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”.

Feb

13

Blanc de Chine

By Ceramic Design



Blanc de Chine is a type of white porcelain made at Dehua in the Fujian province. It has been produced from the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) to the present day. Large quantities arrived in Europe as Chinese Export Porcelain in the early 18th century and it was copied at Meissen and elsewhere.

The area along the Fujian coast was traditionally one of the main ceramic exporting centers. Over one-hundred and eighty kiln sites have been identified extending in historical range from the Song period to present.


From the Ming period porcelain objects were manufactured that achieved a fusion of glaze and body traditionally referred to as “ivory white” and “milk white.” The special characteristic of Dehua porcelain is the very small amount of iron oxide in it, allowing it to be fired in an oxidising atmosphere to a warm white or pale ivory colour. (Wood, 2007)

The porcelain body is not very plastic but vessel forms have been made from it. Donnelly, (1969, pp.xi-xii) lists the following types of product: figures, boxes, vases and jars, cups and bowls, fishes, lamps, cup-stands, censers and flowerpots, animals, brush holders, wine and teapots, Buddhist and Taoist figures, secular figures and puppets. There was a large output of figures, especially religious figures, e.g. Guanyin, Maitreya, Lohan and Ta-mo figures.

The numerous Dehua porcelain factories today make figures and tableware in modern styles. During the Cultural Revolution “Dehua artisans applied their very best skills to produce immaculate statuettes of the Great Leader and the heroes of the revolution. Portraits of the stars of the new proletarian opera in their most famous roles were produced on a truly massive scale.” Mao Zedong figures later fell out of favour but have been revived for foreign collectors.

Notable artists in blanc de Chine, such as the late Ming period He Chaozong, signed their creations with their seals. Wares include crisply modeled figures, cups, bowls and joss stick-holders.

Many of the best examples of blanc de Chine are found in Japan where the white variety was termed hakugorai or “Korean white”, a term often found in tea ceremony circles. The British Museum in London has a large number of blanc de Chine pieces, having received as a gift in 1980 the entire collection of P.J.Donnelly.