Tea bowl and saucer

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

This tea bowl and saucer is painted with grisaille ornament, a decorative style of Chinese export porcelain that was in high demand among 18th century Europeans. En grisaille refers to a style of monochromatic painting in shades of grey, used especially for the representation of relief sculpture or 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, Chinese painters were commissioned to copy European engravings, a practice first implemented by the Portuguese in the late 16th century. The scene depicted on this saucer of two figures chasing a peacock was likely from a Western source, although its origins remain unknown. En grisaille enamel decoration enabled the artists to copy the fine and hatched lines of the engravings effectivley, creating a distinctive style that remained popular throughout the years 1740 to 1755.