The Art of Porcelain
Prof. Nicoletta Celli
Bowl with molded decoration
Song Dynasty (960-1279)
Of all the inventions in the
Chinese ceramic industry, porcelain certainly
has pride of place. The discovery of the
properties of the new ingredient, kaolin, dates
from the end of the sixth century, but the use
of this new material was perfected during the
subsequent Tang Dynasty. According to the
definition used in the West, porcelain is
distinguished from other ceramics through the
properties it enjoys in abundance: especially
its whiteness, translucency, impermeability,
hardness and resonance. Shrouded in mystery like
other arcane aspects of Chinese art, the secret
of exactly how it was made was kept for
centuries, until in the early eighteenth century
porcelain began to be produced in Europe too.
North Xia Dynasty The range of different ceramic wares increased rapidly from the tenth century, as did the number of kilns producing them, and important technical refinements helped heighten the renown of Song ceramics.
Earlier forms continued to be produced, such as Yaozhou (Shaanxi) celadons, and were joined by other new wares, like the blue-and-white (qingbai) pottery made at the Jingdezhen kilns (Jiangxi) and Cizhou ware, with sgraffito decoration (design incised through the slip), which was produced in the north of the country.
Ming Dynasty A selection of ceramics on display represents the wares produced during the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, starting with the famous blue-and-white (qinghua) porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue decoration, whose fame is also linked to the considerable export trade in these articles to Asia and Europe.
Experiments during the Qing period led to the development of porcelains with bright monochrome glazes in various shades of yellow, green, red and blue, each of which known by a specific name that has come down to the present day.
Dish - Qing Dynasty The exhibition ends with polychrome wares beginning in the Ming period and continuing throughout the Qing Dynasty. Porcelains decorated with overglaze enamels are conventionally classified according to the predominant color.