Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Puzzling Evidence - Gu Yi Zhai Cang Mark 古藝齋藏 and the Peking Jewelry Company

The  "Gu Yi Zhai Cang" mark appears often on small pieces of Chinese cloisonne and champleve.

Various discussions at the Asian Arts Forum indicated that the mark was used from the 1950s onward.  This workshop was evidently also responsible for sets of pendants, cups, small boxes from the Peking Jewelry Company.

We'll start with an intact boxed set on offer from Hawaiian eBay vendor 974.1, which displays the connection between the GuYiZhaiCang mark and Peking Jewelry.  The clever and attractive design displays a distinctive feature of this type of champleve: characters that seem to be drawn from classic Chinese novels or operas, as well as famous landscape scenes such as the Summer Palace.

eBay vendor les33 discovered a stash of unsold boxed sets of pendants that, from a label appearing on one of the pieces, appear to be old stock from a Korvette department store.  This store chain went out of business in 1980.

eBay vendor avid4, of David Sterner Antiques, has on offer an intact set of small bird and flower vase pendants:

eBay vendor mit125 also has a nice set of vase pendants on offer:

California business records indicate a Peking Jewelry Co., Ltd., was listed with a San Francisco address between August and October of 1978, when it apparently went defunct.  The twenty-year U.S. embargo on Chinese imports ended in 1971.

A small pair of cloisonne (hand-wired, not stamped champleve) boxes with the GuYiZhaiCang seal:

eBay vendor jnacy states that this set of pendants was purchased in Beijing over 35 years ago: 

 The previous owner of this set stated that it was found in a San Francisco warehouse, dated 1958:

A small snuff bottle done in cloisonne, reportedly purchased in San Francisco in the 1970s:
Observe the JingFa clouds and flower bud.
I have a number of other photos of pieces with either the Gu mark or Peking Jewelry boxed sets. If anyone has a piece for which they'd like to compare notes, just add a comment.  Evidence so far seems to indicate that these are products made from the 1950s through the 1970s. 

UPDATE: In a prior post about the difference between champleve and cloisonne, mention is made in a comment in the Chinese website blog regarding the origin of machine-made enamel works in 1958. [Those who, like me, are illiterate in Chinese will find the Google translate button to be useful].  Machine-made works are described under item 8 in the list of variants of enamel types that get lumped into the general category "cloisonne."  This 1958 date could be the origin date for the champleve products described in the above post?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Puzzling Evidence - Chinese Cloisonne and the Cultural Revolution: "Red Army Women" Vase

UK eBay vendor the-fancy-fox-antiques has on offer what appears to be a rare and unusual cloisonne artifact made post-Liberation (after 1949), perhaps during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).  She has kindly granted permission to use her photos here, in hopes of generating some discussion about this vase.  It is a larger piece, 13 inches high.  I left the photos at original size in order to show fine details, so just keep scrolling to reach the text discussion following them.

Noteworthy aspects of this vase:

  • Uncommon shape, carefully worked rolled lip and base, elaborate neck and base decorations, diamond net background diaper, all characteristic of better works from the Beijing Enamel Factory (JingFa)
  • Lavish use of aventurine (goldstone) enamel
  • Postage-stamp-like pictures of women in what appear to be Red Army roles.  We don't see mere militaristic images, but women doing things like shooting rifles, waving pistols, doing exciting high jumps in the cavalry, welding, operating signal corps radios...
The aventurine enamel is often seen in antique Japanese pieces, such as this little vase also on offer from the same vendor:

However, the Chinese version of this enamel is much finer-grained, with the sparkles more resembling glitter.  Here are two vases from my collection which feature sparing use of the copper aventurine enamel, in contrast to the vase under discussion.
The small coppery brown areas are aventurine enamel.
This vase has an unusual provenance, reportedly having served as a lamp (it has the requisite base hole) in the Minnesota home of a well-to-do Korean family in the 1960s.
The aventurine enamel is used sparingly, appearing only in leafy scroll motifs at top and bottom.
The diamond net background diaper can be seen in this pair of large vases, for which I have the box with a ZiJinCheng logo, which seems to be circa 1970s-80s.
The small red logo at upper right says "Zi Jin Cheng"
Zi Jin Cheng sticker on base of another vase pair (not the pair pictured above).
The sunflower motif seen in the neck frieze of the "Red Army Women" vase seems to have been a thing during the Cultural Revolution, appearing in pieces such as these:

A sunflower has been substituted for the traditional lotus in the blue scroll pattern around the neck.

Elaborate and uncommonly used background diaper.

Carefully crafted base.

The seller stated that this vase was purchased in Beijing in 1972.
UPDATE: This Bloomberg article about an Ai Weiwei exhibit at the Tate states, 
During the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76, Chairman Mao Zedong was represented as the Sun with the Chinese people as sunflowers turning their faces toward him.

Vases with scenes similar to the example above are pictured in a biography of cloisonne artist Qian MeiHua.

A correspondent with whom I shared pictures of the "Red Army Women" vase sent a link to the site featuring Chinese propaganda posters.  The section on women is well worth viewing.

Comments, anyone?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Puzzling Evidence - Another Example of the Mysterious Tian He 天合 Mark on Chinese Cloisonne

A previous post discussed the mysterious Tian He 天合  workshop and its distinctive products:

eBay vendor dead-guy-stuff found a dragon vase from this workshop:
The vase displays a "CHINA" country of origin stamp as well, the use of which seems to have stopped in 1950 when the twenty years of the China trade embargo by the United States began.

This "CHINA" export stamp on this vase seems to be evidence that these products were prior to 1950.  But when?  1910s? 1920s? 1930s? 1940s?  The exuberant  dragons are skillfully depicted in what seems to be an effort to achieve a breezy, modern style, and the three-dragon composition appears on other Deco-era vases.  The amber overglaze  over white, seen at the top ruyi and bottom waves motifs, also seems to be something that gained popularity in the 1920s-40s.   The "peaked spiral" background diaper is neatly applied but not obsessively machine-like.  The rim is frequently seen in vases from the 1930-40s.

Who? When? Where?  Puzzling evidence...