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Asia Unknown,
Famille Rose Chinese Bowl, n.d.
Ceramic glaze on ceramic
3 1/8 x 7 in. (7.9 x 17.8 cm)

Object Type: Ceramic
Technique: Thrown
Creation Place: Asia, China
Credit Line: Gift of the family of Deedee Rechtin
Accession Number: 2015.3.13

Famille Rose
Translation: "the pink family." Famille-rose enamels were first introduced around the end of the 1720s for use on porcelain. The best quality famille-rose export wares date from the Yongzheng period (1723-1735). The majority of the enamels are opaque or semi-opaque and do not flow when fired. The palette takes its name from a rose-colored enamel, which is a characteristic color in the palette. Other significant colors in this palette are opaque yellow and opaque white.

The palette seems to have been developed due to the influence of both European taste and demand, along with technology imported by the Jesuits who were working within the Imperial palace in Beijing.

In the last years of the Kangxi reign, foreign rouge-red oxide-based enamels were used to color flower petals. This started a trend toward a new palette (known in the West as famille rose) during the succeeding Yongzheng and Qianlong reigns. In Europe and above all, France, the emerging rococo fashion also called for softer colors in the decorations.

The famille rose is characterized by an opaque glassy white (bo li bai) enamel (lead arsenate) being employed as the base for coloring garments or flower petals and that colored enamels are either mixed with white or brushed on top of the base to created variations in tone. Typically the earlier enamels in this palette were applied with glue as its base which helped in building thick layers of enamels, while later versions were applied with the use of rue oil as a medium, which results in thinner layers.

Compared with the transparent famille verte enamels of the previous Kangxi period (kangxi wucai), this new opaque palette could be fired at a lower temperature and had a wider color range. It also appeared softer and gentler, hence its other name ruan cai (soft colors).

During the Yongzheng reign, famille rose wares reached their zenith, replacing the famille verte of the Kangxi reign and becoming the dominate palette in overglaze decoration.

During the Qianlong reign, new techniques continued to develop. Typically the details of the decoration were filled in within outlines rather than “boneless.” More colors began to appear as the background. The decoration was painted not only on a white transparent porcelain glaze but also on colored backgrounds such as yellow, blue, pink, coral red, light green, “cafe au lait” and (Batavia) brown, etc. The designs also grew increasingly complex.

In the Yongzheng reign it was known as ruancai (soft colors). In the Qianlong reign it acquired the name yangcai (foreign colors), due to the fact that this new decorative technique used many imported materials; in addition, the method of mixing pigments was also “foreign.” However, it could also refer to the popularity abroad that these gaudily decorated wares enjoyed within the export markets, which by and by overtook the market for the plain blue-and-white wares.

Fencai (powder colors) is a 19th-century term which has been further defined as being “famille rose decor against a white ground” whereas “falangcai” has become the name for “famille rose on a colored ground.” Most likely “falang” is a Chinese pronounciation of “foreign” while “cai” just means “enamels”.


ceramic with glazing

Object Description
Bowl, decorated with flowers and leaves as well as four vignettes, both inside and outside, some with people, others with flowers and birds.

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