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A Chinese export album depicting the manufacture and distribution of porcelain
A Chinese export album depicting the manufacture and distribution of porcelain
A Chinese export album depicting the manufacture and distribution of porcelain
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A Chinese export album depicting the manufacture and distribution of porcelain
7 More
A Chinese export album depicting the manufacture and distribution of porcelain

LATE 18TH CENTURY

Details
A Chinese export album depicting the manufacture and distribution of porcelain
Late 18th Century
Comprising thirty-four leaves of the various stages of the manufacture and distribution of porcelain
Each leaf 30 x 29 cm., bound in an album

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Lot Essay

This series of images depicting the porcelain production is based on the Chinese tradition of Gengzhi tu, 'Illustrations of Ploughing and Weaving'. The first known example of Gengzhi tu dates back to the Song dynasty (906-1279) and is attributed to the artist Lou Zhou (1090-1162). In his album every step of the agricultural production process is illustrated and the images are accompanied by poetry.
The genre of Gengzhi tu becomes very popular in the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), when emperor Kangxi (1662-1722) commissions a Gengzhi tu album. This album is printed in 1696 and depicts the rice-production and silk cultivation in 46 scenes. The woodblock prints are made by the court painter Jiao Bingzhen (1680-1720), the accompanying poetry is done by emperor Kangxi himself. The emperors Yongzheng (r. 1723-1735) and Qianlong (r. 1735-1796) also commission such works and it is Qianlong who adds the theme of the porcelain production to the genre.
During the Qing dynasty many images depicting production processes are published. Traditionally these images are done in pen and ink and are accompanied by calligraphy. The pictures give information about the different steps in a production process, but are mostly meant to give an idealized image of the live on the Chinese countryside. The images thus combine an aesthetic function with a didactic function.

In the 18th Century the Gengzhi tu become a popular export product. Gengzhi tu are made for the export market and objects produced for Western buyers are decorated with scenes of the Gengzhi tu. These export versions are adapted to Western taste: the series are mainly published in watercolours, the calligraphy is abandoned and perspective is used. The different steps of the production process are depicted in a simplified way and placed in an idyllic setting. By the end of the 18th Century scenes depicting Western traders are added. The images glorify the trade between China and the West and appeal to the romantic image of the Orient.

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