Tea and coffee set

DATE: 1723~1735 (made)
PLACE: China (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Porcelain painted in enamels and gilt

Porcelain production during the Yongzheng period (1723-25) took a step away from natural rustic forms and instead focused on refinement. The tea set’s soft colouring was referred to as ‘fencai’ decoration in China and became the defining porcelain style of this period.

The plethora of colour found here may have been a result of the great innovation that took place in Jingdezhen, in the early 18th century. Skilled craftsmen, no longer solely relying on imported ingredients, began to study and refine their materials to create new overglaze colours such as lavender, light green and yellow brown. The application of enamels over white porcelain was similarly novel, as during the previous Kangxi period, coloured glazes were favoured. Known in the Europe as ‘Famille Rose’, these wares were of the highest quality and were exported to Europe in vast quantities due to the ever growing demand for Chinese and Japanese porcelain.

A flurry of intricate detail, pink, white and yellow plum blossoms sprout from green and brown boughs, while straight blue leaves cut through the curvilinear design of the ground. Plum tree blossom, a favourite motif of scholars and emperors, symbolised transient beauty, hope and the end of winter.