Cloisonné enamel and gilted bronze lamp – 漢來大飯店 (The Grand Hi Lai Hotel)

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Starting being imported into China from Byzantium of Muslim world in Ming Dynasty, cloisonné had become popular during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Cloisonné is an alternative name for copper-stripe inlayed enamel ware. Enamel wares made in Jingtai period of Ming dynasty were those with historical significance and also at an international-level standard. Later, people called the special technique of making the enamel wares “cloisonné” (jingtailan). Its special achievement lies in the use of “cobalt blue glaze.” Japanese call these enamel wares Qibaoshao. The “beast-faced cloisonné jar with two handles” is possibly a jar-like light holder. Having exotic patterns, the whole jar has a match between copper carvings and the full brilliant colours of cloisonné. There are eight colours of enamel glaze, such as black, pink, white, royal blue, green etc. The glaze quality is fine and pure. If some irregular sizes of sand-like materials or something not delicate can be found in the surface of a work, it means that the refining process was not pure enough – such observation provides one of the standards for estimating the work of different periods.  Wire-inlaid enamel refers to the following process: metals are made into various types of tubes; then, metal wires are woven into various patterns; then, the wires are stuck to surface of the tube using welding or vegetable glue. The result is called “wire-inlaid.” Next, various colours or enamel mixtures are poured into the patterned frame. Outside the patterns, other colour glaze (which is generally blue) is added. Then, after the procedure of burning, polishing and gold-plating, a complete enamel ware is finished.  Wire-inlaid enamel patterns are made as follows: thin copper sheets are welded on to the wares. Patterns made of welded copper sheets are filled in with colour enamel glazes. Decorative design patterns are made by polished and smooth copper threads. Enamel glazing is given at a low temporature. Patterns made of copper wires can prevent melten colour enamel materials from crossing the boundaries. Later, a technique of controlling temperature arrived, so drawing on enamels and enamel porcelains appeared. Generally speaking, just three or four glaze colours were used in patterns and decorative deisgns. Cobalt blue is the most refreshing, vigorous and transparent colour.

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