Ewer and Cover

Kangxi period
Near Eastern market, Circa 1700
Reference #: P7188

Height: 7 1/2 inches (19.1 cm.)

Collection of Markgrafen and Grossherzöge von Baden, Baden-Baden

The luminous black glaze which decorates this ewer and the following teapot had been used since Ming times but is best known on export items to the West during the Kangxi reign. The dark, glassy surface became known as “noir miroir” or “mirror black” and was the result of a time-consuming technical process. Composed of a mixture of iron oxide and cobalt manganese, the glaze was applied layer upon layer and fired at a high temperature between each application.1 The combination of the gilt designs silhouetted against broad expanses of black created a distinguished genre of wares. As the eighteenth century progressed the quality of the black glaze deteriorated, but the striking and fine monochrome was revived in the nineteenth century.
The “noir miroir” glaze seems to have been favored on teapots and ewers, as well as on the high-shouldered rouleau-form.2 The dark, monochrome “powder blue” glaze (see cat. no. 6) was also used similarly with gilt designs, on many of the same forms that appear with the “noir miroir.” A common characteristic of these black and powder blue wares is the white edge of the covers, that stands out in bright contrast to the dark tone of the glaze.
The elongated, pear-form of this ewer, with the curving handle and s-form support, as well as the pointed, bud-form knop suggests that is was modeled after a Near-Eastern shape. Decorated with gilt peonies and chrysanthemums, the elegant shape echoes other Persian forms, such as rose water sprinklers, also created in Chinese porcelain for export during the Kangxi period.

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