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Subject:19th century vase - Is this Nonya ware?
Posted By: JLim Tue, Nov 14, 2017 IP: 101.164.192.17


Dear all

Several years ago I found the pictured vase in a rural antique shop near Sydney. It cost me about 100 Australian dollars. It is undamaged apart from a large chip in the rim which has been amateurishly repaired with white plaster.

Height: 43.5 cm.

I was struck by the strong iridescence in the green enamels on this object, as well as the rough 19th century style footrim. (I have attempted to show the iridescence in the below images, but this is difficult to achieve. It is the strongest and most colourful iridescence I have seen in old enamel).

Since then I have speculated that this is likely to be late 19th century Nonya ware porcelain.

My reasons for thinking so are based on the two bizarrely coloured Qi dragons visible in the images, as well as the green mother and baby foo dog playing ball with each other forming the handles of the vase. These closely resemble nonya wares; in particular the vase on p100 of Ho Wing Meng's "Straits Chinese Porcelain" has identical Qi dragons, albeit in pale blue, and also has reptilian-green foo dogs playing with red balls as its handles.

However, the remainder of the vase generally lacks the eye-scorching palette of Nonya wares, and looks more like generic famille rose of the Guangxu era.

I note that similar mother-and-child foo dogs and Qi dragons, albeit in brown clay, are shown on three vases on p186-7 of Allen's latest book, classified as late 19th century famille rose, not nonya. On p246 of the same book, the same menagerie, albeit in gilt, is on a vase classified as Cantonese famille rose c. 1873.

On the other hand, the same book at p194 depicts a vase with quite a similar general paint scheme - particularly the flowers - dated early 20th century (Fig 22.1.2(a)).

What I would like to know is, how old is this vase? And should it be classified as Nonya ware, or just generic famille rose?

More pictures to follow shortly. Thank you in advance for your help.

Kind regards
J.Lim







Subject:Re: 19th century vase - Is this Nonya ware?
Posted By: JLim Wed, Nov 15, 2017



Further pictures.







Subject:Re: 19th century vase - Is this Nonya ware?
Posted By: JLim Wed, Nov 15, 2017



Further pictures.







Subject:Re: 19th century vase - Is this Nonya ware?
Posted By: Bill H Wed, Nov 15, 2017

The term 'Nonya' I believe, refers to the indigenous wives of Chinese who went to Straits communities, beginning in Ming times, to set up porcelain trading businesses, which usually were tended in China by the other wives left behind by the emigrant Chinese entrepreneur. The classic Nonya pattern is defined by the phoenix and peony pattern. (see photos. The teapot's signed 'Made by Cheng Yitai').

Your vase has no phoenix, and the remainder of the decoration is on a funereal white ground, which might be noticed as inauspicious by some Chinese. Also the base, in its thick coating of white glaze with splashes high on the inner foot, bears evidence of having been re-glazed, which is something done by a decorating factory prior to applying transfers. The foo dogs and dragons, which often were gilded on 19th century export wares, look to me like they're more in the early 20th century style. But just one guy's opinion.

Best regards,

Bill H





Subject:Re: 19th century vase - Is this Nonya ware?
Posted By: JLim Thu, Nov 16, 2017



Dear Bill

Thanks a lot, I can now classify this as early 20th century famille rose.

Kind regards
J.Lim

Subject:Re: 19th century vase - Is this Nonya ware?
Posted By: Michael O Thu, Nov 16, 2017

Hi Bill H,
Your theory referring to the Nonya as "indigenous wives of Chinese who went to Straits communities, beginning in Ming times, to set up porcelain trading businesses, which usually were tended in China by the other wives left behind by the emigrant Chinese entrepreneur" is interesting but only partly accurate.

The Chinese were coming to South East Asia long before the Ming times but waves of merchants and traders came following Zheng He's voyages. Those who stayed and married indigenous women in Malaya and Indonesia formed local communities called Peranakan whose men were referred to as Baba and women were Nyonya.

Of course, the Straits did not exist during the Ming times. The Straits Settlement came about after the founding of Penang and Singapore and was a creation of the British in early 19th century. During this time, the English-educated middle-class Peranakans were also referred to as "Straits Chinese".

As such, Ho Wing Meng's use of the term "Straits Chinese Porcelain" was more accurate as such porcelain occurred only from mid-19th century to early Republic period.

The Peranakan culture is very colourful with its own style of dressings, unique patios and cuisines. To learn and experience more about the unique Peranakans, you should pay a visit to some wonderful Peranakan museums in Penang, Malacca and Singapore.

The attached pictures come from my personal archive.






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