Chinese Export Porcelain

Tuesday 21st April at 10.45am

Lecturer: Marie Conte-Helm

The story of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain speaks of the important trade between East and West along both the overland and maritime Silk Roads. The cobalt blue mineral, or ‘Mohammedan Blue’, that provided the distinctive under-glaze colour of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain owed its origins to China’s early trade with Persia. During the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese imperial kilns at Jingdezhen perfected the production of blue-and-white wares and thus extended the scope of China’s trade with the West. Oriental export porcelain has its own rich history, enhanced by tales of shipwrecks and lost cargoes, that hints of the fascination for these products from the East, that came to be adapted for Western markets. This lecture will trace the history of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain and the trade in export porcelain. It will also recount tales of salvaging operations that have resulted in the recovery of sunken treasures from the East. The ‘Nanking Cargo’ and the ‘Hoi An Hoard’ are but two examples of early shipwrecks in Eastern waters, the recovery of which have enhanced our understanding of blue-and-white porcelain and its wider commercial impact.