Feng-huang, the phoenix, has been first mentioned in Chinese texts as far back as 2000 years BC.
The male phoenix was one of the signs of an emperor's good reign, along with the female unicorn and the five other magic creatures: The green dragon, the red bird, the white tiger and the dark warrior.
The phoenix is one of the Four Auspicious Creatures and the king of the winged animals. The male phoenix is called "Feng" and the female phoenix "Huang". The combination of both words also contains the meaning of sexual union.
The body of a phoenix also symbolizes the five human qualities: Its head represents virtue, the both wings represent duty, its back represents correct behaviour, its chest humanity and its belly reliability. Correspondingly, its feathers are often shown in five colours.
The pot shown here is a true gem and and a dazzling display of glaze painting. It is painted in a technique called "famille rose".
Size of the pot: 21 x 15,5 x 14,5 cm (17,5 cm including the tray)
The “YONGZHENG” period of the QING dynasty is famous for its sublime porcelain. The porcelain production from this period surpassed all other types of porcelain and showed the highest degree of technical abilities. The possibilities of painting porcelain, too, had reached a pinnacle. The scenes resembled paintings in their unsurpassed colorfulness.
This was made possible by newly developed color glazes. FENCAI (HUA), “delicate colors”, or RUANCAI, “soft colors”, which were known as “famille rose” in the western world, substantially extended the possibilities of painting. The already existing technique of enamel painting or painting in the five color technique YICAI (HUA) was improved by the new color glazes.
The color range was extended by two new pigments: Gold chloride originating from Europe (which created a ruby red), and a whine enamel color. The white pigment took a key role, since it could be mixed with many other pigments. This greatly extended the color palette. Mixing it with strong red resulted in rose, and from other strong colors, softer graduations could be created. The pot shown here is an excellent example for this kind of pastel or famille rose painting.
Photographs: Matteo Giordano
Pot from Matteo Giordano's collection