Ca. 1820-50, 19th century
Daoguang period, Qing dynasty
Porcelain with decorations in overglaze red & grisaille
D: 20.3 cm / 8 in
From a Midwest private collection
Chinese porcelains decorated en grisaille (or “mo cai”) were commonly made for export markets, and are extremely rare to see in Chinese-taste form. This unusual and highly rare dish, however, was clearly made for the domestic Chinese market. Lightly formed in chrysanthemum form with many lobed edges, this dish features a well-painted portrait of Magu and Liu Hai, with an accompanying calligraphic inscription and a “Daoguang” seal in iron red. Its porcelain paste is fairly typical for mid-Qing.
Decorating in grisaille was a relatively novel technology in Chinese porcelain making. It did not appear in China until the 1720s, when Jesuits working in Beijing’s imperial workshops introduced the technique. The tradition of enameling on ceramics and glass was already established in Germany by late 17th early 18th century. Known as ‘Schwarzlot’ (literally, black lead), the grisaille method was developed in Nuremberg for glass decoration during the 17th century. The delicate painting process in transparent black enamel required details to be carved and scratched out using a steel needle before firing.
Please note that Chinese-taste grisaille is extremely difficult to find, and quite sought after by collections. In 2008, a mid-Qing minyao grisaille dish fetched over $11,000 at Christie’s.
Condition report: one 1 cm chip to rim, age wear / light scratches to surface, two firing stress flaws to base.