Description The mythical "feng" (phoenix) is entwined with scrolling peonies on the surface of the teapot. Furthermore, a few little zoomorphs-- possibly phoenix chicks --also sail across the space. The element of the bizarre in this conception is of a different order from anything seen in earlier Chinese art-- even in archaic bronzes. Of course the imagery on the teapot does have a traditional aspect. The Chinese character for phoenix, symbol of the empress in Qing [Ch'ing] times, has been interpreted to mean "superbird," paired in the ying-yang opposition with the dragon, "supersnake." The phoenix here is about to bite the stem of a peony, king of the flowers. Meanwhile the tail feathers of the phoenix have in places become entwined with the tendrils of the peonies. Sometimes both have eyes and seem to have embarked upon a course of romantic exploration. This teapot belongs to a class of objects known as palace enamels, thought to have been enameled within the palace precincts in Peking, and that is was European Jesuits that provided the chemical know-how to create the new enamel colors, different from the ones traditionally used on Chinese cloisonné enamels. It is possible, furthermore, that the designer of the teapot was familiar with some aspects of Western design --conceivably even a bizarre silk, in which there is a somewhat comparable animation of the inanimate-- and that he was making something that he thought would please the Jesuits at the palace.
Cleaned in preparation for exhibition
Provenance William T. / Henry Walters Collection, Baltimore [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Inscriptions [Mark] reign mark of Yongzheng [Yung-Cheng] (1722-1735)
Credit Acquired by William T. or Henry Walters
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