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.
A set of three Chinese porcelain ko-akae, wucai, polychrome lozenge shape dishes with foliate flutted rims, each painted with a seated figure of Budai, resting against his long staff holding a necklace in his right hand and the edge of his treasure sack, beside the edge of rocky promontory with an overhanging pine tree beneath iron-red cloud within an iron-red border, the rim dressed brown. The base with a two characters mark of Taiping within a double rectangle,
A Chinese porcelain, ko-akai, wucai saucer dish, painted in the centre with chrysanthemum, aster flowers and buds, beneath a six characters couplet, the underside with three pearls, the base with a four-character mark of Tianqi within a double ring in underglaze blue and of the period.
A Chinese porcelain ko-akai, wucai, square dish, painted in the centre with a crosshatch design of different polychrome grounds including key-fret, cash, tile, scale and chainmail dispersed between iron red flower heads of lotus, prunus and camellia, encircled by a band of butterfly and insects beneath a flat everted rim, painted with crested swirling waves, the chamfered corners with pendent flowers.
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 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.
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