Posts

Satsuma: how the West was won over

NEW YORK – Satsuma earthenware dates to the 1590s, when master Korean potters established kilns in Kyushu, in southern Japan. Initially, they crafted small, simple water jars, incense boxes, and tea ceremony components from dark clay. After the discovery of local cream-colored clay, however, these pieces featured floral or geometric designs with soft yellow glazing.

Globular, gilded, enameled Satsuma jar featuring a continuous scene of carriage in a garden against a foliate base, Meiji Period, signed, early 20th century. Sold for $13,000 in 2005. Image courtesy of Doyle New York and LiveAuctioneers

From the late 1700s, these potters, influenced by the rising popularity of Imari porcelain, produced overglaze vessels featuring delicate, hand-painted, multicolor enamel brocade and floral patterns embellished with liquid gold. Final firings, resulting in differing cooling rates between their bodies and glazes, created their characteristic mellow yellow, minutely crackled glaze. The most decorative teasets, vases, trays, brush pots, and incense burners were likely reserved for daimyōs and other high-ranking dignitaries.

Squat vase with elongated neck decorated in polychrome enamels and gilt on a clear crackle glaze depicting daimyo procession, signed with gilt seal, Yabu Meizan, 5.25 inches tall, realized $7,000 in 2014. Image courtesy of A.B. Levy’s Palm Beach and Liveauctioneers

After centuries of self-imposed isolation, the “Enlightened” Meiji emperor not only embraced modernization, but also promoted exports by showcasing Japanese arts at European international exhibitions. After introducing exquisitely detailed Satsuma bowls and massive vases at the Paris International Exhibition of 1867, their wares were displayed worldwide, from Vienna and Hamburg to St. Petersburg and Chicago. Their exotic charm and beauty created a sensation.

As the Satsuma craze spread, Japanese artists worked feverishly to create pieces expressly for export. To encourage sales further, they followed their perception of Western tastes. So instead of realistic scenes, their gilded tea caddies, plates, bowls and incense burners bear stylized pagodas, courtesans, demons and dragons against dense bird-and-flower grounds.

Pairs of towering vases were especially popular. Scores depict continuous, go-round images like daimyō processions or crowds entering kabuki theaters. Others, divided into decorative panels, feature contrasting scenarios. Samurai archers oppose bucolic scenes of nature, for instance, and children at play face plump, perching partridges. However, because these earthenware vases were fired at lower temperatures than porcelain, they—and indeed all Satsuma, are purely decorative.

A Satsuma plate featuring festively clad courtesans and children, Kinkozan, realized $3,000 in 2011. Image courtesy of Artingstall Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers

Satsuma-style workshops, employing numerous potters and painters under the auspices of kiln masters, soon spread from Kyushu to Osaka, Kyoto, Yokohama and Tokyo. Their varied clays, pigments, glazes and methods resulted in a wide range of colors and crackles. Moreover, many craftsmen hastily painted designs on blank, glazed stoneware. Yet to Westerners, all “Satsuma,” whatever their origins, evoked the romance and splendor of the East.

Unfortunately, as production increased, previously consistent standards of quality gave way to shoddy workmanship, overly ornate designs, and lack of artistic creativity. By the mid-1880s, sales of such mass-produced Satsuma had diminished.

All the while, select kiln masters continued creating traditional Satsuma – hand-painted masterpieces featuring restrained, well balanced designs and time-honored themes edged by rich, repetitive borders.

Satsuma gold and polychrome decorated incense burner (koro), Kinkozan, 7 inches x 6.5 inches, realized $1,000 in 2017. Image courtesy of The Popular Auction and LiveAuctioneers

Many examples, reflecting the national love of nature, depict harmonious landscapes embellished with beloved crane, butterfly, cherry blossom, peony, or chrysanthemum motifs. Others, depicting festivals and processions, feature geishas with parasols, scholars studying scrolls, children flying kites, or musicians performing. Though these were portrayed with minute brushstrokes— perhaps even slender rats’ hairs, their facial expressions, amazingly, reflect the full range of human emotions. In fact, say historians, some resemble notables of the time.

A number of master painters, likely courting fame or fortune, signed their creations. Others cleverly worked their names, or the names of their studios, into elements of their artwork. In this way, Hozan, Seikozan, Kikozan and Ryozan, for example, became known for their characteristic techniques, subject manner, styles, and harmony between form and design.

Finely decorated Satsuma bowl, interior with butterflies, exterior with wisteria vines above chrysanthemums and other flowers, base with gilt two-character mark within a brown cartouche on a chrysanthemum ground, 4 inches x 4.5 inches, realized $3,200 in 2009. Image courtesy of Brunk Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Serious Satsuma collectors often seek work by Yabu Meizan, whose masterpieces earned extensive recognition at international ceramic exhibitions and world fairs. Many feature exquisitely detailed images of everyday activities like potters, swordsmiths, fan makers and paper makers at work. Scores depict natural motifs, like maple branches or dragonflies darting among morning glories, against simple, creamy grounds.

Other enthusiasts pursue small, rare works by Nakamura Baikei. These embody not only a skillful use of color, but also expressive brushwork and motifs ranging from amusing to martial. They also feature expansive inscriptions extolling his own incomparable artistic skills.

Rare Satsuma, reflecting superior artwork and detail, pleasing proportions, and unusual subject matter as executed by master craftsmen, are the most desirable of all. In addition to their characteristic fine-crackled glaze, these splendors often incorporate delicate dots and strands of liquid gold applied with the tiniest tips of tiniest brushes. Amid the tasteful elegance, they shimmer.

Prized Asian antiques bound for Jasper52 auction Oct. 2

Jasper52 will present an online auction of premier Asian antiques on Tuesday, Oct. 2. This finely curated sale brings together ancient Chinese pottery, impressive bronze Buddhas and much more, creating a comprehensive representation of the Asian tradition.

Iron helmet covered with black lacquer inlaid with mother of pearl, Meiji period (1868-1912). Estimate: $1,500-$2,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Prized antique Korean earthenware to be auctioned Sept. 11

While Chinese and Japanese porcelain wares are revered and collected worldwide, Korean celadon earthenware is a lesser-known category within the Asian decorative art genre that is rapidly capturing the attention of collectors, who admire its simple elegance. An opportunity to purchase fine antique Korean earthenware awaits bidders on September 11 as Jasper52 presents a boutique auction of 47 premium-quality lots.

Crackled celadon-glazed tripod censer, Joseon Dunasty, Korea, 18th-19th century, embedded with white, black and copper-reds slip, key-fret patterns, beast knob, two upright handles. Est. $900-$1,100

View the auction.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Treasures abound in Aug. 28 boutique auction of Asian art, antiques

With its tradition of elegant simplicity, Asian decorative art is universal in its appeal, transcending borders and influencing cultures on nearly every continent. For centuries, the Western world has embraced the rich legacy of paintings, ceramics and metal statuary of China, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, Korea and other nations. Jasper52 will pay tribute to the art and antiques of Asia with an August 28 auction featuring 74 high-quality lots. Absentee and live-online bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.

Golden copper sculpture of the Buddha Sakyamuni, 18th century, 74cm high. Est. $12,000-$13,000

View the auction.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Mongolian Art – Origins Etched in Stone

In Mongolia, located in East Central Asia and bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, rock formations yield evidence of artistic expression and communication in the form of petroglyphs dating back to ancient times.

Such early examples of stone drawings and carvings discovered in the mountains of western Mongolia are reflections of what once were everyday experiences of indigenous people. These examples of artistic carvings, according to archeological researchers, date back to the Upper Paleolithic period (40,000 to 1,200 B.C.). Some of the most common motifs include hunting scenes with bears and deer; and Mongolian people depicted as hunters and gatherers, or during celebrations and acts of meditation.

Late 19th-century wool-on-cotton mat, made in Mongolia, 4 ft. x 2 ft. Image courtesy Jasper52

In addition to drawings and carvings on stone and caves, Mongolian artists have been known over the centuries for their creation of silver immortality vases, paintings on burlap and burlwood; woven rugs, and figures made of clay, copper, and bronze.

As time passed, Mongolian art continued to be shaped by the cultural influences of nomadic tribes and new settlers. The topography of the country influenced the scenery appearing in Mongolian art, such as mountains, deserts, forests, and upland mesas of the landlocked region. As the nomadic tribes traversed the country, aspects of their art went with them in the form of items called tsa-tsa and gau, which are portable shrines made of wood, clay, copper, and at times, silver. Meanwhile, the people from beyond Mongolia’s borders who established homesteads and worked and hunted on the same piece of land for a lifetime also were known to use silver, bronze, and gold in creating their artworks.

Chinese/Mongolian silver elephants inlaid with lapis lazuli and turquoise beads, circa late 19th- to early 20th century. Image courtesy Dallas Auction Gallery

Mongolian art is strongly influenced by religion and other beliefs, such as Buddhism, Shamanism, Islam, and Nestorianism. Be it statutes, paintings, jewelry, or textiles, over the centuries artists of this region incorporated deities and divinities into their creations. Although many Mongolian beliefs are shared by peoples in bordering nations, there are elements reflected in Asian artworks that are distinctly indicative of the location and tribe or people responsible for their creation, explains Terese Tse Bartholomew, in an article on asianart.com.

“The ornamentation, the shape of the lotus petals on the pedestal, and the way in which the base plate is inserted and held in place often give clues as to the country of origin,” writes Bartholomew. “Even within Mongolia, there were variations between the works produced in Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia. The sculptures of Zanabazar illustrate these differences.”

17th-century gilt bronze of Mongolian Bhais Aijyaguru, with inscription. Image courtesy of Golden State Auction Gallery Inc.

The Zanabazar of whom Bartholomew speaks is the revered Mongolian sculptor and artist Bogdo Gegen Zanabazar, who lived and created between the mid-17th and early 18th centuries. He became the first Jebtsundamba Khutuktu, or the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia, and the top-ranked lama in Mongolia. His work and leadership led to the development of the Zanabazar School of Sculpture of Outer Mongolia.

Within Mongolian artistry, motifs have specific meaning and symbolism. According to Bartholomew’s writings, there are five types of Mongolian artistic motifs:

  • Geometric: Eternity pattern, “happiness” knot, khan’s bracelet, ribbon
  • Zoomorphic: Friendly animals (elephant, monkey, hare, and dove), strong animals (lion, tiger, dragon, and a mythical bird Garuda), Asian zodiac animals (rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar), a circle comprised of two fish – symbolizing yin and yang; and horn-like and noselike figures
  • Botanical: Lotus, peony, and peaches, which represent purity, prosperity, and longevity, respectively
  • Shapes of natural elements: Water, fire, and air
  • Symbols: Traditional symbolism of Tibetan and Chinese cultures including: the Eight Auspicious Symbols, Seven Jewels of the Monarch, and the Three Jewels

Antique miniature Mongolian thangka art, 2⅜ in. x 2½ in. Image courtesy Jasper52.

Mongolia’s most noteworthy artists of the 20th century are O. Tsevegjav, U. Yadamsuren, N. Tsultem and G. Odon, L. Gavaa, S. Choimbol, A. Senghetsokhio, B. Avarzed, Ts. Mijuur, Ya. Urjnee, S. Dondog, and D. Munkhuu.

Following a departure from communism and peaceful revolution in 1990, Mongolia adopted a democratic form of government. It is largely dependent on trade with neighboring China and Russia, its main industries being agriculture and mining. Mongolia also promotes tourism and capitalizes on the unique beauty of Mongolian art, both traditional and contemporary. With nearly three million people now living and working in Mongolia, and hundreds of thousands more visiting the country each year, art plays an increasingly important role in the present and future success of this intriguing Asian nation.

Array of Asian antiques available in Jasper52 auction Nov. 4

Original Samurai swords are among the top items in a Jasper52 auction of Asian antiques on Saturday, Nov. 4. Also featured are carved miniature works of art called netsuke. This online-only auction with its diverse offerings showcases the rich history and cultural variety of Asia.

Pair of phoenix birds, Chinese porcelain, late Qing Dynasty, 19th century, 16in. Estimate: $1,100-$1,200. Jasper52 image

View the auction.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

6 Asian Arts Pieces Steeped in Tradition

Showcasing the rich history and cultural variety of Asia, this week’s curated Asian Decorative Art and Antiques collection features highly collectible Thangka paintings, Japanese weapon accessories, exquisite Chinese ceramics, and so much more. Below are six standout items you’re bound to enjoy.

Parinirvana Buddha Thangka Painting

Thangkas are Tibetan paintings on cotton, or silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala. The thangka featured in the collection carries the auction’s highest estimate – $2,000-$2,500 – is by the artist Urken Lama. The scene depicts the Buddha Shakyamuni’s nirvana, his passing from earthly life to the ultimate goal of an enlightened being: “released from the bonds of existence through negation of desires that cause life’s intrinsic suffering.”

Parinirvana Buddha thangka painting by Urken Lama, 32 in. x 48 in. Estimate: $2,000-$2,250. Jasper52 image

 

Antique Meiji Scroll

Turning to the Land of the Rising Sun, this late Meiji scroll painting, ink on paper, features a classic mountainous landscape. It is an excellent painting for a tea ceremony.

Late Meiji (1890-1912) Japanese hanging scroll, ink on paper, of classic landscape signed Shoko followed by two red paste seals of the artist, 74 in x 30.5 in. Estimate: $165-$185. Jasper52 image

 

Antique Meiji Oribe Tea Ceremony Chaire

This Japanese pottery Oribe ware chaire, a jar for storing powdered green tea used in the tea ceremony, has a characteristic rich green crackled glaze and an underglaze brown painting of pine and saplings. Oribe ware, named after Furuta Oribe, a famous 16th-century tea master, was produced in the Mino and Seto kilns during the late Meiji period. It is particularly Japanese in taste and was not made for export. The stoneware body has concentric lines, stamped with the seal of the potter by the bottom.

Late Meiji Japanese pottery Oribe ware chaire, a tea caddy for storing powdered green tea used in tea ceremony. Height with cover: 3 1/16in. Estimate: $165-$185. Jasper52 image

 

Late Meiji Wooden Netsuke of Tanuki

From the late Meiji period is this charming netsuke in the form of a seated tanuki, a Japanese raccoon dog. In Japanese folklore the tanuki is a notorious trickster, who drums with his paws on his belly, imitating the sounding of gongs in temples and inns, and leading tired travelers astray in the darkness. This netsuke is skillfully carved in ittobori (one cut) style characteristic of the Hida school, with clever use of wood texture to add to the charm of the piece. It is signed “Kazuyuki,” an artist listed in Netsuke & Inro Artists and How to Read Their Signatures by George Lazarnick.

Late Meiji (1890s – 1910s) wooden netsuke of a tanuki, horn inlaid eyes, signed Kazuyuki (inset), 1 5/8 inches high, Estimate: $300-$350. Jasper52 image

 

Fighting Samurai Sword Menuki

Menuki are ornaments that fit into the palm for grip on a Japanese sword. Several pairs of menuki are included in this auction. This particular pair depicts armed samurai in bronze with silver inlays and gilding.

Pair of early 19th-century Japanese sword menuki, each depicting a samurai, bronze with silver inlays and gilding, 1 1/16 in. Estimate: $300-$350. Jasper52 image

 

Chinese Scholar’s Rootwood Brushrest

From 19th-century China is this scholar’s brush-rest / scholar’s rock made of rootwood, which looks like a craggy mountain range. Fashioned from the natural root of a tree, the piece exhibits old cracks, nicks, and scratches, adding to its wild energy.

Nineteenth-century Chinese scholar’s rootwood brush rest / scholar’s rock giving an impression of a craggy mountain, 5 1/4 in. x 2 1/4 in. Estimate: $225-$250. Jasper52 image

 

There are more treasures to be found. View the full catalog in this auction of Asian Arts and Antiques.

6 Fascinating Facts About Cats in Japanese Art

It’s hard to dispute the global popularity of cats, whether you fancy them or not. From museums to memes, they are represented in ancient Japanese art and contemporary communications. That’s quite a narration for the four-legged creatures who reportedly first took up residence in Japan around 500 A.D. The cats were brought on as crew members of ships departing China for Japan, charged with the task of protecting religious documents against destruction by mice. Obviously, their missions as mousers runs deep.

Upon arriving in Japan, it didn’t take long for felines to establish a revered presence within ancient Japanese culture. However, even as celebrated as they were, according to Japanese folklore, cats were also viewed by some as devious and perhaps possessing of darker traits. Nevertheless, one thing is certain, the presence of felines in Japanese art is extensive, and dates back centuries. With that, here are 6 intriguing facts about cats in Japanese art.

  1. One of the masters of ukiyo-e woodblock art of the 17th century, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861), was reportedly a serious fan of felines, often sharing his living space with multiple cats at any given time. In fact, it is said that he kept a record of the cats that died, and treated the passing of each with a great symbolic reverence.

    Ukiyo-e woodblock art, “Cats of the Tokaido Road Triptych” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Sold for $1,100. Jasper52 image

  2. Another centuries-old applauded feline of Japanese art and culture is the Maneki Neko. Immediately recognizable for its raised and welcoming paw, the Maneki Neko (commonly referred to as Fortune Cat or Lucky Cat) is said to bear multiple telling symbols. For example, if the Maneki Neko bears calico colors, which is a traditional shading, it is said to hold the most potential for luck. You might also notice, the raised paw of a Maneki Neko figurine could be either the left or the right paw. Either way, the symbolism is positive, and is said to be a gesture of beckoning wealth and luck.
  3. In 1979, Japan issued a commemorative postage stamp featuring the painting “Black Cat,” circa 1910, created by Meiji-period painter Hishida Shunso (formal name was Hishida Miyoji) during a period of only five days. Interestingly, Shunso’s portrait also appeared on a postage stamp, as part of Japan’s Famous Japanese Personalities series in 1951.

    An image of the painting done by Shunso in 1910, and the postage stamp featuring the image, issued in 1979. ArtHistoryProject.com images

  4. One of the most heralded modern exhibitions featuring cats in Japanese artwork was the “Life of Cats: Selections From the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection.” The exhibition was presented in 2015 by the Japan Society Gallery in New York. Nearly 90 examples of Japanese art, in various mediums, was included in the exhibition.
  5. The presence of cats in Japanese art isn’t limited to sweet and small. Big cats also appear in artwork dating back centuries. One of the largest and most diverse collections of Japanese art in the world can be found at The Cleveland Museum of Art. The collection boasts 1,950 pieces, including the impressive six-panel ink on paper work titled “Dragon and Tiger” by 16th century Japanese and Zen monk Sesson Shukei.

    “Dragon and Tiger” six-panel folding screen ink on paper, 16th century, by Sesson Shukei. The Cleveland Museum of Art image

     

  6. Cats are also beloved characters within the storylines and art of modern-day manga – comics created in Japan. For instance, the character Minako Aino, in the wildly popular “Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon” manga of the late 20th century, is accompanied by her talking guardian and advisor, a white cat named Artemis. The manga is the vision of Japanese artist and writer Nako Takeuchi (1967). The illustrations and largely female-led cast of characters went on to influence the development of Magical Girl manga and anime.

Be it centuries-old ukiyo-e woodblock art or modern-day manga and anime art, the reverence for felines is a common thread within the art culture of Japan. Whether it’s because of their supposed mystical properties, elegant and mysterious characteristics, or something else altogether, the fascination with felines in Japanese art and society is alive and well.

 

6 Unique Pieces of Asian Decorative Art

The mystique and beauty of Asian decorative arts are readily apparent in this collection that includes highly collectible Indian statues, expertly executed scroll paintings, ceramics, cloisonné and carvings. Take a look below for 6 highlights from this stunning catalog.

A rare Tibetan thangka depicting Gyayin – the King of hte Mind – riding an elephant, while holding a snare in one hand to throw at his enemies and a razor in the other to cut “the life-roots of the obstacle-creating demons.” Dharmapala Pehar, the head of the Five Kings, is depicted in the lower right corner riding a white lion. Monbu Putra – the King of the Body – is shown in the lower left corner riding a lioness. Shing Jachen – the King of Virtue – is shown in the upper right corner riding a black horse. Dralha Kyechikbu – the King of Speech – is shown in the upper left corner riding a mule. This rare icon, beautifully painted with natural mineral pigments and gold on cotton, exhibits superb detailing.

Rare 18th- or early 19th-century framed Tibetan thangka depicting Gyayin. Painting size in sight: 9 1.2 x 8in (24.2cm x 20.2cm); frame size: 15 1/4 x 13 1/4in (38 x 34cm). Estimate: $1,300-$1,500. Jasper52 image

 

A beautiful original scroll painting on silk by Watanabe Seitei (1851-1918) titled Sparrow and Peony in Snow is a featured item in the auction. Trained by Japanese masters, Seitei received a silver medal for a painting he submitted to the Paris Exposition in 1878. He remained in Paris for three years and became the first Nihonga artist to reside in Europe to study Western painting.

Original scroll painting on silk by Watanabe Seitei (1851–1918), ‘Sparrow and Peony in Snow,’ signed ‘Seitei,’ late 19th–early 20th century, water stain at bottom, image size 47 1/4in X 17 1/2in. Estimate: $575-$625. Jasper52 image

 

Among the oldest objects in the auction is a Shang Dynasty (1766 BC – 1046 BC) pottery vessel, which is simply made of fired clay and stands at 10 1/2 inches tall.

Shang Dynasty pottery vessel, 8in wide x 7 1/2in deep x 10 1/2in. Estimate: $800-$900. Jasper52 image

 

From the early 20th century, is a bronze Tibetan Bodhisattva Du Mu figure, which is skillfully made and in its original condition.

Tibetan handmade bronze Bodhisattva, 12in high, circa 1900–1940. Estimate: $450-$500. Jasper52 image

 

Carved from burlwood, a 2-inch toggle of a seated man served a purpose in its day. This larger example of the form would have been strung with a cord through the holes under each arm, hung from a sash and used as a counterweight to a tobacco pouch or other utilitarian object. It is a fine example of 18th- or 19th-century Chinese folk art.

Chinese toggle carved burlwood toggle, mid 1700s to 1800s, 2in high x 2 1/4in wide. Estimate: $525-$600. Jasper52 image

 

Finally, an unusual item for smokers is a Chinese water pipe dating to the first half of the 20th century. It is decorated in enameled copper, which has its original finish. The pipe is complete with a tobacco holder, brush and tobacco tweezers.

Chinese water pipe, 1900-1940, 16 1/2in high, enameled copper. Estimate: $220-$250. Jasper52 image

 

Tracing the History of Chinese Porcelain

Porcelain is often recognized and celebrated for its translucence, but it is far from delicate. In fact, by its very nature, formed and forged by fire, porcelain is like a beautiful phoenix rising out of the flames.

Pinpointing the period when porcelain was first developed is a bit tricky. According to some resources, it was at least two millennia ago. There are reported discoveries of “near porcelain” in regions active with civilization during the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC), as well as examples dating to China’s Eastern Han Dynasty (221-206 BC). Other resources point to the Tang Dynasty era (618-970 AD) as the period in history when porcelain became widely known.

Copper-red dragon and phoenix vase, Qianlong seal mark and of the period, sold at auction for $259,708 (inclusive of buyer’s premium) in February 2017. Image courtesy Rob Michiels Auctions

One thing that seems to be apparent is that each dynasty in the history of porcelain helped to hone its production and presentation. Be it techniques used to make porcelain, methods of exporting, development of regions rich with firing kilns, or variation in design and decoration, it’s evident that porcelain’s history is one of multigenerational influence and evolution.

Not unlike most antiquities today, porcelain rose out of necessity. Creating utilitarian vessels to serve people’s day-to-day needs led to the creation of the remarkably durable, yet luminous medium that could be molded, dried, and fired. During the Tang Dynasty, when some of the earliest formal kilns for porcelain production were established in Chinese provinces, new specialities were produced: celadon in the Zheijiang province, and white porcelain in the Hebei province.

Porcelain Point: The city of Jingdezhen in China’s Jiangxi Province is one of the most prolific and longest tenured porcelain-producing regions, dating back more than 1,700 years. Today many traditional porcelain-making techniques are being passed on to artisans attending classes at the Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen.

Celadon green vase with floral motif, Qing Period/19th century, Qianlong mark, 14” h. x 9-1/2” w. Estimate: $600-$800. Image courtesy Jasper52

In the beginning, export of porcelain for monetary gain wasn’t a consideration. However, that changed as visitors became more prevalent in China. With porcelain finding favor among the elite of Chinese society, it was not uncommon for leaders to bestow gifts of porcelain to visitors from abroad. After a trip to China around 850 AD, Muslim explorer Suleiman wrote that he had viewed porcelain for the first time, a revelation that attracted widespread interest. Paraphrased, and based on various reports of the translation of his writings, Suleiman reported that Chinese artisans used a fine clay to make vases that were both transparent and strong. Curiosity in the Western world led to a demand that turned porcelain into a product for export.

Porcelain Point: For centuries porcelain ranked #2 among China’s leading exports, just behind silk. This included years when Chinese emperors banned the export of all goods, including porcelain.

Porcelain Chinese punch bowl, 18th century, offered by Cohen & Cohen, during the 63rd Annual Winter Antiques Show in New York. Image courtesy Christie’s

Even with its deep and diverse history, the popularity of porcelain is far from a thing of the past. Today it takes pride of place in museum exhibitions, is a popular attraction at antique shows around the world, is the subject of study by academics, and is the focus of bidding battles at auction. Reporting on the 63rd Annual Winter Antiques Show held in New York earlier this year, former New York Times columnist Wendy Moonan selected not one, but two items from the porcelain family to include in her compilation of 10 stand-out items from the show. The highlights included an 18th-century punch bowl featuring a scene taken from a theatrical presentation, and a circa-1990 celadon platter made by Kawase Shinob – yet another example of porcelain’s appeal, whether it is of ancient past or contemporary times.


Sources:
A History and Description of Chinese Porcelain by William Cosmo Monkhouse
UNESCO
Gotheborg.com
Encyclopedia Brittanica
Independent
China Museums