A CENTIFLEUR TEA PARTY
What a wonderful pattern! It’s a bit like the millefleur pattern but the flowers are more spaced. The ground colours are more varied and in general they span the Republic period and earliest PRC period. The pictures above show most of the colours, shapes and other possibilities of this interesting pattern. The brightness of the colours is reminiscent of Straits Chinese or Peranakan wares, especially when grouped ‘en mass’, but this pattern is purely from the Chinese mainland and was produced much later than the Straits/Peranakan porcelains.
I have called the pattern ‘Centifleur’ as a derivative from millefleur. Millefleur means one thousand flowers. To me this decoration looks more like one hundred flowers. I haven’t seen the pattern specifically referred to in any Chinese or other reports, publications or blogs. However, it is a discrete pattern in itself and is immediately recognisable:
Plain ground in yellow, turquoise, pink, mid blue hues, lime green, pale yellow, brown, white, red and black.
- Sprigs or ‘slips’ of a variety of single flowers; peonies, daisies, chrysanthemums, narcissus, lotus, prunus and other blossom, morning glory, magnolia, iris, carnations/pinks, all evenly spaced across the plain ground. The large majority of examples have handpainted flowers, although the later PRC pieces are stamped and then enamelled.
- Bowls, dishes and other similar shapes are usually without any borders, but most plates have a wider than normal multi-coloured keyfret border (at least the pre PRC ones do).
- Bowls usually have a turquoise enamel interior, but some later ones are just white.
- ‘CHINA’ marks in red predominate, but dynastic (Qianlong and Guangxu) marks, Jiangxi Ming Ci and Jiangxi Chu Pin, and private company marks also occur. A few are unmarked.
ORIGINS OF THE PATTERN, THE FLOWERS: although many of the flowers look similar to those on the millefleur pattern, I believe that this pattern has its origins in mid-Qing flower patterns which had the similar flower sprigs on a plain ground, usually white. These older examples were much more delicately painted with much detail and often had grasshoppers incorporated into the decoration, see below.
THE SHAPES: as you will see below, most examples are utilitarian, with bowls, sauce dishes, spoons and plates making up the majority of shapes. Rarer are teapots, sugar bowls, vases, tea caddies etc. The bowls are almost all rice bowls, and I have only seen two teabowls in this pattern.
MARKS: The basics of the marks breakdown has been outlined above. All marks are stamped rather than handwritten. These more detailed statistics are based on 71 examples of the standard pattern (no variations) and are as follows:
- ‘CHINA’ = 55%
- Generic Jiangxi/Jingdezhen mark (usually a circle mark) = 13%
- Guangxu 6 character kaishu = 12%
- Qianlong 4 character kaishu = 5.5%
- No mark = 5.5%
- Qianlong 6 character kaishu = 3%
- Jiangxi Ming Ci/ Jiangxi Chu Pin/ Private company/ YT Hong Kong/ MADE IN CHINA Zhong Guo Chu Pin each had one example = 1.2% each
DATING: This is pretty straightforward. The rice bowls span the mid-late Republic period and the first couple of decades of the PRC period and can be differentiated therein primarily by the overall thickness of the potting and the size: the Republic period examples tend to be thinner and more delicate and slightly smaller – you can tell the difference as soon as you pick them up. The plates made in the Republic period are much thinner and finer than their later counterparts, with generally quite sharp edges where the keyfret border ends. The plates tend not to have the keyfret on PRC examples and have a thicker edge. Of course, there is the possibility that these thinner edged plates were just made by a different manufacturer during PRC times, but I consider this unlikely.
It is becoming more and more obvious that the amount of product made after the war with Japan (c.1937-1945) was comparably huge compared with both the war years and even during the 1930s. I am not so sure about the output during the 1910s and 1920s. This data comes from the increasing number of dated pieces I have been tracking and relating these dates to the changing mark details of the Republic period, more of that in another report. Anyway, I speculate that most of this pattern was made in the 1945-1959 period.
THE IMAGES: below I have compiled my standard combination photo to show the pattern in more detail and range.
VARIATIONS: There are a few of variations to the standard pattern:
1. Some of the examples have butterflies as well as flowers, specifically a turquoise ground group which have several little handpainted butterflies and flowers, painted rather better than normal. All have stamped 6 character kaishu Guangxu marks and were probably made in in the late 1950s/1960s.
2. There is a white ground grouping for less utilitarian pieces, cong vases, ginger jars, tea caddies etc. Range of dates, Republic to 1980s.
3. The centifleur pattern was also used in conjunction with gold double ‘shou’ symbols on some examples, mostly footed bowls whose age I am still struggling with. This kind of combination is reminiscent of and probably derived from the yellow ground Tongzhi wedding pattern.
I hope you all enjoyed the party! I’m not sure what food was served!