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  • Writer's pictureAnna Kerviel

The Mille Fleurs motif across Asia

Far from being a simple decoration, the "Thousand Flowers" motif is a veritable visual language that has flourished on Asian objets d'art, particularly in China. Behind this explosion of colour and form lies a rich and complex symbolism, imbued with philosophy and hope.

Thousand Flowers" vase, porcelain, China, 18th century, Qianlong period (1735 - 1796), kept at the Musée Guimet in Paris / (C) RMN-Grand Palais (MNAAG, Paris) / Thierry Ollivier

While the expression "A Thousand Flowers" originated in Europe, it resonates perfectly in China, where it is more accurately described as "a hundred flowers" in full bloom. This terminology is not insignificant: it reflects the abundance and diversity of nature, celebrated in Asian art. Far from being a simple botanical representation, the "Thousand Flowers" motif is charged with profound symbolism.

Flowers, in all their diversity, represent the ephemeral beauty of life, the richness of the natural world and the harmony between man and his environment. The representation of flowers "without emptiness" is a key element of the "Thousand Flowers" motif. It symbolises abundance, fullness and prosperity. The absence of empty space evokes the idea of a world in constant evolution, where life is constantly renewing itself.

Pair of vases, porcelain, China, 19th century, appraised by Gauchet Art Asiatique for Millon, sold for €7,500

The "Mille Fleurs" motif, meaning "thousand flowers" in French, enjoyed immense popularity in China, particularly during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It adorned a wide array of artworks, from vases and porcelain to textiles and tapestries. However, its presence extended beyond China, gracing objects in other Asian countries, each with its unique variations and interpretations.

Shibayama lacquerware jewelry box, Japan, Meiji period (1868-1912), appraised by Gauchet Art Asiatique for Millon, sold for €2,800

In Japan, the "Thousand Flowers" motif is known as "Kikka". It is often associated with the cherry blossom, the national flower of the country. Kikka is found on many Japanese art objects, from kimonos to porcelain, and represents beauty, fragility, and renewal.

In Korea, the "Thousand Flowers" motif is called "Ggot". It is often used to decorate hanboks, traditional Korean clothing. Ggot symbolizes joy, fortune, and prosperity.

In Vietnam, the "Thousand Flowers" motif is known as "Mai Hoa". It is often associated with the lotus flower, a symbol of purity and enlightenment. Mai Hoa is found on many Vietnamese art objects, from pagodas to paintings, and represents harmony, peace, and spirituality.

Large glazed stoneware vase, Vietnam, Bien Hoa School, 20th century, appraised by Gauchet Art Asiatique for Millon, sold for €1,650

The "Thousand Flowers" motif is an important element of Asian artistic heritage. Its presence in different cultures is a testament to the richness and diversity of the continent's artistic traditions. Far from being a simple decoration, it expresses values and aspirations common to many Asian peoples. It represents the beauty of nature, the harmony between man and his environment, and the hope for a better world.

Gauchet Art Asiatique, a specialist in Asian art for over 20 years, offers precise and reliable expertise for your "Thousand Flowers" motif works. Our team of experts, led by Jean Gauchet, is highly qualified to examine and analyze the unique characteristics of each piece, including its style, material, provenance, and state of conservation.

By entrusting us with your work, you benefit from a professional and confidential service, and personalized support. We are at your disposal to provide you with expert advice on the care and conservation of your object.

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