Blue & White
Practically speaking, Chinese blue and white porcelain is contrived using a blue pigment from cobalt oxide. It creates designs on clean white clay which is glazed and fired at high temperatures, but the history of blue and white Chinese pottery is much more poetic.
Blue and white ceramics hold a special significance in the rich and varied history of China’s pottery industry and the origin of the famous blue gained recognition during the Tang dynasty (618 – 907). However it wasn’t until the Mongolian-ruled Yuan dynasty (1279 – 1368) that the production techniques of what has become antique blue and white stoneware reached maturity.
As the Silk Road trade route flourished, cobalt ores were imported from Persia and were an extremely expensive and scarce commodity used only sparingly, hence why blue and white China antique vases, bowls and plates are highly desired by collectors, both for their beauty and their scarcity.
The Yuan artisans took extraordinary pride in their work because it had a mythological, almost religious element, the Yuan mythical animal large charger in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (collection number EAX.1707) is a classical representation.
Chinese blue and white porcelain has always been highly prized, often reserved for diplomatic gifts and special occasions.
Chinese porcelain blue and white vase of gu form, decorated on the body and neck with branches of flowering prunus on a 'cracked ice' ground, with crenulated bands on either side of the central bulge, divided by blue bands and a further blue band at the foot, the underside glazed white.
A Chinese porcelain blue and white and cafe au lait rose water sprinkler of double-gourd form painted with books, a censer and ribbon-tied chrysanthemum beneath a spray of morning glory and flowers, the shoulder with flowerheads above a crackled band and a wide cafe au lait band on the body.
Chinese porcelain blue and white bottle vase, ping, with globular body and tall slender cylindrical neck with gently flared lipped rim, painted in a continuous scene with a pheasant standing on rock work amongst flowering peony, magnolia and prunus branches with sprays of bamboo, grasses and other plants, the reverse with a butterfly in flight, all beneath a triangular diaper band at the rim.
Chinese porcelain blue and white tall beaker vase of gu form, painted on the upper section with seated scholars, two playing weiqi beside a wrapped qin and books, while another holds up a flower-form fan, with two other scholars, one kneeling while playing a qin between two others, one holding a letter, the other a fan, with an attendant close by bringing a covered box, three of the scholars’ robes with elaborate design, all amongst “v”-shape grass in a fenced continuous landscape scene with plantain, pierced rockwork, bamboo and a cloud bank beneath the sun, and between anhua bands of scrolling branch and a triangular diaper, the central band with blue ground lozenge panels painted in reverse technique with lotus flowers and branches and round medallions, above a band of leaves, the unglazed base revealing the biscuit body.
A rare large Chinese porcelain blue and white Kraak charger painted in the centre with a tiger bearing a wang character on its forehead standing on a rocky promontory beside a pine tree, with overhanging rocks and clouds, encircled by a border with panels of peach branches and precious objects.
A Chinese porcelain blue and white brushpot (bitong) of cylindrical form, painted on one side with a standing fisherman holding a pole in the prow of a boat in a mountainous river landscape scene all within an enclosed rectangular panel, the other side painted with three bronze vessels, one with lotus flowers, surrounded by two auspicious objects, a weiqi board and a leaf.
A rare Chinese porcelain blue and white cuspidor (zhadou), the conical mouth supported by a bell-shaped lower section, the exterior painted with peonies, flowers and foliage, the interior mouth with three quadrilobed panels enclosing a flower-head and foliage on a dotted ground, all on a ground of prunus blossom and cracked-ice, the mouth rim dressed in pale brown, the base with a lozenge mark within a double ring.
A Chinese porcelain jardinière of deep ‘u’ form with slightly everted lipped rim, painted on the exterior in a continuous wide band in underglaze blue with prunus blossom on a crested wave blue ground, the interior white.
A Chinese porcelain blue and white vase with globular body with twelve moulded panels, each enclosing flowering branches, the shoulder with band of ruyi-heads, the mouth of conical form, painted with stylised foliage above a protruding brown band, all above a slightly splayed foot with brown glazed edge, the base with artemisia leaf mark within a double ring.
Blue and white two handled tripod incense burner painted in a continuous mountain river scene, each side with two fisherman in boats heading towards viewing pavilions with a willow amongst rockwork beneath further viewing pavilions at the shoulder, birds in flight amongst stylised clouds and the moon, the interior of the handle painted with a yang symbol of three unbroken lines, the exterior of the handles with a single line beneath a dot, covered overall in a rich blue tinged glaze continuing on the interior, the rim and feet with mushikui.
Chinese porcelain blue and white small Kraak saucer moulded and thinly potted with a foliate rim, painted in the centre with a bird standing on rockwork looking up at a butterfly in flight beside an aster and beneath stylised clouds, surrounded by a panel border with fruits, books, flowers, a leaf and a scroll.
Pair of Chinese porcelain celadon-ground blue and white and underglaze copper-red slip-decorated vases of rouleau form, each painted with two deer between a crane in flight, the reverse with a pine tree amongst rockwork and fruiting lingzhi beneath clouds and the moon, the rim, interior and base glazed white.
Chinese porcelain blue and white kosometsuke deep dish painted in the centre with a scholar crossing a bridge in a river landscape scene beside willow and overhanging rockwork beneath stylised clouds, encircled by moulded registers of lotus petals and large petals with stylised plum flowerheads dispersed between petals of wan characters, the underside with four registers of lotus petals, the base with a double ring in underglaze blue.
A Chinese porcelain blue and white deep fluted bowl painted on the exterior with eight panels of mythological animals alternating with panels of flowers and foliage, a double ring at the foot rim, the interior well painted with a phoenix with rockwork and flowers in a foliate panel, the rim painted with a band of eight panels of flowers, the base with a zhi (made) mark within a double square.
Chinese porcelain blue and white small Kraak saucer moulded and thinly potted with upright foliate rim, painted in the centre with a cricket standing on a rock between flowering camellia and buds and beneath an insect in flight and overhanging rockwork, encircled by a border with panels of fruits, scrolls, flowers and leaves.
Chinese porcelain blue and white Kraak deep saucer with foliate rim, painted with a pair of birds perched on rockwork above a stream beneath a large butterfly in flight, all in a shaped octagonal panel encircled by panels of fruits and flowers, the underside with some sand adhered from firing.
Blue and white moulded leaf shape dish on three bracket feet painted in the reverse technique in the form of a single leaf with central spine from which everted striped lines emit, painted with stylised water drops beneath a serrated edge.
Chinese porcelain blue and white small saucer dish painted with an equestrian scholar riding a donkey, with his attendant following holding a branch in a mountainous river landscape scene, with rockwork and an overhanging branch, all within a single line in underglaze blue, the underside with delicately painted branch of bamboo and rockwork.
Further information on Blue & White
During the early Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644), the supply of cobalt oxide from Persia was briefly halted due to foreign trade restrictions and a locally-mined cobalt was used. It’s high concentration of manganese resulted in a softer, more pale blue and it continued to be used all the way through the reigns of emperors Xuande, Chenghua and Zhengde through the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.
It was also at this time that smalt cobalt – achieved by mixing cobalt oxide with molten glass and brought to China by Zheng He’s maritime expeditions – was used to create stunning blue and white Chinese pottery. It resulted in brilliant blues visible in the glazed surfaces of blue and white china antique plates, blue and white china antique vases and blue and white china antique bowls.
As was their wont, the desirability of what has become antique blue and white stoneware was largely dependent on the tastes of each emperor. The fifth Ming emperor Xuande enjoyed Mineral Blue (shizi qing) from Jiangxi province mixed with Muslim Blue (huiqing) from predominantly Central Asia. This generated a deeper purplish-blue tone while the favoured blue and white Chinese porcelain of the ninth Ming emperor Chenghua used the locally-sourced cobalt with high concentrations of manganese, resulting in a paler hue for the blue and white ceramics produced for his Imperial court.