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A fine legacy forged in friendship

A long-awaited Beijing exhibition celebrating six decades of diplomatic ties between China and France sheds fresh light on centuries of exchanges, Wang Kaihao reports.

By Wang Kaihao | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-04-11 07:33
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A teapot with painted chrysanthemum in enamel, made in France in 1783, from the Palace Museum's collection. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Equally, when Chinese emperors saw the delicate enamel items coming from France, they wanted their own versions.

French craftsman Jean-Baptiste Simon Gravereau, who worked in the Qing court, specialized in enamel work. When Qing royals ordered customized enamelware from France via the trading port of Guangzhou, Guangdong province, the southern Chinese metropolis evolved into a manufacturing hub for locally produced transparent enamel.

The three baskets from the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1736-95), Kangxi's grandson, provide an interesting juxtaposition between the enamel products produced in the Forbidden City, Guangzhou, and Paris, respectively.

The mix of artistic talent from both countries appears to have created extraordinary products.

When a Jingdezhen green-glazed porcelain bottle arrived at Versailles, it was added to luxury Rococo decorations. Another green-glazed porcelain item produced in Zhejiang province was mounted upon a gilt copper foundation after being acquired by a French aristocrat. The same collector also added an ancient Greek-style gilt bronze base to a Chinese porcelain stool from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

"When the two cultures closely interacted, they inspired imagination and creativity that gave birth to novel elements and styles," Guo says.

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