N° 67 to 68
Western couple

China
Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722)
Porcelain with "famille verte" enamel decoration
H: 23.5 cm
Grog-Carven Collection
Paris, National Museum of Asian Arts - Guimet
(MA 3471 A and B)

Underglaze " blue and white" porcelain dishes and vases with decoration representing Europeans appear in the reign of Kangxi, who adopted his contemporary King Louis IV (1643-1715) as his mentor in the arts. These images, some of which have been identified as being directly inspired by French or Dutch engravings of the same period (cf. cat, n° 59 and 60), are remarkable in that they reveal a shared language of finery and poses that attests to the extraordinary influence of the "Sun King's" luxurious court throughout Europe.

The subtly-balanced glistening enamels, dominated by iron red--in particular, the white poppies or the male figure and court mantle of the female figure - are the unmistakable sign of the artistic revival at Jingdezhen.

But, a certain awkwardness in the way in which the various parts of these sumptuous garments are arranged immediately betrays the documentary nature of their source. We note, however, the unexpected charm of the smiling faces and the precision with which every curl of the long wigs is handled: neither the cruches, the small flat curls on the upper forehead, nor the palissade ornament are lacking in the woman’s hairstyle.

The ribbons and lace cylinders pinned into the hair came into fashion in 1680, when the Duchess of Fontanges, the king's favourite, arranged her mussed hair In this way during a royal hunt. Soon, all the ladies of the court were wearing the "fontange," or "tower" head dress.

However, the French do not seem to have been aware of, or sought out, these figurines modelled after them. Actually, the market was then dominated by the Dutch and the high quality of these enamelled porcelains put them beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest buyers such as the Polish king, Augustus the Strong (1670 - 1733).

Catherine Delacour