Enamel decoration is a significant element of Chinese decorative arts that has long been overlooked. This exhibition reveals the aesthetic, technical, and cultural achievement of Chinese enamel wares by demonstrating the transformative role of enamel during the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties. The first transformational moment occurred in the late 14th to 15th century, when the introduction of cloisonné enamel from the West, along with the development of porcelain with overglaze enamels, led to a shift away from a monochromatic palette to colorful works.
The second transformation occurred in the late 17th to 18th century, when European enameling materials and techniques were brought to the Qing court and more subtle and varied color tones were developed on enamels applied over porcelain, metal, glass, and other mediums. In both moments, Chinese artists did not simply adopt or copy foreign techniques; they actively created new colors and styles that reflected their own taste. The more than 100 objects on view are drawn mainly from The Met collection.
Image: Covered box with hibiscus and grapevines, China, mid-15th century / courtesy of The Met