Cloisonné, an ancient metalworking technique, is a multi-step enamel process used to produce jewelry, vases, and other decorative items. Objects produced by this process are also called cloisonné. Cloisonné first developed in the Near East, spread to the Byzantine Empire, and from there along the Silk Road to China, Korea and Japan. Chinese cloisonné is probably the most well known and ubiquitous. Chinese Cloisonné is a kind of artwork made of red copper roughcast and decorated colorful glaze.
The color of glaze includes blue, red, yellow, green, white, sky blue, navy blue, carmine, dark yellow, light yellow, light green, milk white, deep violet, bright blue and amaranth, etc.
HOW: To produce cloisonné, patterns such as flowers or leaves are outlined with thin copper or bronze wires glued or soldered to a metal base, forming cells (cloisons) which are then filled in with thick, colored enamel pastes. The object is fired at a low temperature to harden the enamel, and the surface is then ground smooth with abrasives and polished. Finally, the wires and base are electroplated with gold. Cloisonné techniques became highly refined during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
WHEN: Chinese Cloisonné dates back as far as the Yuan Dynasty (1271 to 1368), but was popularized during the XuanDe period (1426 to 1435). The XuanDe period coincides with the reign of Ming Dynasty Emperor Zhu Qiyu, who was also known as the Jingtai Emperor (1449 to 1457). The most exquisite Chinese Cloisonné production took place during the Jingtai period.
WHERE: During the XuanDe period in Beijing this inlayed enamelware became popularly known as “Blue of Jingtai,” because blue enamel was used as a predominant color theme during the Jingtai Emperor’s reign. The best Jingtai pieces were produced in the Palace Workshops.
The Chinese possessed excellent conditions for developing cloisonné enameling. They already had advanced metallurgical technology, and have mastered glass and glaze production techniques. The soft, smooth enamel with its delicate ornamentation and lustrous color appealed to Chinese tastes.
During the reigns of Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911), cloisonné improved and reached its artistic summit. Colors were more delicate, filigrees more flexible and fluent, and scope was enlarged beyond the sacrifice-process wares into snuff bottles, folding screens, incense burners, tables, chairs, chopsticks, and bowls.
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