Arts and Culture
In 1735, the final year of the Yongzheng reign (1723–35), Tang Ying (1682–1756), superintendent of the imperial ceramic workshops, composed the Commemorative Stele on Ceramic Production, a document listing no less than fifty-seven types of ceramics that were produced under his supervision at Jingdezhen. Several of these are revivals of glazes of the past and of regional kilns, while others are explicitly described as new creations of this dynasty. This text caps a period beginning around the turn of the eighteenth century that saw unprecedented changes in color technologies across enamels, glass, and glazes. Departing from this document, my paper examines specific pieces of enameled porcelain produced for the Qing court. Instead of approaching them from a traditional art historical perspective, I take a spectrometric look at the enameling materials themselves, and trace the trajectories of the pigments that originated outside China proper and were appropriated into a new imperial decorative vocabulary. Objects produced using these pigments embody the territorial reach of the Qing court in a very literal way, and help us think through the idea of global locality. This paper questions the narratives of Western influence that underlie previous studies of the development of the so-called famille rose palette, and proposes alternative ways of understanding the fast and methodical development of colored enamels in the context of Qing empire-building.