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Chinese enameled porcelain

Dear Mr Nilsson,

We'd like to start by complimenting you on your site. It is well thought out and easily accessed. Taking your advice we bought the Mudge book on Chinese arrived just a few hours ago and we look forward to pouring over it tonight.

We are somewhat new to Chinese Export and have the luck to live near an auction house that seems to have an endless supply of the stuff. This past weekend we bought a tureen we suspect is armorial chinese export but its odd shape is unlike any other example we have come across and would like your opinion on it. I have enclosed some pictures and hope they help. It measures 10 1/2" high and 11 1/2" across. The bottom is unmarked and unglazed though not as rough as the other examples of CE I have seen. The interior also has a type of very light blue which also seems out of character to my limited experience. The lid is tortoise shaped with the slanted lotus blossom finial.

Any ideas on what we have bought?

I've included a photo of a rectangular tea pot we purchased at the same auction. It was sold as CE but after researching this it doesn't seem to fall into any of the usual categories. Thanks in advance.

Either recent copies - or extremely rare

The pieces you have bought seems quite interesting. First of all the bluish tint inside is ok whatever their age, and is caused by a very small amount of iron in the glaze.If anything, this is a good sign.

Unfortunately I will not be able to tell you if these pieces are genuine or not.

The problem is that when something does not look exactly as it should - there is always a possibility that they are ok, but that I just have never seen such a thing before - as is the case with this tureen. It is so rare I am not even sure it is Chinese - it might even be made at the French SAMSON factory, which is still interesting enough for it to be a good buy. Not as good as if it is 18th century Chinese, but much better then a recent copy.

As for the pot, it is actually a wine pot made in the shape of a Chinese character, with one more pot, put side by side with this, you would get the "Xi" character of "double happiness" i.e. a symbol of happy marriage.

During the Kangxi period similar pots was made with the character "Shou" for Long Life. Those was copied during the late 19th century and probably well into the early 20th century.

This pot could possibly be one of these 19th/early 20th century pieces, which would be quite good and interesting enough to make it quite collectible. It is also worth noticing that I have never seen a "Xi" character pot before.

If it is a 19th century piece it is contemporary with most American market "Rose Mandarin" porcelain, and should look and feel very much the same, despite the unusual shape.

The problem is that even 19th century pieces have by now become valuable enough to merit even them to be copied recently, that is to say, right now.

This is also the case with the tureen, which originally can - or could - have been made for the French market. I am not sure of this, it could also have been for the English market, but I have no way of checking this up for the moment.

Anyway, a 18th century piece of this type would cost around $ 5,000 on any International auction, so the chances for a beginner to find such a genuine piece at a local auction - without not even the auctioneer observing its potential value - are pretty slim. The helmet on the crest also seems to me to be too small to really match a genuine 18th century coat of arms. We still have the possibility that it is Chinese and antique but for some reason ordered in the early 20th century when we had a large group of Frennch and English people living in Shanghai.

All in all I am suspicious about the tureen but would keep the possibility open that the "Shou" wine pot could be of the 19th century.

For me to be able to help you somewhat more I might be able to figure something out from the bases of the pieces, if you would be kind enough to supply me with some close-ups or better yet - direct scans.

The tureen should not have any mark at all. The wine jug might have one, possibly in iron red. The area around the foot rim is also a good place to look for clues on how the piece was made. From the bases, you should also be able to get a clue to the age of a piece, by just touching it. A piece of porcelain, which should be at least 100 years old, should have been worn to a soft touch while all recently fired pieces generally are sharp to the touch, since they would have come straight out of the kiln and usually have some small sand particles stuck to the base.

If we all check this small indication up, we will at least make life a bit more complicated to the fake factories which no doubt soon will start polishing their bases to a high gloss :-)

If your local auction house do seems to have an endless supply of unusual Chinese export pieces I feel this most of all should be a cause for concern.

Jan-Erik Nilsson

The wine pot character identified by Simon Ng, City University of Hong Kong.