Feeling nothing they can do, the missionaries in Beijing then asked for practical artistic books as their guidance and reference. The French missionary Antoine Gaubil (1689-1759) wrote on September 23rd, the 9th year of Yongzheng (1732): “we are in need of the artist books, such as books about potter wheel, watch making, enamel and glass, etc. These books are very useful here”.24

The lack of the painted enamel experts and the dependence on the western enamel color make the practice of the painted enamel in the Qing Court very difficult. Taking the western painted enamel as the model and referring to the related books, the Palace Workshops mainly experimented on the western painted enamel by combining the imported enamel color with the traditional Chinese ceramic glazes technique and firing experiences. Delegated by the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide, the Neapolitan priest Matteo Ripa (1682-1745) arrived in China in the 49th year of Kangxi (1710). One of his diaries which was written in the Garden of Everlasting Spring in March, the 55th year of Kangxi (1716) reads: “The Emperor is enchanted by our European enamels and the new crafts on the enamel painting. He tried every means to introduce the painted enamel technique to his workshops which he had set up for this purpose long time ago. The colors which were used to paint on the china in the old time and the European enamel vessels the Emperor managed to get make the painted enamel production feasible. The Emperor instructed me and Lang shining (Giuseppe Castiglione) to paint with enamel colors.”25

The potters from Jingdezhen directly took part in the painted enamel practice in the Qing Court. The archives of the Palace Workshops in the 3rd and 7th year of Yongzheng (1725; 1729) read: “On September 13th (the 3rd year of Yongzheng), Yuanwai Lang Haiwang wrote to the Prince Yi: all the porcelain craftsmen were sent back to Jiangxi in August, but Song Sanji, the painted porcelain craftsman, was willing to render a service to the Workshops. We ordered him to do the painted enamel in the Enamel Workshop and he proved himself an excellent craftsman”26 “On July 9th, (the 7th year of Yongzheng), a note from Yuan Ming Yuan said: on the 8th, Nian Xiyao, who was instructed by the Prince Yi, sent two painted enamel craftsmen: Zhou Yue and Wu Shiqi; one specialist who knew sufflation glazing and enamel firing: Hu Da. The following stuff were sent at the same time: two hundred fine bamboo brushes, the yellowish brown color three jins, twelve liangs; the snow white color three jins, four liangs; the green color one jin; the white silk and red color one jin; the white silk and balck color eight liangs. Langzhong Hai Wang followed the Emperor’s instructions: keep well the enamel colors and use them only when in needs. Zhou Yue and other two people should inspect the Enamel Workshop.”27 Nian Xiyao was the Pottery Supervision Official in Jiangxi then.

It was not until about 1711 that the Qing Court succeeded in producing the metal-bodied or the porcelain-bodied painted enamel, while the first glass-bodied painted enamel may be produced earlier than 1706.28 The years around 55th of Kangxi (1716) saw the breakthrough on the painted enamel technique of the Qing Court. In the 55th year of Kangxi (1716), the Provincial Governor of Guangxi Chen Yuanlong was bestowed by the Emperor “a five-color red glass enamel snuff bottle made by the imperial order”.29 On February 15th, the 56th year of Kangxi (1717), the Governor of Zhili Zhao Hongxie was granted by the Emperor “an enamel bowl with cover”. In the 57th year of Kangxi (1718), the Chief Commander of Guangxi Zuo Shiyong was granted by the Emperor an enamel water holder and an enamel snuff bottle, the Viceroy of Liangguang Yanglin was granted a turquoise inkstone enclosed in an enamel box, an enamel water holder, an enamel snuff bottle and an enamel bowl with cover. In the 58th year of Kangxi (1719), the Emperor awarded Macao seven enamel wares. In the following year (1720), the Emperor again granted Yanglin an enamel bowl.30 These painted enamel wares were all made by the Palace Workshops.

It can be said that the Emperor Kangxi spared great effort to introduce the painted enamel technique, while the Emperor Yongzheng contributed a lot to the improvement of the quality and taste of the painted enamel. Starting from the scratch in the Qing Court, the painted enamel developed into sophistication in the later years of Kangxi. This cost decades of years’ efforts. However, the Emperor Yongzheng realized that: “we have not enough time to elevate the enamel producing to a delicate level, but we will produce excellent ones in the future”.31 The Emperor Yongzheng and the Prince of Yi advanced the quality of each process of the painted enamel by improving the crafts of enamel refining, firing and painting. The records about the western enamel colors paid as the tribute could be found in archives of Yongzheng period,32 but the refinement of the enamel color in the Qing Court had gained huge progress. In the note from Yuanmingyuan in the 6th year of Yongzheng (1728), we found that, besides the western enamel color, nine newly refined enamel colors and nine additional enamel colors were listed in details. These enamel colors had a wide range of colors: “the note from Yuanmingyuan on July 11th said: the Prince Yi delivered nine western enamel colors this month: moon white, white, yellow, green, dark green and black. There are nine western enamel colors: moon white, white, yellow, green, dark blue, light blue, pine yellow, dark green and black. Nine enamel colors are newly refined: moon white, white, yellow, light green, bright cyan, blue, turquoise, bright green and black. Nine enamel colors are newly added: soft white, beige, light pine green yellow, bisque, light green, caramel, dark grape, aeneous and pine yellow … Tell me when you find out the exact amount of the moon white and bright yellow enamel colors stored in the Palace Workshops. These enamel colors are for Nian Xiyao, who will use them to do the porcelain firing.”33

The decoration on the surface of the painted enamel decides the taste of the product. The painters in the Painting Academy, such as He Jinkun, Daiheng and Tang Zhenji were appointed to switch to enamel painting.34 Based on his own aesthetic taste, the Emperor Yongzheng made specific requests on the color, modeling, ornamentation and design of the enamel were, which directly influenced the expression and taste of the painted enamel. To make a comprehensive survey on the painted enamel in Yongzheng period, we find the modeling of the enamel graceful and the color elegant. The ornamentation is a perfect combination of poetry, calligraphy and painting. Besides the progress made in the technique, the taste of the Emperor and the direct involvement of the painters in the Court also contribute to the consummate crafts of the enamel in this period.

After six or seven years’ unremitting exploration, by the middle and late years of Yongzheng, the painted enamel technique in the Palace Workshops had made obvious improvement. Without any guidance of the western experts, the Chinese craftsmen had already mastered the procedures of enamel color refining and enamel firing. The porcelain-bodied enamel used to be produced with the enamel color directly painted on the plain body. But in the period of Yongzheng, this technique saw great improvement with the enamel color painted on the colored glaze, which denotes the further understanding on the nature of the enamel color and the precise handle on the firing temperature. Rarely has there been an equal to the exquisite enamel and famille rose porcelain of Yongzheng period.

No records on the painted enamel kiln production of the Qing Court have been reported yet. The literal parts of the eighteenth picture in the book Atlas of Pottery Making, which was drawn by the Court painter and edited by Tangying in the 8th year of Qianlong (1743), mentioned that the kilns used for enamel firing in Jingdezhen had both closed kiln and open kiln. The small pieces were burnt in the open kiln while the big ones in the closed kiln: “after the firing in the kiln, the white body porcelain is painted, which is followed by a second firing to stable the colors. We have the open kiln and the closed kiln. The small pieces are burnt in the open kiln, which is similar to the one in which enamel is burnt. The kiln is surrounded by charcoal fire and the entrance faces outward. An iron wheel supported by iron fork is set there. The porcelains are sent to the kiln accompanied with iron hook. The wheel is set on move to even out the fire and heat. The brightness of the painted color is the key element we should refer to.” The aforementioned structure of the open kiln resembles that of the traditional European muffle kiln. To be specific, it’s similar to the kiln used for the metal-bodied enamel firing. The open kiln in Jingdezhen mentioned in Atlas of Pottery Making was probably introduced there via Beijing or Guangdong in the early years of Qianlong, while the open kiln in Beijing and Guangdong were likely to be brought by the missionaries.35



2. China – Europe: The Export of the Chinese Painted Enamel and the Famille Rose Technique

2.1. The export of the porcelain-bodied painted enamel in Jingdezhen and the relation between the famille Rose technique and the European enamel painting

The painted enamel ware in Limoges (France) in the 16th century was produced with the color directly painted on the metal. Although sometimes added by red, the grey was always the dominant tone and the enamel wares mainly came in black and white. After the 17th century, a layer of white or blue enamel was painted on the metal body first, before it was fired and then painted on enamel color. This technique, which made the color brighter and enhanced the glass texture of the enamel ware, became very popular in that period. A layer of white, yellow or ruby color was fired on the body before it is painted on enamel pattern and then sent to the kiln for the second or multiple burning: this is the way how most of the painted enamel wares in Kangxi period were produced. This way, obviously, draws a lot of clues from Europe, especially the metal-bodied enamel craft of Limoges since the 17th century. Due to the technical limitations, the enamel colors were only painted on the unglazed body brought from Jingdezhen in the period of Kangxi, for the unglazed body stabilized the enamel color on the body much easier. But this also contributed to the reason why the enamel color on the enamel painted porcelain of Kangxi period were uneven. In the period of Yongzheng, as the painted enamel craft developed, the first-class white porcelain bodies, which were fired in the imperial kiln of Jingdezhen, were transported to Beijing. The Emperor himself would choose the excellent ones for the enamel painting. In the Court, the white porcelain bodies with the enamel painted on the surface were sent to the kiln for the second burning. Sometimes, the Court directly sent the samples to Jingdezhen and demanded the plain body porcelain be prepared exclusively for the Imperial Workshops.36 The exquisite egg-shell white porcelain produced in Jingdezhen created conditions for the production of the fine porcelain-bodied painted enamel of Palace Workshops in Yongzheng period.

Meanwhile, the Emperor intentionally popularized the technique of enamel porcelain from the Palace Workshops to the imperial kiln in Jingdezhen, which initiated the production of the porcelain-bodied painted enamel and famille-rose porcelain of Jingdezhen.37 In the 6th year of Yongzheng, a note from Yuanmingyuan revealed that the enamel colors made in the Court were sent to Jiangxi for the porcelain-bodied painted enamel firing.38 Inspired and influenced by the enamel, the craftsmen in the official kilns of Jingdezhen invented the famille-rose porcelain. The famille rose introduced the non-transparent white color (commonly known as glass white) of the copper-bodied enamel. This white color is blended with other colors so the mixture would present a soft and pulverized tint after burning. By controlling the proportion of the glass white, we can also adjust the shade and depth of the colors, which could make the patterns look more tridimensional. The enamel painted porcelain was of high cost, so it had always been used and enjoyed by the imperial house. Compared with the enamel painted porcelain, the famille-rose porcelain cost less. The procedures of this porcelain could be done in Jingdezhen and the output was considerable. Therefore, the famille-rose porcelain was not limited in the Court. The firing of the famille-rose porcelain began in the late period of Kangxi, i.e. the late 17th century and thrived in Yonngzheng period (1723-1735). The early 20th century also witnessed the production of this porcelain.

The enamel painting, which became popular in the 18th century Europe, was probably related to the famille rose technique in Jingdezhen. To produce the enamel painting, we first paint the enamel on the enamel body and send it to the kiln. The color blended with glass powder is then added on the enamel surface before it is burnt for the second time. The heat would melt the glass powder and make its color adhere well on the enamel surface, which causes a life-like effect of oil painting. The enamel painting is distinct from the painted enamel. As for the painted enamel, it is the enamel that we use on the metal body and also on the second painting. While for the enamel painting, it’s the enamel blended with glass powder that we use on the second painting.39 Compared with the painted enamel, the colors of enamel painting are softer and more vivid, which is similar to the effect of famille rose.

The emergence and flourish of the famille rose coincided with the enamel painting in Europe (both in the 18th century). What’s more, the enamel painting is also called Canton Enamel in the West, from which we can infer that the European enamel painting technique took references from the Chinese famille rose. The export of the porcelain, including the famille rose, in Jingdezhen, gave rise to the spread of the famille rose technique in Europe and promoted the production of the enamel painting.

As early as the 60th year of Kangxi (1722), the famille-rose porcelain in Jingdezhen was exported to the Europe, which can be verified by three oversea pieces of armorial porcelain. The first one was ordered by Sir John Lambert, who was the president of Honourable East India Company and South Sea Company. Sir John Lambert received a knighthood in 1711 and passed away in 1722. So the porcelain decorating his badge should not be later than 1722. The second one was a porcelain dish with the badges of Townshend and Harrison on it, which was custom made for their wedding ceremony in 1723. The third one was also a dish with the badges of Lord Willoughby de broke and George Verney on it. The latter one passed away in 1728. The decorative styles of the three dishes are very similar, which means they were probably produced in the same period in Jingdezhen not later than 1722.40 However, the famille-rose porcelain produced at that time was similar to wucai and still couldn’t match the enamel painted porcelain.



    1. . The export of the metal-bodied painted enamel in Guangzhou

In 1687 (the 26th year of Kangxi), Guangzhou became the third coastal port that was opened after the withdrawal of the maritime prohibition. Since the ships from the West usually landed via the city, Guangzhou had more advantages to be engaged with the western affairs when compared with other cities. When the Palace Workshops in the Forbidden City experimented on the painted enamel, Guangdong was attempting the same thing and managed to transport craftsmen to the Enamel Workshop.

On September the 10th, the 55th year of Kangxi (1716), the minion of the Governor of Guangdong Yanglin found an enameller named Pan Chun in Guangzhou … Pan was tested and the enamel he produced was of excellent quality. Yanglin ordered Pan to make enamel golden buttons and intended to present Pan and the enamel ware he produced to the Imperial Palace … Pan left for Beijing accompanied by his apprentices Huang Ruixing and Ruan Jiayou … the enamel wares produced by Pan were: one clock, two snuff bottles, eighty buttons … on September 28th … another enameller named Yang Shizhang was found. Yang’s craftsmanship was tested and proved not as good as that of Pan, but he’s qualified to assist Pan.41

On September the 9th, the 57th year of Kangxi (1718) … the Imperial College Student Long Hongjian in Guangzhou, the civilians Lin Chaokai and He Jiazhang … they knew some basic skills of enamel production. We earnestly asked to test their craftsmanship to decide whether they should be sent to Beijing to serve the Court. The minion then summoned them to the government office and had them tested. The white color they produced was pure and bright, the red color distinctive and attractive. They made a pair of shiny red cup and disk, a pair of tureens and eight painted pictures. These enamel wares were then presented as samples to the Court. Carrying with them one hundred and twenty jins of white enamel color and one jin of red enamel color, Long Hongjian and the other two people were sent to Beijing to serve their duty on September the 9th. We faithfully report this to keep you informed.42

It is thus clear to see that as the practice of the painted enamel and the enamel color of the Palace Workshops developed, the craftsmen in Guangdong were experimenting on the enamel technique at the same time, and they have grasped the basic skills on the painted enamel as well as the refinement of the enamel color. As the practice base of the painted enamel besides Beijing, Guangdong transported professionals to the Enamel Workshop in the Court and provided substantial support to the painted enamel production during the early Qing period. In 1699, the Emperor Kangxi agreed the French Society of Jesus to set up a glass factory in Guangdong.43 The glass production technique, which was introduced after the establishment of the glass factory, no doubt promoted the painted enamel technique. During the Qianlong period, Guangdong was the second best enamel producing area after Beijing. The fineness of the enamel colors produced in Guangdong once outshined that of the Palace Workshops.44

In Yongzheng years, Guangzhou presented to the Court a pair of enamel duomo, enamel snuff bottles and enamel hatstand. Besides making enamel for the Court, Guangzhou produced enamel wares for the export sales, which began no later than Yongzheng period. The order form on December 10th, 1731 (the ninth year of Yongzheng) from Charles Peers family preserved in The British Museum listed in detail the daily necessities customized in Guangzhou. Among the articles was an enamel disk, the center of which was the familial emblem of Charles Peers, with symmetrical flowers decorated on the brocade pattern along the rim.45 This shows Guangdong had begun producing the copper-bodied painted enamel for the Europe in the years of Kangxi and Yongzheng. The time when the painted enamel was massly produced for the export sales and the imperial use is probably as late as the Qianlong period.
3. Conclusion

The painted enamel technique was introduced and developed under the direct promotion of the Emperor Kangxi and Yongzheng. The practice of the painted enamel technique drew a lot of references from the traditional Chinese ceramic technology. This remarkable phenomenon was one of the important reasons that led to the success of the painted enamel in China. The porcelain-bodied painted enamel, which was inspired by the painted enamel, was the innovation of the Chinese craftsmen.

The famille rose technique, together with the painted enamel, emerged in the late years of Kangxi. They both thrived in the Yongzheng period and were massly produced in the porcelain capital Jingdezhen. The technology principle and the visual effect of the enamel painting, which rose in the 18th century Europe, resembled that of the famille rose. What’s more, the emergence of the enamel painting coincided with that of the famille rose. According to these, we can infer that the European enamel painting probably took references from the Chinese famille rose technique. The famille rose, which was only used on the porcelain body in China, was nevertheless employed on the metal body in the West. So the painted decoration on the surface of the metal-bodied painted enamel ware in China, even in the golden ages of Yongzheng and Qianlong, never achieved the smoothness and the oil painting-like effect of the European metal-bodied enamel wares in the 18th century.

The development of the painted enamel in Guangzhou was propelled by the practice of the painted enamel in the Qing Court. Besides the production of the enamel wares exclusively for the Court, Guangzhou began producing the metal-bodied enamel wares for the Europe no later than Yongzheng period. Jingdezhen began producing the porcelain-bodied enamel wares for the Europe in the late years of Kangxi. The Chinese enamel wares served not only as inter-state presents, but also as commodities for the western market.

The cloisonné enamel was introduced to China as the Mongol army was on its Western Expedition. Although the cloisonné enamel technique almost died out after the Byzantium in the West, it was well preserved and carried down in China. In the imperial workshops, such as the Imperial Supervision in Ming Dynasty and Palace Workshops in Qing Dynasty, the cloisonné enamel production had never been suspended. The situation didn’t change even when the painted enamel was in full swing. A series of patterns and tools demonstrating the full procedures of the cloisonné enamel production were bought back to Europe by the westerners in China in the early 20th century, which coincided with the popularity of the export painting demonstrating the procedures of the traditional Chinese crafts, such as ceramics and jades.

Europe – China – Europe, the process of the introduction of the enamel technique to China and its feeding back to the Europe, is a complicated and distinctive case of cross-culture technical communication.



1 Some experts think the cloisonne enamel may come from Iran and then was introduced to South Russia, Scythian countries, the Far East and Byzantium. When the cloinonne enamel technique was mature in Iran, Byzantium was newly established. See Erwin Margulies, ‘Cloisonné Enamel,’ Arthur Upham Pope and Phyllis Ackerman ed., A survey of Persian Art: from Prehistoric to the Present. Vol. II, Sasanian Period. Asia Institute of Pahlavi University, 1967, pp. 779-783.

2 Erika Speel, Dictionary of Enamelling, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 1998.

3 Yang Boda, “Analysis on the origin of the cloisonné enamel”, Palace Museum Journal, 1979: 4. p. 16-24.

4 Wang Zuo, The New Identification on the Cultural Relics, Vol 7. On Ancient Porcelain -- Arabian Porcelain, p.155. The Preliminary Chronicle on the Collection of the Books, Vol.1554, Beijing: Zhong Hua Book Company, 1985. This book was completed in Tianshun period (1457 -- 1464) of Ming Dynasty.

5 Nicolas Standaert ed., Handbook of Christianity in China, vol. one: 635-1800. Leiden·Boston·Köln: Brill, 2001. p.834.

6 Ronan, Charles E., S. J., ed., East Meets West: The Jesuits in China, 1582-1773. Chicago, 1998, p. 115.

7 Curtis, Emily Byrne (2008), p. 69.

8 Emily Byrne Curtis, “Enamels for the Kangxi Emperor,” p. 95.

9 George Loehr, “Missionary-artists at the Manchu court,” Transactions of the oriental Ceramic Society, Vol. 34, 1962-63, London: The Oriental Ceramic Society, p. 52.

10 Emily Byrne Curtis, “European contribution to the Chinese glass of the early Qing period,” p. 95 quoted in APF: SC, v. 9, 267v, February 28 or 29, 1706.

11 Emily Byrne Curtis, “Enamels for the Kangxi Emperor,” JICSQS Winter (1993), XXV: 4, p. 5 quoted in ARSI J/S 165, 149f-150v, 30.11.1691.

12 Emily Byrne Curtis, “Enamels for the Kangxi Emperor,” p. 5 quoted in ARSI J/S 165, 181f, 11.12.1691.

13 Quoted from Emily Byrne Curtis, Glass exchange between Europe and China, 1550-1800. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2008. p. 70. See Claudia von Collani ed., Joachim Bouvet S. J.: Journal des voyages. Variétés Sinologiques New Series 95, Taipei: Taipei Ricci Institute; Charles E. Ronan S. J. ed., East Meets West: The Jesuits in China, 1582-1773. p. 115.

14 Kun Gang, Records on the Laws and Systems of Qing Dynasty, Vol 1173, Book 24, 25th year of Kangxi (1899) block printed edition, Taipei: New Wenfeng Publishing Company, 1978. p. 18791; Chen Xiasheng: The Catalogue of the Enamel Wares in Ming and Qing Dynasty, p. 26. Taipei: National Palace Museum, 1999.

15 Emily Byrne Curtis, Mi Zhenfeng trans. The Glass Production in Qing Dynasty and the Workshops of the Jesuits in Canchikou, Palace Museum Journal, 2003, 1, p. 63.

16 16. Emily Byrne Curtis, “Enamels for the Kangxi Emperor,” p. 5 quoted in ARSI J/S 166, 131v, 17.10.1696、ARSI J/S 166, 136f, 31.10.1696.

17 Charles E. Ronan S. J. ed., East Meets West: The Jesuits in China, 1582-1773. p. 115.


18 Emily Byrne Curtis, “European contribution to the Chinese glass of the early Qing period,” pp. 95、96 and quoted in APF: socp, V. 26, 121F, 1711,p. 96 quoted in ARSI J/S 180, 58f, July 31, 1725.

19 The First Historical Archives, ed., The collection of the Memorials to the Thorne in Kangxi Period, Book 8, p. 506.

20 The First Historical Archives, ed., The Collection of the Memorials to the Thorne in Kangxi Period, Book 8, p. 524.

21 Michael Gillingham, Chinese Painted Enamels, Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1978, p. 6. The French missionary Jean Baptiste Gravereau arrived in China in 1719. He then went back to France in 1722 due to illness. See George Loehr, “Missionary-artists at the Manchu court,” p. 56.

22 Michael Gillingham, Chinese Painted Enamels, p. 5.

23 George Loehr, ‘Missionary-artists at the Manchu court,’ p. 59.

24 Nicolas Standaert ed., Handbook of Christianity in China, vol. one: 635-1800. p. 834.

25 Emily Byrne Curtis, “European contribution to the Chinese glass of the early Qing period,” p. 55.

26 Zhu Jiajin, “Research on the painted enamel wares of Qing Dynasty”, Palace Museum Journal, 1982: 3. p. 67-76.

27 Handicrafts Work Archives, Vol. 4. p. 99.

28 According to the diary of Andrea Candela, which was written on February 28th or 29th, 1706, the delegation of Pope were invited to appreciate the fireworks display. During the display, the Emperor Kangxi presented the special envoy Tournon a “royal glass-bodied painted enamel snuff bottle”. This snuff bottle was likely to be made by the Court on its own. Emily Byrne Curtis, “European contribution to the Chinese glass of the early Qing period,” p. 95 quoted in APF: SC, v. 9, 267v, February 28 or 29, 1706.

29 National Palace Museum, ed., Archives in the Court, the Memorials to the Thorne in Kangxi Period, Vol. 6. Taipei: National Palace Museum, 1976-77, p. 602—606.

30 The First Historical Archives, ed., The Collection of the Memorials to the Thorne in Kangxi Period, Vol. 7, p. 716; Vol. 8, p. 160-163, 342, 356, 489, 827, Beijing: The Archives Press, 1985.

31 Geng Dongsheng, “The Historical Background and the Artistic Characteristics of the Enamel Porcelain”, Cultural Relics World, 2008: 3, p. 21.

32 Handicrafts Work Archives, Vol. 1, p. 134; Liang Tingzhan, Four Books on the Oceanic Nations, Vol. 4. The Western Countries, p. 225—228. Beijing: Zhong Hua Book Company, 1997.

33 Handicrafts Work Archives, Vol. 3, p. 423, 424.

34 Handicrafts Work Archives, Vol. 2, p. 254; Vol. 5, p. 578.

35 Shi Jingfei, Witness of the Exchange between the West and the East – the Establishment of the Painted Enamel Technique in Kangxi Period, p. 65—67.

36 Handicrafts Work Archives, Vol. 5, p. 588, 589.

37 Wang Guangyao, The Construction of the Royal Kiln System in Yongzheng Period, unpublished.

38 Handicrafts Work Archives, Vol. 3, p. 424.

39 See the display board of Berlin Art Museum in 2009.

40 Harry Garner, “The origin of famille rose,”Transactions of the oriental Ceramic Society, Vol. 37, 1967-68, 1968-69, p. 11.

41 The First Historical Archives, People’s Government of Liwan District, Guangzhou, eds., The Selection of the Thirteen Hong Archives of the Qing Court, p. 7, 8. Guangzhou: Guangdong Economics Press, 2002.

42 The First Historical Archives, ed., The Collection of the Memorials to the Thorne in Kangxi Period, p. 326.

43 Emily Byrne Curtis, Glass exchange between Europe and China, 1550-1800. pp. 42-44.

44 Handicrafts Work Archives, Vol. 40, p. 200.

45 Margaret Jourdain & Soame Jenyns, Chinese export art in the Eighteenth century. London: Eudtry Life Ltd., 1950, pp. 45-46, pls. 69, 70.



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