A closer look at Famille Rose
by P. Mills
The presentation highlighted the recent work at the V&A on 24 objects from the Far Eastern Collection. The study was initiated to investigate the ruby and pink enamelling of the famille rose wares of China. The objects were chosen to reflect the breadth of pink colour found in the collection and although focussed on the early (1740s) wares some later date pieces were considered for comparison. Optical microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy were the chosen techniques as it was important that the analysis be non-invasive and non-destructive.
The preliminary findings indicate that gold alone was responsible for the `ruby' colour. This is not in itself unusual, it has long been known that gold is responsible for the ruby and pink coloured enamels, what is interesting is that contemporary European recipe's suggest the use of gold and tin. In late nineteenth century famille rose wares gold and tin was found suggesting that the production technology changed, perhaps due to western influence. The pale pink of the famille rose palette was found to contain gold and arsenic. In all cases, pink or ruby, zinc was identified as being present - this has not been mentioned in previous work.
This work was carried out by Paula Mills & Rose Kerr of the V&A, and they would like to acknowledge the help of Nigel Wood (University of Oxford) and Ming Wilson (V&A). It is hoped that this study of ruby-pink Jingdezhen monochrome glazes will be published later this year.