Guangxu Wedding Bowls?
Ronald W. Longsdorf wrote a great article in Orientations Magazine’s for the magazine’s June 2004 issue. The article was titled, ‘Porcelains Made for the Grand Imperial Wedding of the Guangxu Emperor.’ For me the article couldn’t have come at a better time. I had just purchased what I believed to be two wedding bowls from that very wedding. So I practically read the article right there in the store before I could get to the cash register.
Needless to say I was a bit perplexed and saddened after I read the article. The reason was that from the best I could grasp from the article, the Guangxu wedding porcelain was not marked at all with the Guangxu reign mark. But rather, all of the pieces were marked with various hall marks relating to different palaces from within the Forbidden City. At least, even now, that is what I get when reading the information Longsdorf has presented in his article. (Frankly speaking I feel the last 5 or 6 paragraphs are a bit confusing.)
Looking at these bowls, I feel it’s obvious they were made at the Imperial kilns. The decoration closely resembles the decoration from figure 4 from the mentioned above article. But were they made specifically for the Guangxu Emperor’s wedding or were they made as gifts to be handed out to friends and those of high rank? The reign marks are in overglazed red. A mark usually associated with gifts.
But from what I have seen from known examples of Tongzhi wedding porcelain, it seems all of the porcelain, reguardless of what mark was used, are all in overglazed red rather than the customary underglazed blue found on most imperial wares. The same seems to hold true for the Guangxu marks as well, reguardless that they are hall marks. Why is this? Were they meant to be given out after the wedding as gifts to the attendees?
But my bowls are not exact copies of the ones Longsdorf presented from the Tongzhi wedding. Looking at the two pictures you can immediately spot the inconsistencies. Again, why? Did Empress Dowager want to be sure the two wedding ware wouldn’t be confused? From what we do know about her, she most definitely had some sort of say in the creation and decoration of the Guangxu wedding porcelain too.
Longsdorf goes on to state that the number of pieces created for the Guangxu wedding numbered a mere 868 pieces compared to the Tongzhi order of 7’295 pieces. That would make the Gunagxu pieces much rarer. This is something to think about if you are given an opportunity to own one of these unique wares.
What are your thoughts? Are these in fact from the Guangxu imperial wedding? Or are they different due to the mark? Perhaps they were not used at the wedding but created to be handed out as gifts? The questions I could ask a many. So let me know your thoughts. Why do you think they are marked this way and what were their purpose?