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China; its history, arts and literature online

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these little vessels. They were from two to three
inches high, with cylindrical or flattened circular
bodies, and from the stopper there projected into the
interior a tiny spoon that served to carry the snuff to
the nose. Monochromatic and polychromatic glazes,
enamel decoration applied to a surface plain white,
coloured in the various styles described above, carved
in relief, reticulated, granulated, chagrined — it would



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CHINA

be impossible to enumerate all the varieties of decora-
tive device employed in the manufacture of these little
objects. Fifty years ago they acquired historical in-
terest in Europe, for Rosellini, in his ^^ I Monumenti deW
Egitto^' described one found by him in an Egyptian
tomb, which was supposed to have never been opened
before. On the strength of this evidence, supplemented
by the subsequent discovery of three similar bottles in
Egypt, Sir Francis Davis concluded that the manu-
fecture of Chinese porcelain — for the bottles were
of true porcelain and undoubtedly Chinese origin —
dated as far back as the eighteenth century before
Christ. Such a theory did not long survive. At-
tacked in the first place by M. Stanislas Julien, it was
finally demolished by Mr. Medhurst, who showed
that the inscriptions on the bottles were extracted
from the writings of poets of the eighth century of
our era. Exactly similar bottles were afterwards sent
by Mr. Wells Williams from China, where they could
be purchased in any porcelain store. Their presence
in Egyptian tombs remains unexplained, and has no
more historical significance than the discovery of Chi-
nese ivory-white porcelain seals in an Irish bog.

Though scarcely worthy to be called a special vari-
ety, mention may be made of porcelain in the deco-
ration of which one enamel only, deep emerald green,
was employed. The designs were almost invariably
dragons or phoenixes, supplemented by clouds, waves,
or tongues of flame. Porcelains thus decorated are
usually distinguished by careful technique. They are
at once brilliant and restful. When their manufacture
originated it is not possible to say with certainty, but
it probably dates from the closing reigns of the Ming
dynasty. No specimens older than the latter half



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PORCELAIN DECORATED

of the sixteenth century have yet been authenti-
cated.

The Chinese keramist showed much skill in the
use of graving and moulding tools. Elaborate de-
signs, incised or in relief, were constantly added by
him to decoration in enamels. Perhaps the most
delicate ornamentation of this kind is to be seen on
lanterns of egg-shell hard-paste porcelain. These
were employed after the manner of transparencies,
and nothing could be softer or more brilliant than
the effect of the enamelled pictures and reticulated
or incised ornamentation seen by reflected light when
the lamp was in use. Profuse decoration belongs
chiefly to later periods of keramic development.
The Kang^hsi potter depended on the brilliancy and
purity of his enamels. His Chien-lung successor
sought the aid of moulded, pierced, or incised de-
signs, and in the nineteenth century the artist lost
himself in confused elaboration. Hat-rests dating
from the Chien-lung era show an extraordinary wealth
of technical eflFort. The button on a Chinese oflSi-
cial's cap being his .badge of rank, he held his hat-
rest higher than a Western lady holds her jewel-case.
The keramist obeyed this foible by manufacturing
cap-supports ornamented in the most unsparing man-
ner, their embossed or latticed designs picked out
with enamels and gold.

A curious and beautiful method of decoration, used
sometimes alone, sometimes in conjunction with col-
oured enamels or blue sous couverte^ consisted in cut-
ting a design in the pdte and filling the excised
portions with glaze only. There resulted a transpar-
ent pattern, resembling lace-work. Such a tour de
force must have demanded great skill and care. Prob-

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ably for that reason, as well as on account of the
extremely perishable nature of porcelain thus deco-
rated, specimens are exceedingly rare and highly
prized. The design is generally of a formal charac-
ter, as bands of diaper or star pattern ; but occasionally
dragons or leaves and blossoms are thus treated. In
America, porcelain with pierced ornamentation is
commonly known as ** Grains-of-rice-ware." In
Japan it is called ** Hotaru-de^'* or "fire-fly style/*
The precise date of its origin is uncertain, but there
is every reason to conclude that it was not manufac-
tured before the Kang-hsi era (1661-1722). Mr.
A. W. Franks says that " in Persia, white bowls of a
soft, gritty porcelain were made, which have rude
decorations of the same nature, but there is no evi-
dence to show in which country, China or Persia,
such a mode of ornamentation originated.*' Numer-
ous specimens from the workshops of the nineteenth
century are to be met with; but if the collector
remembers to look always for a pure white, lustrous
porcelain and accurately cut designs into which the
transparent glaze is run with imiform precision, he is
not likely to fall into error. These features are in-
variably absent in modern pieces, which show uneven-
ness of surface and a distinctly marked tinge of green
in the glaze of the pierced portions. In China this
ware is called Ten-ching-tou-kwa.

Porcelain ornamented with white slip may be
spoken of here as occupying an intermediate place
between enamelled wares and monochromatic or poly-
chromatic glazes. Chinese potters do not seem to
have practised this method largely. They employed
it chiefly in conjunction with the brown or coffee-
coloured glaze called Tsu-chin-se^ the fond lacque of

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PORCELAIN DECORATED

French collectors. Over this were moulded floral
designs, scrolls, and geometrical patterns in white slip,
the effect being at once rich and soft. A rarer vari-
ety has mazarine blue ground. In old porcelains of
the latter class the tone of the blue is rich and pure,
but in more modern pieces it passes into a species of
slate-colour, or greyish blue. Many examples of the
last variety are to be met with among the productions
of the Taou-kwang and subsequent eras. They are
generally coarse, clumsy porcelains, evidently manu-
factured for use rather than ornament. The white
slip fashion of decoration probably had its origin
about the close of the productive period of the Ming
dynasty ; that is to say, towards the end of the six-
teenth century. It is certain that glazes of light
golden brown or deep coflfee colour were then in
vogue, and these, with white slip decoration, are to
be found on pieces that exhibit all the characteristics
of later Ming porcelain.

It would be a hopeless task to attempt the enumer-
ation of all the fashions developed by Chinese kera-
mists in the decoration of enamelled porcelains. The
principal types only have been mentioned above.

That Chinese decorative fashions were largely in-
fluenced by European intercourse from the Kang-hsi
era downwards is beyond question. In the ** Annals
of Fu-liang,'* quoted in the Tao4uy the various enam-
els and ancient porcelains produced or imitated at
Ching-t6-ch6n in the eighteenth century are cata-
logued. It is there recorded that the Chinese potters
" imitated European vases having figures chiselled or
moulded,** and that " in the manner of painting, or
applying enamels to these vases as well as to other
pieces, they copied closely the European style of art.'*

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CHINA

The same catalogue includes " vases decorated with
enamels in the European style *' [Tang^tsai-ifj, and
says that ** landscapes, figures, flowers, plants, birds
and quadrupeds were depicted on these porcelains
with marvellous delicacy and perfection/' When it
is remembered what a large measure of imperial pa-
tronage was extended to the Jesuit missionaries in
Kang-hsi's time, and how they were honoured as the
representatives of advanced erudition, it seems natural
that not European science only, but European art
also, or at any rate the European art tendencies of
the age, should have obtained some favour in the
Middle Kingdom. Moreover, there were the mar-
kets of Europe to be supplied. Japan had adapted
herself to their demand at Dutch inspiration, and
Chinese keramists had not only Japan's example to
stimulate them, but also the counsel of learned men
who, although foreigners, were open recipients of
the emperor's favours. The result may be traced in
two directions. Decorative methods became more
and more ornate, until they culminated in the infinite
elaboration of the later Chien-lung porcelains. Look-
ing back to the brilliant style of the Lung-ching and
Wan-li period (1567— 1620), it may, perhaps, be
denied that foreign inspiration was needed to develop
these into the exuberance of adornment with which
their successors were loaded two centuries afterwards.
But the difference is not one of degree only. For
the dragons and clouds, the phoenixes, the sacred
horses, the mythical beings, the waves, the fishes and
the aquatic plants which chiefly furnished motives
to the early keramist, were replaced in later times by
elaborate diapers, rich scrolls, soft floral designs and
graceful arabesques. Besides, the decorative enamels

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PORCELAIN DECORATED

themselves underwent an alteration. It is a notable
fact that all the principal colours of the ^^ Famille
Rose'' porcelains, the lemon yellow, the ruby or
crimson, the pink, or rose du Barry ^ and the brilliant
black — differing essentially from the dull greenish
black of the " Famtlle Verte *' wares — are spoken of
in the Tao-lu as " European colours." In fact, the
distinct change of genre that occurred at the close
of the Kang-hsi era, was largely due either to Euro-
pean inspiration or to some newly formed conception
of European taste. Certainly the keramic decoration
of the West two centuries ago had very few features
in common with the contemporaneous keramic dec-
oration of China. But the difference between the
two was much less marked after the " Famille Rose **
type made its appearance. The broken colours and
half-tints of the latter had a marked affinity with
European style, though the decorative designs chiefly
employed might easily be mistaken for Japanese.
Moreover, much direct copying of European models
and designs took place at the request of foreign
traders. Mr. A. W. Franks, of the British Museum,
has studied this branch of the subject with his
wonted care. In the fine collection presented by
him to the nation, numerous specimens of Chinese and
Japanese wares are included, betraying unmistakable
evidence of foreign influence. His remarks on the
subject are well worth quoting: —

The earliest specimens modified to modern taste would
naturally be anything made in China for Japan, or in Japan
for China ; next, the wares fiirnished to other Asiatic nadons
or to Egypt, and lasdy those made for Europe.

It would appear from Perc d'EntrecoUes and other sources
that, in 171 2, Japan was a purchaser of porcelain in China,

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CHINA

and he further mendons a little plate painted with a Cruci-
fixion, which, he was informed, had been made to be smug-
gled into Japan at the close of the 17th century.

With regard to porcelain made for the Asiatic market,
there are five specimens in the collection ; two of these are
saucers with Arabic inscriptions from the Koran, incorrectly-
written, and resemble a bowl and saucer in the collection of
M. Charles Schefer, of Paris, which are inscribed with the
name of the provost of merchants at Cairo.

Another dish has evidently been made for the Indian
market. Two others are. painted from Indian drawings
which have been copied with great fidelity and care. Their
Chinese origin is, however, betrayed by other portions of
the ornaments. As we have already stated, M. Jacquemart
has described a similar specimen as Indian porcelain.

From Pere d'Entrecolies' letters it is clear that even as
early as his time the great manufactory of King-te-chen
made specimens with foreign designs ; for instance, ^' the
porcelain," he says, "which is transported to Europe is
generally made on new models, often of a strange form, and
diflicult to succeed in making, for the least defect the Euro-
pean [merchants] reject it, and it remains on the hands of
the workmen, who cannot sell it to the Chinese because it is
not according to their taste." He afterwards speaks of the
models as having been sent from Europe. In his letter of
1722 he mentions that there had just been made large vases
of three feet high and more, without the covers, which rose
in the shape of a pyramid to the height of another foot.
These pieces had been ordered by the merchants of Canton,
who did business with Europeans, and had taken a great
deal of trouble to make, as out of eighty only eight had
succeeded.

In the History of King-te-chen there are numerous notices
of porcelain made in the European taste, and of vases painted
with enamels in the European style, landscapes, figures, flow-
ers, animals, etc., ^' of most delicate execution and marvellous
perfection."

It is evident, therefore, that in China porcelain was made
for exportation from designs fbrnished by Europeans, and
if this was the case at King-te-chen, ^f^ should naturally find

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that the factory at Shaou-king Fu to the west of Canton
must have made still more. Abbe Raynal, in 1774, men-
tions this (sLCtorjy and states that the porcelain known in
France under the name of ^'porcelaine des Indes'' was
made there.

It is probable, therefore, that from these two factories,
and especially from the latter, proceeded the numerous ser-
vices for dinner and tea, difFerinfi; altogether from the appli-
ances of the same kind used m Cmna. Many of these
services have on them the armorial bearings of the persons
for whom they were made. Even royalty patronised Chi-
nese porcelain ; portions of services made for Frederic the
Great, and the royal families of Denmark and France, are in
the collection. There seems also to have been a large ser-
vice made for the Palace of the Swedish Kings at Grips-
holm, the name of which is inscribed on the various pieces.
The arms of femilies of rank are often found, and naturally
those of wealthy merchants both in England and abroad.
There is such a similarity of style in the arrangement of
the decoration of much of this armorial china that there
must have been some agent, either in England or at Can-
ton, who supplied the designs and superintended their
execution.

M. Jacquemart has ascribed to Japan what Abbe Raynal
calls " porcelaine des Indes," our " India china,** as well as
the armorial specimens ; but he has come to this conclusion
on the most slender grounds; he argues that the Dutch
India Company was the only important company which
could have caused such a name to be given to its imports,
and that that company traded with Japan. He has, how-
ever, quite overlooked the very important India companies
of England, Sweden, and Denmark, which had a large trade
with China, and that even the Dutch carried on a very con-
siderable commerce with that country, using; Batavia as their
depot. In the elaborate sale catalogue of the collection of
M. Angrand de Fonpertuis, prepared by Gersaint of Paris
in 1747, the Chinese and Japanese are generally spoken of
as " Indiens.** Moreover, the porcelain with armorial bear-
ings is probably far more common in England than in Hol-
land, and our country had no direct communication with



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CHINA

Japan. There are also many specimens which can be traced
to families connected with China, or which are known to
have been made to order in that country.

While, however, the "India China" has on one hand
been attributed to Japan, it has on the other, and by a still
more singular hallucination, been ascribed to Lowestoft in
England.

There can be no doubt that there was a considerable
manufactory of porcelain at Lowestoft, but this was of the
usual English soft paste. The evidence of hard paste hav-
ing been made there is of the most unsatisfactory kind;
chiefly the indistinct recollection of persons not acquainted
with the difference between hard and soft paste. A few
specimens of white Oriental porcelain may have been deco-
rated at Lowestoft, such as one belonging to Lady Charlotte
Schreiber ; but they must be rare, as most of the services of
such porcelain with European decorations seem to belong
to an earlier date. The supporters of the Lowestoft theory
(which is now, however, nearly exploded) must have been
embarrassed by the enormous number of specimens that
exist, and by the occasional occurrence of dated examples
too old for the so-called invention of hard paste at Lowes-
toft, such, for instance, as a Punch Bowl in this collection,
dated 1769, eight years earlier than the supposed time of
the invention. Why, moreover, should English painters,
in executing European de8ifi;ns, give in the minor details
those Chinese touches which at once reveal the Oriental
artists ? Had the subjects been Chinese such a proceeding
would be natural.

The result has been that a class of Oriental porcelain for-
merly little cared for, and possessing no great merit, has
been elevated in popular esteem, but it is to be hoped that
in time it may find its level.

Mr. Franks is apparently mistaken in his inference
as to the place of manufacture of some of these porce-
lains. The Kwang-tun (or Canton) potteries do not
seem to have produced any wares of the kind. Their
outcome, which will be spoken of later on, consisted

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of pottery and stone-ware, with monochromatic or
polychromatic glazes.

Note must also be taken of Chinese porcelains
decorated in Europe. About the year 1700, the
Dutch keramists discovered the method of preparing
some of the colours used for painting over the glaze.
To employ these colours for decorating faience, such
as that manufactured at Delft, would have been diffi-
cult, if not impossible. Accordingly the first essays
were made with porcelains imported from China,
offering a greater or less expanse of white surface for
the exercise of the cnameller's art. About the same
epoch the pdte-tendre ware of Sdvres and the hard
porcelain of Bottger making their appearance, these
also began to be decorated with Delft enamels after
Chinese fashions. Such essays were speedily followed
by similar imitations from the factories in Italy,
Saxony, Austria, and England. It then occurred to
the merchants who had hitherto included Chinese
decorated porcelains among their articles of trade,
that a profit might also be realized by importing
white porcelains for ornamentation at the hands of
Delft experts. M. du Sartel, in his " Porcelaine de
Chine,'' says that a regular business of this nature
sprang up in 1705. The well-known keramist,
Gerrit von der Kaade, and his confrires at Delft pur-
chased quantities of Chinese undecorated porcelain,
and adorned it with pictures sometimes of purely
European genre^ sometimes of Chinese type. The
industry lasted until 1740, and during this interval
of thirty-five years many specimens were produced,
excellent alike in technique and artistic conception.
Their enamels lacked the brilliancy of the " Famille
Verte^* and the continued solidity and delicacy of the

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** Famille Kose^* and their designs^ even when copied
directly from Chinese subjects, presented some feature
that betrayed European origin. But they were un-
doubtedly £ne porcelains of their class, and as Chinese
year-periods or other marks were often added, a
source of some confusion arose for the amateur.
M. du Sartel has paid much attention to this branch
of the subject. In his interesting work " La Porce-
laine de Chine '* he oifFers advice which well deserves
to be remembered : —

Arm yourselves, collectors of the future, with salutary
and absolute distrust. Let your first care be, in every case,
to clean the porcelain with a slightly add solution in order
to remove the dirt accumulated by the action either of time
or of an unscrupulous hand. If the specimen is really old,
this precaution will cause the enamels to resume all their
pristine brilliancy, will unveil to you the cracks, the imper-
fections, the repairs craftily concealed by unfired decoration.
How many specimens, and that two of the finest character,
will you not then recognise as having had surface decoration
applied to them by a second firing : blue grounds, uniform
or mottled, enriched with designs m gold, or with reserved
medallions enclosing polychromatic flowers, without count-
ing vases the entire surface of which, originally white, is now
red, green, or black ?

Then study the specimen closely, and you will see that
the additions are badly adapted to the original design ; that
they cross each other and cover certain parts clumsily, and
that the added fields of colour encroach upon the ancient
contours. The stalks and the delicate strokes have lost
their clearness, or are partially obscured by the ground
colour. The painter charged with the task of applying
these coloured grounds, or of filling the vacant spaces with
flowers and new subjects, skilled though he may have been,
has not been able to prevent these secondary colours from
spreading during the stoving, and in places overrunning the
less fusible Chinese enamels. An intmiate union of the two

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colours has not been produced, as would have been the case
in a work executed at one time with enamels subjected to
the same temperature.

The special esteem in which are held uniform or varie-

fated grounds (as green, monochromatic or spotted with
lack) having enamelled decoration, has led to a species of
secondary decoration, the first examples of which made their
appearance lately. It consists not only in re-covering the
white portions of the surfaces of old specimens, originally
having a decoration of blue sous couvertey with paintings in
enamels of the " Famille Verte " tvpe — the enamels, which
are very fusible, being obtained from oxide of chromium,
and having a yellowish green tone, lacking in metallic reflec-
tions or indescence — but also in applying this same colour
to grounds originally blue, plain, or souffli. This superposi-
tion of two colours, generally associating very badly, pro-
duces a character of spuriousness so peculiar and betraying
such inferior quality, that the expenenced amateur cannot
be deceived by it. He knows, in fact, that a glaze coloured
with oxide of copper run over cobalt-blue decoration applied
to the biscuit would emerge from the kiln almost black, and
that, in consequence, a green tint appearing over a perfectly
developed blue could only be obtained by secondary decora-
tion made with an extremely fusible colour, such as is not
included in the Chinese keramist's palette.

If the general examination spoken of above should not
suffice to dear away all sources of doubt, it will be necessary
to undertake a more minute and perhaps more difficult
study, which, however, will surely furnish proofs vainly
sought for in the ensemble of the piece.

These proofs arc to be found in the nature of the gold
and of the colours employed by European painters in re-
decorating old pieces or copying them faithfully. Whatever
is to be said of copies applies also to added decoration.
Some pieces need not occupy our attention because, in their
case. Oriental art has simply played the part of inspiring,
and because they show of^ themselves a general cachet of
Europeanism that precludes all possibility of error. In
respect of others, however, the maker has designedly pre-
pared his phte and suitably tinted his glaze, while all engaged

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in the manufacture, from the potter to the painter, have
made a point of servilely copying their model, not except-
ing the last coup de main given by the dextrous age-simula-
tors of whom we have spoken.

It is here that washing with add will effect marvels. It
should be resorted to at the outset. Then the connoisseur
should ascertain how the bottom of the base is made, re-
membering the Chinese potter's manner of finishing this
part of a specimen. He should then seek for some place



Online LibraryF. (Frank) BrinkleyChina; its history, arts and literature → online text (page 18 of 32)