Description This is an example of blue and white porcelain made for the Dutch market. Blue and White porcelain in China came about as a result of the combination of the Chinese porcelain tradition with the trade in cobalt blue from Persia. Porcelain is a hard white ceramic composed of white-china clay, called kaolin, and refined porcelain stone, or petuntse. When fired together, these materials fuse to create a hard, vitrified ceramic. Blue and White porcelain is the successor to the Chinese Qingbai and Shufu traditions that preceded it, or ceramics with a white glaze and a slightly blue or blue-green tint. To achieve the Blue and White decorative style, cobalt underglaze is applied to the porcelain; it is then covered in clear glaze and fired. Cobalt was used by Persian potters for centuries before its import to China. It was introduced in approximately 1325 A.D. through with Persian merchant communities established along the Chinese coast. Following the introduction of this new, exotic decorative style, the city of Jingdezhen, known as the porcelain capital of China, began producing Blue and White porcelain wares with imported cobalt. The European inclination for Chinese porcelain is in no small part due to the influence of Manuel I, King of Portugal (r. 1495-1521). In 1499, Vasco de Gama brought Manuel his first cache of porcelain from India. It was during the reign on Zhengde (r. 1506-1521) that Manuel first made contact with China, indicating the beginning of the import Blue and White porcelain to Europe. In 1512, Manuel gifted a number of Blue and White wares to Lisbon, informing his preference for the style. European monarchs gifted these wares back and forth in shows of diplomacy. By the 1520s, Chinese porcelain manufacturers were producing wares specifically for the Portuguese market. Blue and White wares were adorned with European designs including Manuel I's coat of arms and Portuguese phrases. A new genre of porcelain emerged with Christian references, including the acronym "IHS,' or Iesus Hominum Salvator. In 1575, the earliest porcelain was manufactured for the Spanish market, decorated with the double-headed Hapsburg eagle. In 1584, Queen Elizabeth I was presented with a Blue and White porcelain bowl.
Provenance William T. / Henry Walters Collection, Baltimore [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by William T. or Henry Walters
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