During the Kangxi period (1661-1722), the range and quality of polychrome enamel decoration on Chinese ceramics reached its zenith. This teapot is painted in overglaze enamels in vivid shades of green, reds and yellows, a combination of colours referred to as wucai (‘many colours’). A popular style, it was produced for both the domestic and European export market. Wucai wares are often identified in the West as famille verte, a term coined by French art historian Albert Jacquemart (1808-1875) towards the end of the 19th century in his book L’Histoire de la Céramique (1873).
The painted panels on the teapot’s body include peony, prunus and chrysanthemum blossoms, three of the twelve flowers in the Chinese lunar cycle which represent the rhythm and order in nature. The arched overhandle, or bail handle, is painted to resemble wickerwork. It is thought that such handles originated from Chinese wine pots. These handles became less prevalent by 1710 due to their impracticality when pouring tea.