Famille Verte

In the wonderfully rich and varied history of Chinese ceramics, famille verte porcelain is considered by many to be amongst its most exquisite. Literally ‘green family’, famille verte was so named by French art historian Albert Jacquemart whose classification of ceramics in the 1860s according to the colour of the enamel used remains in use to this day and includes famille jaune (yellow), famille rose (red) and famille noire (black).

Unusually for most types of wares, famille verte Chinese porcelain (typically known in China as wucai, or ‘five colours’) can be dated very accurately to Kangxi, the fourth Emperor of the Qing dynasty whose reign of 61 years between 1661 and 1722 makes him the longest reigning emperor in Chinese history. More specifically, the zenith of famille verte production was during a four-decade period between 1685 and 1725 with the majority of pieces including the famed famille verte ginger jars being made at the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen, China’s ‘porcelain city.’

Made with a highly refined paste resulting in an exceptionally fine grade of ceramic ware, famille verte Chinese porcelain is identifiable by it’s vivid green enamels and polychromatic overglaze colours including stunning yellow, red, blue and black and much less common but equally as beautiful, gold. It’s largely due to the nature of the glaze that famille verte porcelain is renowned for its unique iridescence and translucence, perhaps why it was so highly prized and desirable by late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth century European consumers and remains so today.

Available Pieces
  • M5441

    £38,500

    Chinese famille verte large biscuit porcelain seated figure of an empress, wearing elaborately decorated robes with shou characters amongst flowering lotus on scrolling branches of leaves, each character supported as a bloom on an even, bright yellow glaze, her hands clasped under a ceremonial cloth with a central phoenix bird representing the empress and supporting a fruiting peach group with leaves, her moulded neck collar in relief with aubergine leaves and her elaborate head dress with high relief birds.

  • M5578

    £9,500

    A Chinese famille verte, sancai biscuit model of a reclining figure of Li Bai leaning on his wine jar, his yellow dappled robes covering his hands under his sleeves and chin with his crossed over legs revealing his green dappled pantaloons, the wine jar also covered in a green glaze with dark glaze to his beard, hair, eyes, eyebrows and shoes, the unglazed flat base revealing the biscuit body.

  • M5580/1 

    £6,250

    Pair of Chinese famille verte sancai biscuit porcelain rhytons/libation cups, each in the form of a buffalo head with long ridged horns tied together with a rope and splashed all over with green, aubergine and yellow glaze, the eyes and horns picked out in darker glazes, the interior with a clear glaze.

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  • R1364and5

    £22,500

    A very rare pair of Chinese porcelain famille verte bottle vases, decorated over the entire surface with five blue chilong dragons, four on the body and one in high relief on a seed-green ground, with prunus flower heads in iron red, yellow, aubergine and green, the foot with a scroll band.

  • R1382

    £POA

    "May Your Happiness Reach Up To The Tips of Your Eyebrows"

  • 6. M5329

    £24,500

    Pair of Chinese famille verte biscuit porcelain scroll-weights, zhizhen, each in the form of a standing phoenix bird beside an aubergine rockwork grotto and a high-relief flowering plant unglazed in the biscuit with an elaborate green leaf, the birds with detailed relief hairwork to their necks and inside feather work to their wings, all on a green and clear-glazed ground on the rectangular base, the underside revealing muslin marks from the firing.

  • 7. M5333

    £5,800

    Chinese famille verte biscuit porcelain water-dropper, shuizhu, in the form of a Mandarin duck beside a large open lotus leaf and stem, the wing, back and tail feathers heightened in apple green, aubergine and yellow glazes, all on a green ground heightened in black enamel indicating feathers, the green large lotus leaves with relief moulded veins, the crest and beak in biscuit, with unglazed base.

  • 8. M5315

    £4,500

    Chinese famille verte, sancai, biscuit porcelain water-dropper, shuizhu, moulded in the form of Li Tieguai, seated on rockwork, his walking stick beneath his folded arms, wearing a diadem and a gourd on his back forming a water-dropper, his robes in apple green glaze, his head, arms and legs in aubergine, the rock and gourd in yellow, the base unglazed.

  • 9. M5307/M5308

    £5,800

    Pair of Chinese famille verte biscuit porcelain joss-stick holders, modelled as seated smiling boys, each with their left knee slightly raised and holding the joss-stick holder in their left hand, one wearing a yellow jacket and green pantaloons, the other wearing a green jacket and yellow pantaloons, the faces covered in a clear glaze, their hairwork heightened in deep aubergine.

  • 10. M5318

    £2,800

    Chinese famille verte, sancai, biscuit porcelain joss-stick holder, modelled as the laughing twins, He He Erxian, one standing wearing a green glazed robe holding a lotus flower left in the biscuit, the other kneeling and wearing aubergine robes holding a box, the cover left in the biscuit, all on an hexagonal raised rectangular base moulded on the front with a relief lotus flower on a cash ground between two moulded Chinese characters in relief in yellow glaze, He and He, the base unglazed.

  • 15. M5305

    £3,200

    Chinese famille verte biscuit porcelain joss-stick holder or water-dropper in the form of a standing boy holding a lingzhi branch to his right shoulder dressed in a green jacket and yellow skirt, his hair heightened in aubergine with clear glaze head, chest, arms and feet, all on a raised biscuit lotus-form stand.

  • 16. M5299

    £5,800

    Chinese famille verte, sancai, biscuit porcelain joss-stick holder modelled in the form of Budai seated beside a child holding a necklace above his raised right knee, their faces and his protruding stomach covered in a clear glaze all on a rug form base, the underside unglazed.

  • 21. M5324

    £3,800

    Chinese famille verte biscuit porcelain brush rest, bige, modelled as a curved five peak mountain moulded on the front with a fish rising among waves, the reverse with a qilin amongst plants, ingot and a coin, all on a green ground with aubergine and yellow glaze, the edge highlighted in yellow, the unglazed biscuit base slightly concave.

  • 22. M5325

    £4,200

    Chinese famille verte, sancai, biscuit porcelain water-dropper in the form of a fish leaping from a crested wave, the fish predominantly in an aubergine glaze, its tail in yellow, the waves and handle in a green glaze, the flat biscuit base unglazed.

  • 27. M5342

    £9,500

    Large Chinese famille verte biscuit porcelain sancai openwork fruit-form pyramid scroll weight, zhizhen, on a quatrefoil-lobed integral stand, with extensive fruit in green, yellow, aubergine and black glazes, amongst large vine leaves, all on an openwork rock form ground, the sancai splashed base with everted, green-glazed rim, the base unglazed.

  • 28. M5341

    £26,000

    Large pair of Chinese famille verte biscuit porcelain, sancai lotus-pod form pyramid scroll weights, zhizhen, each consisting of large lotus pods stacked amongst lotus leaves and branches with green glazed relief steepled flat ends and yellow glaze bodies, one with a small pod issuing from leaves at the top, all on quadrifoliate lobed integral stands splashed in yellow, green and aubergine, with a flat everted ridge edge and green rim, the bases unglazed.

  • 31. M5336

    £16,000

    Pair of Chinese famille verte, sancai, biscuit porcelain models of Buddhist lions, each on a raised rectangular plinth, the female with a puppy climbing at her front raised right leg, the male with an openwork reticulated brocade bowl with cash motif under his front left leg, the body with bright yellow and green glaze with detailed hairwork, the raised bases with splash glaze, the unglazed flat bases with traces of muslin from the firing, each base with a two character ink mark, gui mao, “elegant and good spirited”.

  • 32. M5309

    £2,500

    Chinese famille verte biscuit porcelain model of a seated Guanyin holding a child, her right knee raised holding a flywhisk and her left arm holding a young boy with a lotus leaf, wearing a long bead necklace, with a high cowl covering her hair tied in a raised bun, with green skirt, yellow jacket and aubergine cowl and raised girdle, the unglazed flat base with muslin marking from the firing.

Further information on Famille Verte

As well as dishes, bowls, plates vases and figurines, the famille verte ginger jar was among a collection of more luxurious items that included monteiths (large ornamental bowls used for cooling wine glasses) made for the export market. But as was commonplace, the very finest pieces of famille verte porcelain, including a number of magnificent famille verte ginger jars, were reserved for the Imperial court.

Famille verte Chinese porcelain showed off the enamellers’ skill and included exceptionally detailed depictions of flowers, animals, figurative scenes and landscapes. In addition, many are based on ancient Chinese literary sources and they would painstakingly copy the woodcut illustrations used in books. Perhaps the most famous literary depiction on famille verte porcelain, including famille verte ginger jars, is from the Romance of the Western Chamber written by Yuan dynasty playwright Wang Shifu in the thirteenth century about a young couple who fell in love in secret without parental approval, a book that is still immensely popular today.

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