Feb

18

14th century development Blue and white porcelain

By Ceramic Design



In the early 14th century mass-production of fine, translucent, blue and white porcelain started at Jingdezhen, sometimes called the porcelain capital of China. This development was due to the combination of Chinese techniques and Islamic trade. The new ware was made possible by the export of cobalt from Persia (called Huihui qing, 回回青, “Islamic blue”), combined with the translucent white quality of Chinese porcelain. Cobalt blue was considered as a precious commodity, with a value about twice that of gold.Motifs also draw inspiration from Islamic decorations. A large portion of these blue-and-white wares was then shipped to Southwest-Asian markets through the Muslim traders based in Guangzhou.

Chinese blue and white porcelain was once-fired: after the porcelain body was dried, decorated with refined cobalt-blue pigment mixed with water and applied using a brush, coated with a clear glaze and fired at high temperature. From the 16th century, local sources of cobalt blue started to be developed, although Persian cobalt remained the most expensive. Production of blue and white wares has continued at Jingdezhen to this day. Blue and white porcelain made at Jingdezhen probably reached the height of its technical excellence during the reign of the Kangxi emperor of the Qing Dynasty (reigned 1661 to 1722).

Feb

13

Early China porcelain trade

By Ceramic Design



Wares from the 16th century include Kraak porcelain, Yixing stonewares, Blanc-de-Chine, Blue and white porcelain, Famille verte, noire, jaune and rose, Chinese Imari, Armorial wares and Canton porcelain. Chinese export porcelain is generally decorative, but without the symbolic significance of wares produced for the home market. With the exception of the rare Huashi soft paste wares, Chinese porcelain is hard paste made using china clay and Chinese porcelain stone, baidunzi. While rim chips and hairline cracks are common, pieces tend not to stain. Chinese wares are usually thinner than Japanese and do not have the Japanese stilt marks.

Dutch 17th Century still- life painting by Jan Treck, showing late Ming Blue and white porcelain export bowls (1649).

In the 16th century, Portuguese traders began importing late Ming dynasty Blue and white porcelain porcelains to Europe, resulting in the growth of the Kraak porcelain trade (named after the Portuguese ships called carracks in which it was transported). In 1602 and 1604, two Portuguese carracks, the San Yago and Santa Catarina, were captured by the Dutch and their cargos, which included thousands of items of porcelain, were auctioned, igniting a European mania for porcelain. Buyers included the Kings of England and France. Many European nations then established trading companies in the Far East, the most important being the Dutch East India Company or VOC. The trade continued until the mid-17th century when civil wars caused by the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644 disrupted suppliers and the European traders turned to Japan.

Export porcelain vase with European scene, Kangxi period.

As valuable and highly-prized possessions, pieces of Chinese export porcelain appeared in many seventeenth-century Dutch paintings. The illustration (right) shows a painting by Jan Treck that includes two Kraak-style bowls, probably late Ming, the one in the foreground being of a type called by the Dutch klapmuts. The blue pigment used by the artist has faded badly since the picture was painted.

Under the Kangxi reign (1662–1722) the Chinese porcelain industry at Jingdezhen was reorganised and the export trade was soon flourishing again. Chinese export porcelain from the late 17th century included Blue and white and Famille verte wares (and occasionally Famille noire and jaune). Wares included garnitures of vases, dishes, teawares, ewers, and other useful wares, figure models, animals and birds. Blanc-de-Chine porcelains and Yixing stonewares arrived in Europe giving inspiration to many of the European potters.

For the potters of Jingdezhen the manufacture of porcelain wares for the European export market presented new difficulties. Writing from the city in 1712 the French Jesuit missionary Père François Xavier d’Entrecolles records that “…the porcelain that is sent to Europe is made after new models that are often eccentric and difficult to reproduce; for the least defect they are refused by the merchants, and so they remain in the hands of the potters, who cannot sell them to the Chinese, for they do not like such pieces”.