About Peking Glass
Peking Glass otherwise known as Chinese Overlay Carved Glass (Tao Liao Ping in Chinese) is similar in production process to French Cameo Glass, for instance, but it is very different in size and functionality, subject matter and, most of all, design concept.
Snuff bottles, vases, bowls and lidded or open jars.
Traditional types of base glass colors are: Opaque white Pearl white (clear with white snowy speckles) Clear Imperial yellow (also known as chicken-fat yellow) Wine red (transparent)
Contemporary glass colors use black, dark red and other base colors.
Bright colors, such as green, red, yellow and blue, are usually found in overlay glass. White and dark brown can sometimes be found as well. The overlay is usually thin in order to keep the delicate shape of the bottles.
The classic subject matters vary from flowers, landscape, mystical creatures, symbols, animals, and people. Other subjects, such as birds, dragonflies, grasshoppers, napa cabbages, oxen, horses, trees and grass are also popularly depicted.
Signatures or Marks
In China’s history, craftsmen’s names were never known. The artists were not to sign their names on their pieces even if they could be considered master craftsmen and fine artists by today’s standards. It is very rare to find maker’s names left on any ancient craft pieces, such as pottery, textile, furniture, and glass. Therefore, craft pieces were only labeled with the workshop name. In the case of the pieces produced by the Qing Dynasty Imperial Workshops, they were always labeled with the emperor’s regimen name, such as Kangxi, Qianlong, or Jiaqing, etc. Peking Glass as a form of art reached its peak during the Qianlong era. Many of the works produced thereafter are copies of earlier masterpieces. Even contemporary works with new designs often bear the Qianlong mark. Nevertheless, the royal labels do not mean original imperial work.
HOW: Peking Glass is a form of art that starts with a one-color glass base, dipped into contrasting colored glass, one layer at a time. The artist then carves away portions of the overlaid glass to reveal layers of other colors underneath, but as particular designs. It is a lengthy and tedious process that is time consuming and labor intensive. However, the result is exquisite, unlike carved glass from other countries and regions.
WHERE: Peking Glass snuff bottles originated in the Imperial Forbidden City. The glass factory that produced Peking Glass was established in 1696, under the direction of Kilian Stumpf (1655-1720), a Jesuit missionary who studied theology in Mainz and went on a mission to China in 1688.
WHEN: Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) during the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1662-1722), when the western habit of consuming (snuffing) powder-formed tobacco was gaining popularity in high society in China. imperial arts and crafts, like Peking Glass, made during middle to late Qing Dynasty had a quality of extreme refinement.
WHY: The Imperial Workshop produced tiny decorative snuff bottles for the royal family to use as receptacles for this powered form of tobacco. The snuff bottles were also presented by royals as gifts to ministers of the royal court and foreign diplomats. Snuff bottles were made of various types of materials, such as, cloisonné, exotic woods, porcelain, jade, crystal, agate, other semi-precious stones and glass. Most of the early snuff bottles were made of Peking Glass.
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