This Chinese export porcelain teapot is decorated with fine grisaille scenes. En grisaille refers to a style of monochromatic painting in shades of grey, often used for the depiction of relief sculpture or preparatory underpainting. A technique used in Europe since the 12th century, it was adopted around 1730 by Chinese ceramic painters decorating white porcelain wares with black line painting. As these porcelain wares were intended for export to the Western market, Chinese painters often copied scenes from European engravings and copper plate prints obtained from European merchants and missionaries, usually mythological or derived from classical antiquity to appeal to Western taste.
The print source for this teapot remains unidentified but scenes concerning the daily life of amorous couples were a popular subject on Chinese export porcelain, especially those involving a third person such as a peeping tom or fortune teller, in exterior landscapes. Such courtship scenes were also common in Dutch engravings and it draws similarities with scenes found on porcelain depicting three figures that were based on Jean-Antoine Watteau’s engravings, most notably his ‘The Embarkation for Cythera’.