This Chinese export porcelain teapot is decorated with fine grisaille scenes. En grisaille refers to a style of monochromatic painting in shades of grey, used especially for the depiction of relief sculpture or for 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. The decorative bands depict stylised peacocks, a symbol of the Ming dynasty representing power and divinity, as well as an auspicious symbol of happiness and intelligence.
The body of the teapot features incised relief in the shape of a lotus flower, a technique known as anhua (‘secret’ or ‘veiled’) and refers to decoration which was carved, incised, or impressed onto the porcelain before glazing and firing. This type of decoration was first used by Chinese potters during the Song dynasty for white wares, such as Ding or Qinbai porcelain. The lotus, representing purity, reinforces the symbolism of the decoration of the teapot while the delicacy of the incised ornament would have appealed to the Western market, for which this teapot was produced.