China, Guangzhou (Canton)
gilt copper, painted enamel
37 x 90.5 x 42 cm
This throne table, the underside bearing the six-character seal mark of the Qianlong emperor, must have been intended for the imperial court. In size and painted decoration it may be compared with another, formerly in the Qing Court Collection, now in the Palace Museum, Beijing. Such tables were often located on the bed platform, an area that was used throughout the day and not exclusively reserved for sleeping. Against a background of imperial yellow, the exterior surfaces have been finely painted with a pattern incorporating the auspicious motifs of lotus (lian or he hua) and flying bats (pianfu, where fu [bat] is homophonous with fu [happiness]). This dense floral design is contained within borders of fine blue banding and simulated red cord. The attention to detail and evenness of firing of a piece of such a scale reveal the level of mastery in the art of enamelling that was achieved in the workshops of Guangzhou. It is instructive to note the thickness of the painted decoration – with a resultant intensity of colour – on an object such as this that was intended for the Chinese market, and to contrast it with the summary washes applied on pieces made for export.
Haydn Williams, Enamels of the World: 1700-2000 The Khalili Collections, London 2009, cat. 82, pp. 138–9.