Yangcai means foreign colors. This technique enables to apply on the porcelains the full range of colors of the European enamels. Named famille-rose in the West, it was considered by the emperor as the way to create the best porcelain of all time, beyond the Ru and Guan of the Song.
The Chinese imperial court favors all kinds of symbols and the bright yellow is assigned to the person of the emperor, perhaps referring to the sun. Early in his reign, Qianlong requests some yangcai porcelain wares with yellow ground.
Limited to a space reserved for the emperor in the imperial palace, these prestigious yellow porcelains are not available for export. Their shapes are varied according to the usual practice in Jingdezhen workshops.
In the best traditions of the court, they are decorated with many symbols using all the colors in the yangcai palette and difficult to translate to the foreign observer because these puns are based on homophony. Many auspices are gathered on a same piece when it is intended as a birthday gift to the Emperor, unfortunately undated.
On 9 October 2012, Sotheby's sold for HK $ 107 million including premium over a lower estimate of HK $ 40M a sumptuous pair of double gourd vases 18 cm high in saturated colors.
The yangcai vase on yellow ground for sale by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on April 7 is another technical feat. It is estimated HK $ 40M, lot 3608. By its monumental size, 75 cm high, it is considered as unique of its kind.
Its dense decoration in harmonious colors is mainly floral, with vegetal arabesques interspersed with many other figurative motifs.