Tea bowl and saucer

DATE: 1723-1735 (made)
PLACE: China (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Moulded porcelain with applied decoration, painted in overglaze enamels

This tea bowl and saucer are modelled and painted to resemble lotus blossoms, a species of the water-lily family. In Chinese culture, the lotus is thought to represent feminine beauty and, as the flower rises from the muddy waters in which it grows, it is also considered to be a symbol of purity and truth. Lotus blossoms are often depicted as Buddha’s throne and it is the only plant included in the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism. The tea bowl is painted with petals in a closed position, which signifies that the object has auspicious potential, while the saucer is painted to depict an opened blossom, which represents an ultimate state of enlightenment in Buddhist thought. Such elaborately decorated Chinese porcelain was not intended for domestic use but rather for export to the West, where this type of decoration was deemed exotic and therefore highly fashionable.