Blue and White magpie and prunus moonflask, Yongzheng period (1723–1735). Image courtesy: Christies
Flowers and Birds
The first depictions of both motives were focusing on the food and supply rather than on aesthetics. The emerging use for art dates back from 265-420 with 2 painters specialised in it. During the Tang Dynasty, about 80 painters were recorded for bird and flower paintings. Naturalistic groups were painted on 2 dimentional works but also on ceramics.
Image 1 peacocks. 12-14th c by Zhang Daquian or after him.
The pieces from the Changsha kilns show examples of Tang dynasty ceramics with birds and flowers. During the Song dunasty, Cui Boas a painter – 11th, shows the rise of popularity in painting plums blossom. In the Song dynasty, an imperial painting academy was established by emperor Huizong 1101-1125. Pillows for tombs were also decorated with the Yibi style ( literaty style) showing birds or animals, for instance the Tiger pillow from Jin dynasty excavated in 1996.
image 4: Zhao Mengfu
Painter at court for Kubulai Khan, Zhao Mengfu, painted in a manner tending to go back to Song classics, such as Wang Yuan,painter from 1280 to 1349. In the Yuan dynasty, Porcelain was painted with birds and flowers but motives were still limited, mainly Lotus and ducks.
Image 5 : Bian Lu
Ming and Qing dynasty:
Naturalistic paintings emerged on porcelain with the Ming. In 15th century, birds went from vase to dishes and cricket jars. Then, hen, chicks and chicken cups became fashionable. Birthday plates and flasks with enamels were also bearing birds.Wild geese were very popular as well. They appeared as early as Song dynasty and related to the many symbols of geese, each position matching a blessing or a symbol.
Ming and Qing dynasty pieces with birds and flowers are now the most expensive pieces of imperial porcelains. During the Qing dynasty, Castiglione or Mao Yi painted many panels which are highly valued today.
For the Imperial Court:
Qing porcelain from the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art