DD3006_09_Free Writing

Date/Period: Qing Dynasty (Yongzheng period, 1723–1735), ca 173
Region: China
Dimension: Gross Measurement: 31.5 x 20 x 13 cm
Accession No.: 2015-00200
Material: Porcelain with overglaze enamels and gold
Collection of: Asian Civilisations Museum
Category: Ceramics

The object is a coffee pot. Reading from the information online about this teapot here and here, I can summarised below:
“Coffee became popular in Europe around the mid-17th century, which spurred demand for coffee-specific equipment. Pots like this were usually made as part of a set, similar to the already popular tea services. Chinese porcelain makers were quick to fulfill European demand. The decoration on the pot is painted in overglaze enamels. Unlike teapots, which have spouts close to the base, coffee pots have a short spout at the top. This is because tea leaves float while coffee grounds settle at the bottom. The short, high spout kept the sediment from coming out when pouring.”

Now I will write some personal observations about it.


SHAPE

Generally, the coffee pot has a tall cylindrical shape, with the half bottom body part with larger diameter. From the bottom, it has a cylindrical base [1] that looks like an inverted short bowl (sorry I am not sure about the naming of this kind of shape). It has a height of about one-eight of the whole pot and it makes me feel like it is a strong base and will be able to hold the pot stable no even when the weight of the pot is full.

Going up, the body of the pot [2] has a pear-liked shape in which the bottom half are bigger (looks like the belly). May be it is made so to keep the centre of gravity of the coffee more towards the bottom (compared than if it has a tube shape with similar diameter throughout) hence preventing it from toppling..?

Moving up, it has the spout opposite of the handle. I will firstly talk about the spout [3] in which I found the shape of it is pretty yet weird at the same time. I feel that the size (about 1/4 of the pot height) is kinda cute and feels really small as I have been imagining coffee pot to have a long spout. Also, as the hole is facing upwards, it makes me think whether this positioning will make the coffee to be cold faster yet at the same time I also think that this position and shape of the spout will be easier for the user to clean (and see if there is any coffee mark left). In addition, I really like the curve of the spout. One is the vertical curve which make the spout really aesthetic and another one is the horizontal curve at the top of the spout. Not only for aesthetic, these curves might be functional too. May be the two small bump at the bottom part of the spout is functioned to slow down the coffee while being poured (?) and the horizontal curve is to make the volume of coffee that really comes out even smaller (as the diameter of the opening gets smaller).

Next is about the handle [4] shape which I found to be really really unique. The base shape of the handle is kind of indescribable but it reminds me of  an ear. Looking at the details of the curve, it feels really exquisite as the skill to shape it in such way doesn’t seem easy. Following up the visual flow of the handle, my view will stop at the top of the handle at a Chinese-looking lady face, facing the user. I am not sure what is that for but it might be just a decoration or holding some meaning about mother/girl related issue or story during those period. Functionality wise, it can be the resting point for the thumb of the user as well. Meanwhile, the size (about 1/3 of the pot height) and the shape of the handle makes me feel that it will not fit a big hand, hence make me further feel that this pot is targeted for women (it crossed my mind that it fits children as well, but because making coffee with hot water etc does not seem like an activity for children, let me keep assume it is for women).

Moving to the top, it is the lid of the coffee pot [5] which shape of almost half a sphere with a knob with a ball-attached at the top. Again, the detail of the curve is not so simple and it gives the sense of carefully-made and detailed piece.

Overall, the shape of the coffee pot is interesting and it has a visual flow which leads me from the belly in a clockwise direction and stop at the face decoration. It really feels like the shape is telling a story which I want to figure out more by analysing on the context and meaning of the details.


COLOUR

About the colour, I really like the pink on white of the colour. It shows some shades of pink, which combined a warmer and cooler pink. I feel that they might put a layer of yellow to make the warmer pink. Other than pink, it has gold colour with some light blue, yellow and orange colour. Personally, I feel that this colour give a sense of sweetness and royalty (because of the gold) and it makes me feel like that the piece is meant for a woman. Especially during those period when feminism was not really a thing. Additionally, as the hair of the lady looked like it was black before peeling off, based on the hair colour and hairstyle, and clothes, the lady is likely to represent a Chinese lady. At the same time, the gold layer might means that the gold might have been the base colour before layering it with another colour to finalise it.


PATTERN

Pretty. That was my first thought (partly maybe because I like the colour of pink as well). It is flowery and has floral pattern throughout. The pattern of the pot is horizontally divided into 10 similar-size part by pink vertical lines starting from the lid to the body of the pot. In each part, the body is either filled with flowers or boy with a bird. At the same time, it has horizontal pink floral pattern (or maybe it is a specific shape representing something in Chinese pattern or even the shape of a C leaves) around the circumference of the pot. At the same time, the crossing of this vertical and horizontal pattern of the pot makes the pot full, complex and has a lot to tell even though the background of the pot is just plain white. Interestingly, towards the top part of the body and the whole spout are mostly filled with pattern in gold. At the same time, there are a pattern that looks like arrow along the handle which make it as if there is a road from half part of the body to the spout through the handle. It makes me wonder if this ‘pathway’ and change of colour towards more gold pattern has any meaning/ connection related with the story of the pot itself.


ADDITIONAL (random) OBSERVATIONS AND THOUGHTS

  • As the photo is taken against a dark background, I keep on seeing the negative space around the pot created by its shape. I feel that it ris eally nice and detailed and again, make me feel the skills of the artist(s) to create this must have been really good.
  • The more I observe, the presence of the lady face decoration, boys and some kind of birds on the coffee pot make me feel that it is really possible if it is telling a (hopefully interesting) story (?) in which I will try to figure out.
  • The initial pink colour of the whole design might only have one shade aka no warm and cold pink. So the current different pink colour effect might have been caused by time as the colour wears off after centuries. Also, the one wears off might be the warmer one as it exposes more of its base colour of gold (like the lady decoration hair).
  • After writing more details about the coffee pot, I am more towards the opinion that this coffee pot was not made for a common market or just for anyone. It might be ordered and patronised by a royal or wealthy person/family. Or if it is made for a common market, then the price of each might have been expensive.
  • Another thought is that this coffee pot might have been made in a set with the coffee cups and saucer as well.

That was a long writing of thoughts (sorry I ended up finding more things to say than planned while typing it), thank you for reading it until the end. I hope it is useful or trigger something more for you. Do comment to let me know 🙂

1 thought on “DD3006_09_Free Writing

  1. This is indeed a thorough visual analysis of this coffee pot taking into account the shape, color, and pattern. Your analysis made me realize that this pot might have held a lot of coffee—so, was it used for a party? Or, for a family for their afternoon coffee? You have also made some interesting observations about the spout—perhaps one needs to compare this coffee pot to others to find out if the shape of this spout reveals anything special about the art of drinking coffee. And, how intriguing to have a face on the handle! Yes, it does seem quite functional as you point out, but it must have meant something.  Don’t you think? I wonder what the handles of the coffee cup were like for this set?

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