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Artistic and Cultural Splendors of the Encounters - Innovation

Artists and craftsmen in China and France began to emulate one another in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, as a result of the direct and indirect introduction of the artistic and cultural achievements of the two states by missionaries and other individuals on both sides. Yet, they were soon to break away from the mere act of imitating to come up with innovative ideas, each nurturing brand new artistic and cultural forms. It was indeed this continued interaction that led to the emergence of many splendors in Sino-Franco encounters.

The most well-known French glassworks from the reign of Louis XIV were those produced by Bernard Perrot (1640-1709). Showcased in the exhibition are seven pieces on loan from France, of which some were done by Perrot himself while the others originate from his workshop. There are ones made using either the blowing or the modeling technique, and ones that exemplify the integration of both.

It was at this time that the rather advanced French glass craftsmanship captured the interest of Emperor Kangxi, and he soon established an imperial glass workshop at the court, which succeeded in producing glassworks of the monochrome, flashed, cut, faux-aventurine, and enameled types. Such objects were not produced exclusively for Emperor Kangxi's personal enjoyment, but were also awarded to high officials as a way of bestowing favor. Moreover, the emperor would give glassworks with painted enamels as gifts to Westerners to illustrate the Qing court's achievements in glass craftsmanship.

Emperor Kangxi's fascination with Western art was not confined to glass making; the European craft of enamel painting greatly interested him as well. His artisans and craftsmen were able to develop the technique to produce the resplendent metal-bodied painted enamelware. They also applied enamel paints to the bodies of porcelain and Yixing pottery, creating polychrome-enameled ceramics that were to be admired by generations to come.

For centuries China is world famous for the firing and production of ceramics. European missionaries who had come from afar to perform evangelism would naturally recount all that they had witnessed in China to their homelands. It follows then that descriptions of how Chinese porcelains were produced and used were certainly included in their reports.

Coupling these accounts with personal examination of Chinese porcelains and technical emulation of their production, European craftsmen would progress from imitating the decorative styles of blue and white wares to creating innovation patterns of their own, a fine example being the delicate yet magnificent lambrequin décor that emerged during King Louis XIV's reign.

In painting, a review of the works by Manchu and Han Chinese artists indicates that they, clearly at the promotion and guidance of missionaries, had employed the Western approach of perspective representation. Their existing oil paintings attest to the significance of the exchange and synthesis of Chinese and Western techniques during the period.

Potpourri (New window)

Potpourri
ca. 1700-1715
France, Saint-Cloud factory
Soft porcelain with underglaze enamel
Height: 21 cm; Diameter: 16 cm; Diameter at opening: 11 cm
Height: 19.1 cm; Diameter: 16.3 cm; Diameter at opening: 10.5 cm
Inv. 12625, Inv. 12626, purchase, 1906
Les Arts Decoratifs - Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

Gall-bladder vase with peony décor (New window)

Gall-bladder vase with peony décor
Glass, painted enamel
Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign, 1662-1722
National Palace Museum

Square plate with floral décor (New window)

Square plate with floral décor
Copper, painted enamel
Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign, 1662-1722
National Palace Museum

Vase with floral décor symbolizing prosperity (New window)

Vase with floral décor symbolizing prosperity
Copper, painted enamel
Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign, 1662-1722
National Palace Museum

Plate with floral décor (New window)

Plate with floral décor
Painted enamel on Yongle white ware
Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign, 1662-1722
National Palace Museum

Teapot with symbols of longevity (New window)

Teapot with symbols of longevity
Yixing earthenware, painted enamel
Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign, 1662-1722
National Palace Museum

Ginseng Flower (New window)

Ginseng Flower
Banda Lisha
Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign, 1662-1722
Hanging scroll, colors on paper
National Palace Museum