Chinese Famille Rose Porcelain, A Little History
Famille Rose porcelain aka “Fencai” or foreign colors were introduced to the potters and Imperial Palace during the Kangxi period. Of all the color palletes of Chinese porcelain, including export porcelain Famille Rose is by far the most popular broadly speaking.
The source? A German alchemist came up with it around 1683 by mixing colloidal gold creating Purple of Cassius named after its first creator “Cassius of Leyden. This combination allowed for a much broader range of colors, including yellows, greens, aubergine and of course red to rose. During the 19th C.French Jesuits adopted for these colors the term “Famille Rose” or family of pink.
Technical Note: Purple of Cassius is a purple pigment formed by the reaction of gold salts with tin(II) chloride.
In Germany, it was initially used to color and decorate glass.
Early Chinese Famille Rose
When Falancai was first introduced to China by Jesuit missionaries during their never-ending efforts to remain in the good favor of the Emporer it was initially used in the making of cloisonne and was quickly adopted to painted enamels on porcelain. It was an instant success at the Imperial Atelier within the Forbidden City.
The first known use of these colors on porcelain occurred toward the end of the Kangxi period (1662-1721) around 1717-1718. It was however during the succeeding Yongzheng reign (1722-1735) under the guidance of Imperial Kiln Director Tang Ying the new colors were quickly refined and used to superb effect.
Following the death of Yongzheng, his son Qianlong (1736-1795) a true patron of the arts encouraged Tan Ying to put to use his extraordinary skills and impeccable taste to further broaden how these colors could be used to legendarily great effect.
A Bit More About Famille Rose
Collecting Chinese Famille Rose Porcelain
Building a good collection of any kind requires dedication, extensive knowledge and experience, patience, and at all times using common sense when making a buying decision.
I say this as the market for Chinese art including Famille Rose porcelain is fraught with deceptively made examples created to make huge profits when sold to inexperienced collectors. The copies range from good, all the way to superb, and will fool an inexperienced buyer every time.
A You A New Collector?
There is nothing more disappointing, discouraging, and frustrating than learning you’ve spent hard-earned money on a FAKE.
A smart collector knows what they don’t know.
If you’ve been at it less than 5 or 6 years of intense study and examination of thousands of authentic items from reputable sources, you are a Newbie. It’s something that every dealer and even museum curators were at one time. It’s all part of the process, and it’s fine. So save yourself hours, days, and weeks of frustration, make friends with reputable dealers and auctioneers and buy from them. You are otherwise going to make some colossal errors. Get advice before pulling out your checkbook.
Todays Chinese Potters
The best modern kilns and decorators in China’s Jindezhen area making fakes and copies today are and have been a challenge at times even for the best-experienced dealers. Many modern porcelain makers working today can run circles around 98% of the buyers in the market. One glance at the search results on Liveauctioneers, Invaluable or eBay tell just how prolific these potters are. It is breathtaking.
So, get to know some good dealers and reputable knowledgeable auctioneers who’ve been at it for a long time.
The simple fact is, an active experienced specialist dealer will see more in a month than the typical active collector will in a year or more. They also tend to have massive libraries and they know where to look when tough questions arise.
Chinese Porcelain Information Resources: Books, Museums and Catalogs.
In the collecting world in general, whether it’s about French art deco, antique fishing lures, or Chinese art, access to as much information is crucial.
It means building a library of carefully selected authoritative books, maintaining a list of online resources, and getting familiar with and joining museums that have collections that align with your area of interest.
About GOOD Books, And Catalogs From Dealers and Auction Houses
The best reference books in my opinion are the ones most sharply focussed on a specific area. While general reference volumes that cover wide swaths of the Asian and Chinese world of art are fun to browse, they are rarely terribly informative. So buy references that are focused and are packed with as many color photos as you can find.
Dealer, Museum and Auction catalogs can also often offer valuable information and insights not available in many typical books on the topic.
Lastly, join a Museum if you can. Nearly every major city in the US and EU have museums with Asian Art collections, get to know them and they you. It will be well worth your time.