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“Wanli to Kangxi, Chinese Blue and White Porcelain from 1572 to 1722” by Nicholas Panes. Hon Vice President of the English Ceramic Group.

Our June talk took us on a journey through the Wanli to Kangxi period of Chinese Blue and White Porcelains from 1572 to 1722.  Nicholas Panes, who is a collector of Antique English and Chinese Ceramics and Hon. Vice President of the English Ceramics Circle provided us with history, information as well as stunning pictures depicting examples of thporcelain pieces produced during these periods.

Nick gave us a “potted” history along with an explanation of the “Dynasty” system, which ruled over China – each dynasty is the family or successors of one Ruler, and then as the ruling family changes so does the Dynasty.  Also explaining the symbols, as well as the pronunciation, which made up the marks showing the age of the pieces. For dating purposes, shipwrecks have provided really useful tools, as often coins were found and these helped identify the period when the porcelain was produced. Apparently, there were seven shipwrecks during the period from 1572 to 1722

Most ceramics were produced in Jingdezhen, and during the Wanli period, the factories production declined and eventually closed by the Emperor and production was forbidden which gave rise to the Japanese porcelain on the world market. During the period of closure, porcelain was produced for domestic use in private kilns, which was technically illegal. The kilns were restored and production began again in the Kangxi period of about 1677.  The slides showed examples of Blue & White porcelain produced before the period of Wanli – some of which are in the British Museum or the Victoria and Albert Museum. The talk was illustrated by examples of dishes, bottles, an Elephant Kendi, wine pots, teapots and various other examples.  All beautifully decorated with the styles showing off the styles of the different periods, particularly the “panelling” which was also depicted in the painting by Sir Nathanial Bacon (not actually an artist but a very good amateur), of  “A Cookmaid with Still Life Vegetables and Fruit”, painted in the 1620’s which shows the “Krack” – a Dutch word who imported a great deal via the Dutch East India Company.

The talk covered so much of a short period of time, which was extremely informative with humour as well as factual content.

“Beasts from the White Collection” by Mary White


At our most recent meeting the group welcomed back Mary White, along with her husband Peter.  This time to hear about their extensive collection of porcelain and ceramic animals. Mary explained that the collection encompasses animals, birds, fish and insects with pieces ranging from a bird feeder from China dating back to 1750BC through to a late 19th century plate from Japan. Conversely the European pieces

So where to begin in describing what was a wide ranging and extremely interesting talk? The animals were listed from bears through to wolves with pretty much every other animal in between, depicted as sculpture or painted on porcelain.   The European pieces predominately date from the 17th and 18th century mirroring the development of the porcelain and ceramics industries in Europe. They are more delicate and largely designed to be decorative with many of the English pieces painted by Jeffrey Hamet O’Neal. The common denominator of the European examples shown is that all the major producers are represented, from a Chelsea plate with bears to the Meissen figurine of seals. Conversely while Japanese porcelain is refined the pieces from China, Iran and elsewhere in the East are generally more robust. Fine examples are two warriors on horseback designed to defend a Chinese tomb or a cat which could be used as a nightlight, the idea being that the light emanating from the eyes would scare the rats and mice. We enjoyed seeing elephants, dogs, sheep and rats and whales; indeed it is hard to think of an animal on the planet that wasn’t represented.

Birds were also a popular subject for the decorators but were much more reflective of the geography with lots of owls in England and cranes in China and Japan. Fish have been universally depicted both on plates and dishes as well as decorative pieces and again the geographic differences are shown with carp being particularly popular in China and Japan. Finally we got to bugs. Beautiful butterflies on decorative pieces but more interestingly ladybirds and smaller insects appearing, sometimes at random to mask imperfections in the firing of the pieces.