Tea bowl and saucer

DATE: 1736-1795 (made)
PLACE: China (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Porcelain painted in overglaze enamels and gilt

This Chinese porcelain tea bowl and saucer were made during the Qianlong Reign (1736-1795) for export to Europe. They are decorated en grisaille, a style of monochromatic painting in shades of grey, used especially for the depiction of relief sculpture or for preparatory underpainting. A technique used in Europe since the 12th century, it was adopted by Chinese ceramic painters around 1730. To appeal to Western taste, the painters would copy scenes from European engravings and copper plate prints, and themes for these wares were often mythological or taken from classical antiquity. The saucer depicts a crowned Juno, the Ancient Roman goddess of marriage and childbirth. She holds a lotus-tipped sceptre and is seated on a cloud beside her sacred animal, the peacock. The design is based on an engraving by the French decorative artist Claude III Audran (1658-1734), who produced this as part of a series of twelve tapestry designs depicting Roman gods and goddesses as the months of the year. The tapestries were made at the Gobelins factory to decorate the apartments of the Grand Dauphin, son of King Louis XIV of France. The pattern was copied extensively onto Chinese export porcelain tea wares, and can be seen on a teapot and stand of the same period in The Chitra Collection (CCN.1236).