Chinese Republic porcelain, Shanghai marked landscape examples (民国瓷上海)
This is a short report on some Shanghai marked porcelains which interest me. They have a common theme, being coral red ground with gold highlights, and many have ogival shaped cartouche with landscapes in them. Most have a stamped Shanghai mark, but some examples show reign marks.
I have searched endlessly for information on the production of porcelain in Shanghai during the Republic period, but have only found snippets here and there. I’m not even sure if the Shanghai marked porcelains were made in ‘red’ kilns in Shanghai itself (as they were in Nanchang and Jiujiang) or whether they were made to order elsewhere (Jingdezhen, Nanchang, Jiujiang) and sold through the Shanghai shops.
What is apparent is that very particular patterns were made for individual shops/studios and that these are easily recognisable. The predominant Shanghai companies are Qing Hua, Shanghai Xian Shi (one of the biggest department stores in China, in Nanking Rd, Shanghai), Jian Hua Gongsi, Li Hua Gongsi, Shanghai Hua Cha Gongsi or just Hua Cha Gongsi (this is a Tea Company, but they produced porcelain tea caddies for their products), Shanghai Yi Chang Xiang, Shanghai Tai Xiang Xing Xin Bei Men Wai (and a myriad of permutations on this name, e.g. Shanghai Yan Xing Tai Dian or Shanghai Xin Bei Men Tai Xiang Xing). There are others as well, but this report is not going to be exhaustive, just a starter…..
Below are combination images of the pattern to give you an overview of the pieces. I am concentrating on those marked “Shanghai Tai Xiang Xing Chu Pin Xin Bei Men Wai” – “Most auspicious flourishing products outside the new North gate”, some also have a red ‘CHINA’ stamped mark and the last one has had the mark rubbed off at some stage (probably because the perpetrator thought that this mark made it look undesirably younger than the elements of the plate insinuated – a real pity as I believe this will be seen as a desirable mark in the future).
This was one of my first pieces with a Shanghai mark. A bowl, 11.5cmD, A coral red ground with an ogival shaped cartouche, outlined in gold enamel. The cartouche holds a handpainted landscape incorporating 2 boats on a river, tress, rocks, and birds in the sky. The rim has a thick and shiny gilt.
Alternating with the cartouche are 3 circular gilt ‘flowerballs’, again in a bright and shiny gold, all neatly handpainted.
On the reverse, the cartouche holds another landscape, very similar but also with blue-edged mountains in the background.
Detail of the landscape.
This bowl, 12.5cmD, shows a virtuoso painting of Bao Xiang Hua decoration, all in gold. Four circular medallions surround the bowl, all outlined in gold and holding 4 different characters in gold – ‘Fu Gui Chang Ming’, meaning ‘Riches, Honour and Long Life’.
Detail of the goldwork.
This bowl, 11.25cmD, part of set of 4, is interesting because although very similar to Example 1, the landscape painting is done in a different, simpler style, presumably by a different painter. Also, within this set, the painting is variable as you will see on the second bowl shown from this set.
Bowl 1, note the way that the landscape is painted, with the tree branches & foliage represented by a series of short parallel lines. This technique is seen on other landscapes from this period, but I don’t know who began this style.
More handpainted flowerballs.
Detail of the simple landscape.
Detail of the landscape painting.
This scallop edged soup plate, 22.5cmD, has five ogival cartouche, each with landscape similar to example 1.
The closeups below show the nice painting quality for both the landscapes and the Bao Xiang Hua scroll work.
This little lidded tureen, 6cmH, is a miniature delight. More finely potted than the examples above, but it is quite tiny! All the same elements, but the landscapes are simpler, just to fit.
This bowl, 10.75cmD, is of interest because it has all the elements of the Shanghai marked examples above, but has a Jiangxi mark.
Detail of the landscape.
In summary, this is a cohesive Republic period pattern, with the following elements:
- Coral red ground
- Ogival cartouche containing landscapes or Bao Xiang Hua, scrolls & chinese character medallions
- Thick and shiny gilding to rims and cartouche outlines
- Shiny gold highlights to the coral red ground, in the form of flowerballs and/or Bao Xiang Hua and scrolls
- All handpainted, except for the stamped marks
- Many have a ‘Shanghai Tai Xiang Xing Chu Pin Xin Bei Men Wai’ mark
- Other private company and Guangxu reign marks occur
I cannot be certain of the age of these pieces as there a no inscriptions. They do, however, crop up with other coral ground pieces in sale lots. Although possibly spurious, this association plus the character of the landscape painting in general makes me believe these to be 1920s-1930s in dating, although this hypothesis is just that. Any other ideas are welcome.