Friday, January 3, 2014

Early Chinese Porcelain

Some porcelain was produced in the Yuan dynasty (1280 - 1368), decorated in underglaze blue. It took some time, however, for the fashionable celadon wares to be superdeded by the crisply decorated porcelains, which were initially seen as vulgar in some quarters.

In 1368 the Mongol Yuan dynasty was overcome and the Ming dynasty was established: it was to last until 1644. During the early years of the first Ming Emperor's reign, porcelain in underglaze blue or red developed further. By the end of the 14th century, porcelain had gained fashionable status.

It is a misconception that all wares from the Ming dynasty are worth vast sums of money. The output was prodigious, many pieces were made for export to the West and the survival rate has been high. Many of the wares that can be found today were made not in the Imperial kilns but in the provinces, and were rather crudely potted and decorated. Such pieces, particularly if damaged, can be purchased for relatively modest sums.

The reign of Xuande (1426 - 35) is notable for superb blue and white wares in a blackish blue, but underglaze red was also employed. Xuande wares were convincingly copied in the 18th century.

Later Ming highlights include the coloured enamels of the Chenghua reign (1465 - 87). Blue and white was revived in the reign of Jiajing (1522 - 66), when overglaze iron red was added to the palette.

Eighty per cent of reign marks on Chinese porcelain are retrospective, intended as a tribute to Imperial ancestors. Square seal marks sometimes replace the more usual character marks. Reading from the top right down, a six characters includes: character for 'great' dynasty, emperor's first name, emperor's second name, two characters meaning 'in the reign of'. Pieces that bear the correct mark for their period (catalogued 'mark and period') are more valuable than those with anachronistic marks.

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