Teapot

ARTIST / MAKER: Unknown
DATE: 18th century (made)
PLACE: China (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Enamelled copper alloy, painted
COLLECTION NUMBER: 601

Metal vessels painted in enamels were first produced in Limoges (France) from ca.1470. The techniques were transmitted to Asia through the arrival of French Jesuit missionaries in the 17th century. In 1693, under Emperor Kangxi’s reign, specialised workshops were established in the Forbidden City to produce metal vessels finely painted in enamels for court use. Originally referred to in China as ‘foreign porcelain’ (yangci 洋瓷), vast quantities of enamelled metal wares for both domestic and export markets were produced in private workshops throughout Canton, from which the term ‘Canton enamel’ originates.

The brightly coloured decoration is achieved by covering the surface of the metal vessel with a background layer of white enamel paste which is then fired to fuse the materials. The surface is then painted in coloured enamels and fired once more. The decoration was often European in nature as a result of the influence of the French examples leading some examples to show caricatured figures and scenes. This teapot is painted with auspicious objects and luxury goods often displayed in a Chinese scholar’s studio, such as coral branches, peacock feathers, musical instruments, tea and wine pots.