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 rectangular tea caddy and circular cover on four bracket feet, painted on the wide sides with vases and precious objects including a weiqi board, counter holder, books, censer and scrolls, the short sides with flowering branches, the flat shoulder with reverse technique flower sprays on a blue ground, the top of the cover similarly decorated.
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.
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.
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.
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 kosometsuke large plate painted with Shoulao seated between seven immortals, all identifiable by their attributes, beside a bridge and between overhanging rocks with pine branches, encircled by a border with 39 mons, the underside with two pairs of lozenge and pearls.
Chinese porcelain blue and white kosometsuke octagonal deep bowl painted in the centre with two figures about to cross a bridge towards a viewing pavilion in a mountainous river landscape scene, beneath sprays of bamboo, prunus, pine and a vine on a flat everted rim, the underside plain with two lines above the foot, the rim and inner rim with mushikui (fritting).
Pair of Chinese porcelain blue and white kosometsuke small food bowls in the form of jardinières, each painted on the exterior with nine branches of bamboo beneath stylised leaves on the flat everted foliate rim.
Chinese imperial porcelain blue ground iron-red dragon saucer dish with gently lipped rim, painted in the centre with a Ming-style five-clawed dragon on an underglaze blue crested-wave medallion encircled by two pairs of double lines, the underside with nine small dragons depicted in a variety of positions on a crested-wave ground beneath a band of flowerheads.
Chinese porcelain blue and white and underglaze copper-red large deep saucer dish with gently flared rim, painted in the centre with a crab encircled by four carp and a mandarin carp, with shrimp and shell amongst a shoal of copper-red fish and guppies, with aquatic plants, arrow heads, leaves and roe, all within a single underglaze blue line, the underside and base glazed white with a wide channel foot rim.
Chinese porcelain blue and white reticulated pierced bowl, wan, the exterior painted with five medallions of river landscape, camellia, rockwork, peony and a building with a large opening beside a flagpole and rockwork, all between pierced cash-style devil's work ground, above a band of lappets and beneath a band of scrolls at the rim, the interior white, the base unglazed.
Chinese imperial porcelain blue and white jue stand on four bracket feet, modelled with a central ‘mountain’ decorated on the sides with rocks and billowing waves with a peach and leaves on the flat top, encircled by four cranes in flight amongst ruyi-head clouds, beneath a flat everted rim painted with triangular diaper, the underside with stylised lotus flowerheads and scrolling branches.
A Chinese porcelain small tea jar with ovoid body and short flared mouth, painted in underglaze blue and copper-red with two sections divided by double rings, the upper with poem in underglaze blue and seals in copper-red, the lower with flowering plants in copper-red and underglaze blue, the base unglazed.
Chinese porcelain underglaze blue and white large dish painted with four figures in a walled garden scene with a building to the right, the underside with three ruyi designs.
Brushpot, bitong, of cylindrical form painted with the Daoist immortal Lü Dongbin resting on rocks beside two wine jars with a seated willow tree spirit, Liushu Jing, on a fallen tree trunk playing a flute, all beneath the moon, amongst bamboo, rockwork and cloud banks in a continuous scene between anhua bands, the base unglazed revealing the dense white biscuit body.
A pair of Chinese porcelain blue and white reticulated square form teapots and covers, each with openwork panels of wave fretwork and honeycomb, between four sided handles and spouts, all on diaper grounds, with mallow flower heads, all supported on four bracket feet.
Chinese porcelain blue and white moulded and fluted deep bowl, wan, with foliate rim painted on the exterior with four equestrian huntsmen and hounds in pursuit of white hares, amongst rockwork and trees, above a relief petal band interspersed with lingzhi branches and precious objects on a key-fret ground, the interior painted in the well with a further equestrian huntsman encircled by lappets and precious objects, beneath a wide band of diaper wan characters.
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.
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