Wucai porcelain appeared during the reign of Jiajing, the twelfth Emperor of the Ming dynasty who ruled between 1521 and 1567 and as with much Chinese porcelain, its centre of manufacture was in Jingdezhen, China’s ‘porcelain city.’
With origins in the earlier doucai ceramics, Wucai porcelain is most commonly translated as ‘five colour’ but in fact it often used more or less than five so a more accurate term would simply be ‘multicoloured.’
The traditional manufacturing technique of a Wucai vase, indeed all forms of Wucai porcelain was to first fire the vessel with a blue underglaze for the outline of the design at around 1100°C. Then the vessel was fired a second time once the overglaze of colours including red, blue, purple, yellow and green had been applied at a lower temperature of between 850-900°C.
Thanks to developments in styles and techniques, the production zenith for the Wucai vase and all forms of Wucai porcelain came in the Qing dynasty during the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1661 – 1722) and is characterised by exquisite craftsmanship and intricate decorations including motifs of dragons, flowers, plants, fish and phoenixes. Later examples of Wucai porcelain used gold and black outlines to further enhance the vividly lifelike quality of the pieces.
Chinese porcelain wucai four-tiered square picnic box and cover with indented corners, the cover painted with five crane medallions amongst clouds, each side with two chrysanthemum blooms and foliage and each section interior with two orchids, three bases with a six-character mark of Chenghua in iron-red, the flat white biscuit base unglazed.
A Chinese porcelain wucai baluster vase and cover, painted with “a hundred boys” each at various pursuits, including playing weiqi, unwrapping a qin, dancing, admiring books, admiring a landscape scroll painting, holding musical instruments and in conversation, all in a continuous fenced landscape scene amongst underglaze blue rockwork and iron-red cloud banks, beneath a cracked ice band at the shoulder, with further boys on the neck and cover.
A pair of Chinese porcelain wucai standing figures of smiling boys, hehe, each holding a vase of lotus, their waist bands with flowers and foliage and mirrors on the reverse, their shoulders with ruyi heads, their arms and legs with precious objects, all on a square pedestal base painted with a peony bloom.
A Chinese porcelain famille verte large standing boy holding a vase while a smaller boy climbs his leg, all on a raised square base.
A wucai hexagonal deep dish with indented brown washed rim, painted in the centre with a lotus pond, a heron stands beside flowering lotus, leaves and aquatic plants with a bird in flight, within a moulded panelled border of six aquatic creatures, fish, toad, terrapin, shrimp, snail and crab on different diaper grounds, sealmark fu (happiness) within a double square.