Famille-verte Porcelain Vase with “Cursive Script” Signed Poems

Attribute to early 18th c.  22.5” H.  Has brilliant colors of Kangxi period and “Cursive Script” inscribed Poems.

This porcelain vase has the brilliant famille-verte enamel colors so famously used to decorate paintings on white-glazed porcelains of the Emperor Kangxi period (1662-1722).  The Kangxi period is noted for single colors used, meaning the individual primary colors were not blended to invert a different shade, but each single color could take on two or three tones to give vibrancy to a painted object.  Green in shaded tones occupies a conspicuous place among the characteristic colors (blue, green, yellow, red, and black) of this period, and the term of “famille verte” had its origin therein.  The inscribed poem is in the “cursive script” or “grass-hand” writing style, said to be invented by a palace eunuch of the first century to make quick writing on porcelains.  This style survived till Qing Dynasty but shortly after disappeared due to the runny, abbreviated and contracted fanciful writing by scribes got to be too difficult for the uninitiated to understand.

On the present vase, the brilliant jade green takes on two tones on the mature leaves, with new leaves painted a soft yellowish-green.  The peonies are vibrantly painted in two-toned red. The artist brushed on the colors so thickly to create depth that the flowers and leaves look like low relief decorations.  The inscribed poem in cursive script reads: “You will have the luck of Guo Ziyi with fortune and wealth until your hair turns white”.  Guo Ziyi was a famous Chinese military officer and military strategist in the Eastern Zhou period.  He was immortalized as “The God of Wealth and Happiness”.  The signature, Ziying, is inscribed alongside the poem. He was a famous ceramic maker who came to work in a palace workshop during the Qing period.  As the scribe and the ceramic artist are usually not the same person, Ziying, the ceramic master, might not be responsible for the “grass-hand” inscription on this vase.

In China, a painting of flowers and birds symbolizes the renewal of life in spring; the peony also signifies wealth.  The inscribed poem inferring to Ziyi might just mean the artist borrowed part of a well-known poem to celebrate the renewal of life and the prospect of wealth.  A pair of orange hue handles in the form of lion’s head biting a ring completes the decoration on the vase.  The bottom of the vase is not glazed, as older specimen of porcelain vases usually is the case.  A thin painted line in iron-red hue defines the rim of the foot, as well as the lip of the vase.

True seal marks on porcelains during this emperor’s reign is rare.  According to Dr. Stephen Sheldon, an English doctor for the British legation in China for many years in the 1800s, who made ceramics his avocation and wrote many books on the subject, the finest quality vases produced in the palace factory with reign marks were usually distributed among the elite class, and a profusion of porcelains of every grade produced in palace factories were made for use in the imperial court and for the emperors to give away as gifts.  Private factories then produced them to be circulated throughout the Chinese empire or exported to all parts of the world as foreigners got to appreciate Chinese porcelain.  It is not uncommon for unscrupulous factory owners to make fake seal marks on their products to try get a better price from unsuspecting buyers.  It is better to understand the fine points of pottery-making and then trust your own eyes before purchasing a piece of pottery.

This vase came out of China after the Cultural Revolution with a refugee who is a descendent of two generations of missionaries in China.  He conducted classes about ceramics and cloisonné.  This vase was part of his private collection.  We bought the vase directly from him.

Price: $7,900