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Beaker and Saucer

by Shirley Pu

Unidentified artist
Beaker and Saucer, c.1735-45
Pierced porcelain with polychrome decoration Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Gift of Richard D. Pardue in memory of Herbert F. Shatzman

This beaker and saucer date to the Qianlong period (1736-1795), considered the height of quality ceramic production in Qing dynasty China. It bears the famille rose (French for “the pink family”) enamel typical of the period, introduced in the late 1720s during the Yongzheng period (1723-1735). While the decorations follow the classic use of opaque white enamel as a base, the use of dark outlines is an innovation of the Qianlong period. The Qianlong term for famille rose was yangcai, Mandarin for “foreign colors,” referring possibly to the popularity exported pieces with this technique had in European markets.

The floral motif on the saucer and cup is a Chinese design. Flowers were a common decoration due to their universality. The exterior of the cup and saucer are covered in a reticulated honeycomb pattern, with the exception of a painted chrysanthemum on the cup with reticulated petals. This technique of creating reticulated or pierced porcelain is of Chinese origin and known as linglong or guigong, meaning “devil’s work.” The form of the beaker and saucer indicate they were likely produced for export, as Chinese teacups paired with saucers were typically in the form of gaiwan, shorter and wider cups with lids.

The beginning of the 18th century saw the establishment of several European East India companies in Canton (now known as Guangzhou), increasing the export of porcelain from China. At the same time, the appearance of European porcelain manufacturers such as Meissen in 1710 would lead to the decline of demand for Chinese porcelain in the second half of the century. The emergence of the new American market, however, ensured that global exports of porcelain remained high.



Li, Huibing. “Porcelain Exportation and Production in China.” Gotheborg. Accessed April 13, 2017.

Nilsson, Jan Erik. “Famille Rose.” Gotheborg. Accessed April 13, 2017.

Nilsson, Jan Erik. “Reticulated.” Gotheborg. Accessed April 13, 2017.

Chinese Art: A Guide to Motifs and Visual Imagery, by Patricia Bjaaland Welch


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