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
  • M4603

    £12,000

    A Chinese porcelain famille verte teapot and cover of ribbed 'bamboo' form, the tall arch-shape handle of ribbed bamboo form, the spout of shallow 's' form, the body ribs painted with vertical alternating panels enclosing flowering branches between aubergine and green ribs, heightened with black enamel, the short straight neck with iron red band of scrolls, the cover also ribbed with alternating green an aubergine, all standing on three short biscuit feet.

  • M4145

    £68,000

    A pair of Chinese porcelain famille verte bottle vases with ovoid bodies, garlic topped slender necks and flared rims, each painted with four panels; peony and butterflies with insects, chrysanthemum with butterflies and insects, alternating with panels of 'hundred antiques' including; vases, censers, books, wrapped qin, weiqi board and counter holders and ruyi sceptre, the shoulders with band of hexagonal diaper beneath a ruyi headband, above flowers on a seed green ground, the garlic mouths with lappets and an iron-red ground mallow flowerhead band at the rim.

  • M4573

    £32,000

    Kangxi famille verte biscuit porcelain hexagonal openwork brushpot, bitong, with a galleried rim, each side with a central circular medallion enclosing flowers and insects, the openwork cash and honeycomb ground between flowerheads on a seed green ground, beneath a flat rim and recessed top edge with iron-red triangular diaper, the base with six bracket aubergine feet with a faux bois design.

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  • M4590

    £75,000

    Pair of Chinese porcelain famille verte seated foreign figures of dark complexion, squatting on high rectangular plinths, holding quatrefoil oval trays modelled as candelabras above their heads, their robes decorated with floral lotus design, the plinth edges mounted in metal.

  • R9922

    £7,000

    A Chinese porcelain famille verte biscuit fruit pyramid group in luminous sancai tones, with ripe pomegranate, peaches and finger citrons, all on an octagonal dish, the base unglazed.

  • M4572

    £14,500

    Chinese porcelain conical bowl of brinjal type, carved on the exterior with three branches of camellia, the branches brown, the leaves green, the flower heads white, all on a rich even yellow ground, the interior with a lingzhi, the base with a square mark within a double ring in underglaze blue.

  • M4310

    £35,000

    A pair of Chinese famille verte biscuit porcelain figures of the standing immortals Lan Caihe holding a flower basket and Zhang Guolao holding a musical instrument, they wear green robes decorated with fruits and flowers, they stand on openwork rectangular plinths decorated with a diaper pattern.

  • M2578

    £5,000

    A Chinese porcelain famille verte plate painted in the centre with a boy holding a continuous branch of flowering peony in blue, aubergine and iron-red enamel, encircled by a floral band in the cavetto and a wide lappet floral band on the rim, the underside with four precious objects, pearl, lozenge, music stones and chime, all in green enamel, tied with an iron red ribbon, the base with a lozenge mark in underglaze blue in a double ring.

  • M4284/5

    £22,000

    A pair of Chinese porcelain famille verte saucer dishes with openwork cash border, painted in the centre with two standing ladies beside a boy in a fenced garden scene with overhanging wutong branches.

  • R9879

    £4,500

    A Chinese porcelain famille verte hexagonal teacup and saucer, the saucer painted in the centre with a table displaying precious objects, vase with peacock, flower and coral, encircled by a border with three panels of boys and three panels of a bird perched on a branch, the cup similarly decorated, the underside of each with a ‘G’ mark within a double ring in underglaze blue.

  • M2271/M2472

    £POA

    Pair of Chinese porcelain famille verte large two handled fish bowls, painted on both sides with branches of flowering peony amongst daisies, with chrysanthemum sprays beneath the biscuit lion mask handles, all between iron-red bands of stylised leaves and chrysanthemum flower heads, the waist with reserves of flowers on a geometric iron-red and gilt ground with chrysanthemum flower heads, each interior painted with forty-one carp, two shrimp and two crabs amongst aquatic plants, all beneath the flat everted lipped rim, painted with reserves of fish alternating with shrimp on a geometric cash diaper ground with chrysanthemum flower heads and scrolls on the rim.

  • M4474

    £POA

    Chinese porcelain dated famille verte brushpot, bitong, painted with a scholar seated in the front of a fishing boat looking up at overhanging rockwork, and seated beside a tiered box with an upright handle and a wine jar, being steered by a fisherman holding the rudder, beneath long branches of overhanging pine, with a mountain range, migrating birds and the moon amongst iron-red clouds, within an underglaze blue double-line rectangular frame with chamfered corners. The reverse with a fifty-six character poem in dedication to the Red Cliff, with the date, renchen year, corresponding to 1712, second month of the summer, Wenyuan Yuan qing fu, signed by Xiuyuan, round seal and square seal, mushi ju.

  • M4201

    £POA

    Chinese porcelain famille verte rouleau vase with high shoulder, cylindrical neck and galleried rim, painted on the body in a continuous scene with Xi Wang-mu, The Queen Mother of the West, descending from the Jasper Pool in the clouds with six of her attendants, one holding the giant peach of immortality, others with flute, cymbals, a qin and peacock feather fan, beside her a phoenix bird in flight, approaching the Emperor who wears yellow robes of dragon design, in his palace with generals, dignitaries and attendants amongst rockwork, wutong, banana plant and cranes all beneath a gilt sun, the shoulder with precious object reserves on a geometric ground, the neck with three medallions of Fuxing, seated holding a hu tablet beside a stack of books on a yellow fu-character, Shoulao, in a peach between a crane and scrolls on a green shou-character, and Luxing, seated between a deer and wine jar on an aubergine lu-character beneath the galleried rim with green keyfrets, the base glazed white.

  • R8286

    £38,000

    Pair of Chinese porcelain famille verte powder-blue ground chargers each painted in the centre with an octagonal flower head shaped panel, enclosing a scholar holding a fan while crossing a bridge with fish swimming below, his attendant following holding a wrapped qin, two further scholars standing on a rocky promontory, a six-tiered pagoda in the distance with houses and overhanging rockwork with willow and wutong beneath a setting gilt sun, iron-red clouds and birds in flight, encircled by eight lobed reserves, four with fisherman in a river landscape and four with flowering plants and rockwork all heightened with gilt flowers. The underside with a lozenge mark within a double ring in underglaze blue.

  • R8219

    £14,000

    Chinese porcelain famille verte café au lait ground bowl and cover, painted on the bowl with a camellia branch and a flowering chrysanthemum branch divided by rockwork with a butterfly in flight, the galleried rim with a flower head border, the well of the interior with a further camellia, the cover similarly painted, the upright finial encircling a hare and moon mark within a double ring in underglaze blue also repeated on the base of the bowl.

  • R9667

    £24,000

    Chinese porcelain famille verte wine ewer and cover, the faceted and fluted body of hexagonal form decorated with octofoil shaped reserves with flowering branches of camellia, peony, hibiscus and prunus in an aubergine frame on a green ground with scrolls above a wide band of moulded lotus petals, the sloping shoulder with six further leaf shaped panels of similar flowers beneath the ribbed collar and stylised stiff leaves, the flower shaped mouth fluted with flower heads repeated on the cover with a raised moulded chrysanthemum and hibiscus form finial, the faceted spout similarly decorated, all on a green ground scroll work foot rim.

  • S2313

    £POA

    Chinese porcelain famille verte large charger, painted in the centre with "a golden pheasant" standing on rockwork overlooking a second pheasant amongst large blooms of peony and flowering prunus, beneath a pair of birds in flight, encircled by a prunus flower head band on an iron-red diaper ground, the cavetto painted with eight different petal shape panels including; kingfisher and magpie amongst branches of prunus, camellia and peony and other exotic flowers all on a seed-green ground with flower heads and leaves, encircled by a wide band with six reserves of precious objects including ruyi-sceptre, wrapped qin, weiqi board, counter holders, books, music stones and scrolls on different diaper grounds each with a central stylized mallow flower head, the underside with a branch of prunus and peony. The base with a ribbon mark within a double ring in underglaze blue.

  • R9178

    £28,000

    Chinese porcelain famille verte green ground bottle vase painted with yellow arrow vases on pedestal tables between pendant brocade balls and tassels tied with ribbons, the neck with flowering branches of prunus, all on a clear even pale green ground, divided by an iron-red lotus flower head band and beneath lotus petals and scrolls at the slightly flared lip, the base glazed white.

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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