The following is a pictorial report for your pleasure I hope. It is worth studying the 100 or so compiled images in some detail as I believe that this group of porcelains give a succinct understanding of the nature of Republic porcelains in general, that is, variety and individualism in all forms of the pieces: marks, shapes, painting, inscriptions, and colours, all within a coherent and identifiable pattern (If the compiled images to not show, try changing your browser to Chrome or Firefox).
A puce landscape per se is not new to the Late Qing and Republic period. Puce landscapes were painted on early eighteenth century ceramics both in China and in Europe. It is actually not clear whether China or Germany/France/Italy produced these landscapes first (the first Chinese puce landscape known is on a Yongzheng period bowl in the Eugene Fuller Collection at the Seattle Art Museum). Certainly it is now considered that these pink and other new-coloured enamels arose concurrently in the 1720s and 1730s in Jingdezhen under the Emperors Yongzheng and Qianlong and also at least in Germany under the patronage of Alexander ‘The Strong’. The ‘Fetes Galantes’ idealised landscapes and Chinoiseries of Frenchmen Watteau and Boucher in the late C17th and early C18th influenced puce landscapes in Europe throughout the rest of the C18th, but the landscapes on Imperial Chinese porcelains of similar vintage are most definitely Chinese in appearance and taste, as shown below.
Yongzheng period bowl from the Eugene Fuller Collection in the Seattle Art Museum. Considered to be the first Chinese puce landscape known. Each ogee cartouche on the millefleur ground holds a puce landscape with a different five character poem of the four seasons (from ‘Asiatic Art in the Seattle Art Museum’, 1973, produced by Kodansha)
The ‘Bernat’ bowl, Qianlong, sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, November 15, 1988 and, below, a close-up of a similar Qianlong bowl from the collection of T. Endo, sold by Sotheby’s Hong Kong, in April, 1997.
Even the Chinese export wares of Qianlong age show Chinese taste landscapes:
European puce land scapes of equivalent age reflect to a much greater degree the engraved landscapes so popular in France at the beginning of the C18th, see below.
Beaker from the Doccia company, Italy, 1737
A Meissen vase, Germany, porcelain 1730, decoration later, after Watteau.
Some other and later Qing forebears of the pattern:
So these earlier Qing puce coloured landscapes tend to be contained within a small cartouche, the Imperial pieces being extremely finely painted and to a set design and the export pieces less fine on all levels. After the Qianlong period it is uncommon to find puce landscapes on non-export Chinese porcelain again until the Guangxu period. This Late Qing and the subsequent Republic version is much more singular, more relaxed, a pure single colour landscape on a white ground, and when within a cartouche, that cartouche is still the main part of the overall pattern.
On a white ground, or within a white cartouche in a coloured or millefleur ground, a variety of landscapes were painted in a puce coloured enamel. More rarely an orange, green or blue enamel was used instead of puce for the landscape, but the unique aspect of this pattern is that the landscape is a monochrome and that it is over the glaze. The actual landscapes vary quite a bit, but the main elements of mountain, river, hut or pavillion, boat, and trees are usually all present (see final quote for explanation of the landscape). Sometimes a person or a more substantial dwelling is depicted but they usually remain insignificant to the grandeur of the scene. Gold rims are a feature and most items have an inscription in black or, more rarely, puce enamel. Pieces with the landscapes in cartouche are usually without an inscription.
The puce landscape pattern from the Republic or late Guangxu period is very commonly available in China today, much more so than in the West. It was obviously not exported in the same quantities as many other patterns which are common in the West and rarer in China (for example some of the Wan Shou Wu Jiang wares, millefleur wares and export dragon on turquoise ground wares).
The main items carrying this pattern are teabowls and kamcheng pots or tureens, perhaps indicating it was associated with tea (kamcheng pots were used principally to store boiled water as far as I can ascertain, although soup was also served from them; however, they ‘google’ translate as ‘porridge pots’ so perhaps they were used for congee and other breakfast foods).
Below are compiled images showing the complete range of Republic period puce landscape examples. I started with pieces from western sources over a decade ago but since searching the Chinese websites, the whole pantheon of this pattern has rapidly become apparent, and having now had many of the inscriptions translated I feel that a fairly complete overview is possible – many thanks to Mojia Li, Sydney, for these translations.
Shapes or Forms:
Tea bowls, bowls, spoons, plates, condiment sets, sauce dishes, small lidded serving bowls, tureens, nesting bowls (set of 10), brush washers, jardinieres, teapots, teacup & saucer, tea caddies, tea trays, tea sets, hat stands, vases, lidded pots and jars, narcissus trays, horseshoe cups.
Marks and statistics:
About 80% of standard puce landscape pieces have inscriptions and about 33% have no marks, the rest having private company marks. Of the 33% with no marks, 75% had inscriptions instead, many of these giving the maker’s name and/or place. So the overwhelming majority of these pieces were made in workshops, studios and companies located in several cities in Jiangxi province (e.g. Jingdezhen, Jiujiang, Nanchang) and in Shanghai. Several examples don’t have a base mark because of the inherent nature of the item, such as a tea tray or 9-piece condiment set, both of which have unglazed bases.
Development of the pattern to present day:
The pattern was not made on any large scale after 1949, but examples of later attempts at this pattern exist (there is at least one example below). During the Republic period the pattern shows no particular development or denigration through time, such as the use of stamped elements, poorer painting, addition of borders, changes in subject matter etc. The pattern is quite pure in this respect, is always hand painted and any variations reflect the individuality of the painter/workshop rather than any other element.
I have decided to divide up the images in several ways to convey the basics of this pattern. The pictures really will tell the story…..
Tea Bowls: The twenty-nine tea bowls below encapsulate the variety and individualism of Republic period ceramics:
- all are puce landscapes (except the green enamel example) with a variety of painting styles and a unique combination of landscape and figural elements. Note the differing brush styles for the landscape elements
- the enamel colour, all emulating prior examples, are of varied hues, even allowing for different photographic lighting conditions and camera settings
- almost all are painted by a different hand
- there is a multitude of different base marks, usually a private company or shop mark
- there is a recurring range of inscription phrases: these encompass praise for the interaction of the landscape and weather elements, purely descriptive four character refrains, expressions of conviviality when eating and drinking, and dedications on special occasions such as birthdays, as well as information about the painter, the location and even the calligrapher
- and each shows subtle differences in tea bowl shape
In essence, therefore, I feel that one must give much more leeway in identifying Republic period porcelains than for earlier periods – there is no ‘set’ way of standardising the usual parameters – of enamels, of subject, of calligraphy, of base marks and of shape or form. It is only when one has a multitude of examples that these kinds of comparison are possible.
Although many examples are from Chinese sources which I am not so familiar with, they are all considered authentic. The relative ubiquity of this pattern in China and its consequent effect on value help to substantiate this statement.
Green ground puce landscapes in an ogee cartouche:
This is a subset of the puce landscape group, again from a variety of makers, shapes, landscape combinations and usually without inscriptions, often without base marks as well.
Other coloured ground with puce landscapes in cartouche:
Yet another subset, where the ground colours are different, but the ogee cartouche holds a puce landscape. The ground colours are mid-blue, yellow, pale coral red and, most common, all shiny gold. A rarer form is a millefleur ground with puce landscape in a circular cartouche and the two examples I have seen both have a Jurentang mark. Another rarer form is a burgundy coloured ground with a blue coloured landscape in cartouche, an example in the next section on blue landscapes.
Landscapes in other colours:
Landscapes painted in another enamel colour form yet another subset of this pattern, most being blue enamel, with one example having a green enamel scene, another in orange, and another in grisaille.
A variety of porcelain shapes and forms in puce landscapes:
Below I have divided the images into shapes to show further the incredible range of pieces and painting styles with this pattern.
Pots and Jars:
Hat stands/Cylindrical Vases:
Lidded Serving Bowls:
Bowls of all shapes and sizes:
I hope that after looking at the range of examples above it is apparent how fascinatingly varied these Republic period porcelains can be. They are overwhelmingly utilitarian in shape and use but display a wonderful range of hand painting within a theme, and express quintessentially Chinese sayings about the landscape and even conviviality whilst eating and drinking. I believe that the popularity of this pattern is most likely a result of the influence of the Qianjiang and Literati movements at this period in China, where landscapes were again revered for their own sake and where the painters had free rein to express their delight in them, even for these more modest examples….
According to one Chinese seller: “the puce-red looks not only luxurious but also the most brilliant one among all those red colours…….belongs to imperial kilns at the end of Qing Dynasty and beginning of Republic of China…. the production usually has theme of West Lake scenery, Tengwang Pavilion, Yellow Crane Tower, Smoky Water Pavillion and other landscapes, and has the characteristic of oriental romantic charm and national features. Therefore, many famous museums in foreign countries all have the collection of this type of ceramics.”
Please feel free to correct/modify/add to the translations. Best wishes from Michaela.
Bibliography: Asiatic Art in the Seattle Art Museum A Selection and Catalogue 1973 Library of Congress No. 73-88583, Seattle Art Museum, by H. Trubner, W.J. Rathbun & C.A. Kaputa