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, underglaze copper-red and white-slip-decorated celadon-ground rouleau vase, decorated with the “Eight Horses of Mu Wang”, each in a different pose amongst pine trees, wutong, rockwork and clumps of grass, the lip and interior glazed white, the base with an underglaze-blue double ring.
Chinese imperial porcelain blue and white palace bowl, wan, deeply potted with a gently flared rim, the exterior with five stylised lotus flowerheads on a scrolling branch, amongst arrow-head leaves, scrolls and foliage, all above a band of stylized lotus petals, the interior painted in the well with a lotus flowerhead amongst arrow-head leaves, scrolling branches and foliage encircled by five further flowerheads in the cavetto.
Chinese porcelain blue and white miniature shonzui type censer painted with three roundels of pine, willow and three birds in flight, all on three different geometric grounds of cash, wan character, and scales beneath a band of key fret, the inverted lipped rim with ruyi head scrolls on a blue wash ground.
A pair of Chinese porcelain underglaze blue and white miniature bottle vases painted on either side with flowerheads emanating from foliage on the ground, all between double rings at the foot rim.
Chinese porcelain blue and white baluster vase with single-ribbed neck and galleried rim, painted on the body with three qilins standing on rocks amongst billowing and crested waves and sea spray, with stylised flames being emitted from their mouths, the ribbed neck with bands of lappets, scrolls and ruyi-heads, all between crenulated bands above the foot and on the rim, the base glazed white.
A Chinese porcelain blue and white lobed teapot and cover, painted with four panels of river landscape scenes with pavilions, fisherman, pine tree, a viewing pavilion and birds in flight, with floral sprays on the spout and handle, the cover similarly decorated.
Blue and white saucer-dish painted with four horses in a field in various poses attended by a seated groom playing a flute, the underside with stylised branches.
Blue and white tea bowl of cylindrical form on a tall foot, painted with two pairs of characters ji xi "fortune and happiness" in stylised octofoil lotus flower head reserves on cash and scale diaper grounds beneath a band of scrolls at the rim and above two blue lines on the foot, the rim with mushikui.
A Chinese porcelain kosometsuke waterpot in the form of twin peaches, with stalk and foliage in relief, painted with four butterflies on a key-fret ground, the three biscuit feet of butterfly form.
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.