N° 52
Plate

China
Jiangxi, Jingdezhen
Qing dynasty
circa 1745
fine porcelain, grisaille decoration with gold
ø 28 cm
Paris, National Museum of Asian Arts - Guimet
(MG 6588)

This plate depicting the Resurrection is the third of a biblical series illustrating the life of Christ, which includes the Nativity, the Crucifixion and the Ascension. The rim border is decorated with strapwork entwined with floral garlands ornamented with berried sprigs and foliate scrolls.

The religious iconography seems to be drawn in part from the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, in which Matthew says that, on seeing the Angel of the Lord in his snow-white robe sitting on the sepulcher stone, the soldier trembled with fear and "became as dead." This is the source of the scene in the foreground of the composition.

The precise rendering indicates it was modelled after fine European engravings. The Chinese artist copied the incisive print technique to render the effects of light and shadow, whereas his lack of familiarity with the representation of human anatomy explains the simplification of some parts of the body.

Comparable series have a different border pattern or are painted in enamels. The pattern on this plate is, however, found on tea sets.

Works depicting religious subjects of this kind may have been commissioned as early as 1696 according to a letter written in 1712 by Father Dentrecolles describing a porcelain fragment showing Christ on the Cross flanked by Mary and John the Baptist. Belonging to the so-called "Jesuit porcelain," the Life of Christ series were special-order wares intended for Catholic families, missionaries, and religious communities.

Monique Crick