DATE: 1723-1735 (made)
PLACE: China (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Porcelain painted with enamels

This pear shaped teapot was made in China during the Yongzheng period (1723-1735) for export. It is covered in black overglaze, save for two leaf shaped cartouches that reveal the white porcelain underneath. These provide windows onto scenes of the natural world. From one side, geese are depicted grazing and flying in a meadow, while from the other, a pink and blue wagtail is shown approaching a pink peony plant. A popular decorative motif, the peony could be symbolic of love and affection. Porcelain under the Kangxi Emperor was often only decorated with flowers, whereas Yongzheng pieces also feature birds, bamboo and rocks. The use of pink enamel was similarly novel. Brought by Europeans to China, the pigment was recreated in Imperial glass factories from about 1720.

To create this deep, rich black glaze, the porcelain piece would first be coated in dry black cobalt enamel. A copper-green, lead-based glaze would then be applied over the entire body, fusing with the enamel when fired. The teapot also bears traces of gilt scrolls which perhaps aimed to imitate luxurious lacquer, the East-Asian material highly prized in Europe.