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History Of Pottery And Porcelain:
Pottery And Porcelain Defined
History Of Pottery
Forms Employed By The Italians
Holland - Delft
Introduction To Porcelain
Oriental Porcelain China
Pottery And Porcelain
Clocks And Watches
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
In all the countries of the Orient the ceramic historian is in that singular position where he is unable to assign any date to first works. Remote as is the antiquity of all their arts, this one seems encumbered more than all the rest with peculiar obscurity which the power of present authorities fails to penetrate.
The wares of Persia must remain possessed of the same interest as that attached to those of Asia Minor, a matter of curious inquiry; of value to the historian, but to the ceramist who desires a chronological statement it affords little or no satisfaction. Persia bears the credit of having reached considerable perfection in her productions.
"Viola done deux poteries en presence: la porcelain Kaolinique ou a pccte dure, et la faience. Mais cc mot meme, qui chez nous a une valeur technique absolue, ne conserve pas la meme invariabilite en Perse. La faience est d'ordinaire une terre cuite a pate tendre recouverte d'un email opaque compose d'etain et de plomb ; dans l'Iran, elle peut affecter au moins trois formes particulieres qui la rapprochent plus ou moiris de la porcelaine."
It was through Persia that porcelain first became known in more occidental lands. When Pompey took home his spoils of war, among them were the famous Tasa Murrlzina-of disputed composition.
These, if imitations of stone, must have been most exquisite and perfect, but the locality of their manufacture has never been positively ascertained. Pliny de scribes them as being gem-like, and of exceeding brilliancy; purple and white mingled with irridescent colors of the rainbow, and made from a stone found in Caramania, Persia. Pompey introduced them into Rome with the treasures of Mithridates. Whatever may have been the opinions of former investigators, modern science rather assigns these vases a position among the manufactured articles of the Orient; yet there are none of these preserved to admit of actual investigation. It is thought that they were lost through deliquescence, upon exposure to the atmosphere, as were a number of rings and bracelets taken from Egyptian mummies. This can alone account for the fact that not one remains, and at the present time they are known only through the medium of history.
In the collection of the late Mrs. Wm. C. Prime there are some exceedingly interesting specimens of Eastern ceramic art-produced within the period of the Christian era. These are egg-shaped. The one from which we refer to is taken was an ornament of an ancient lamp in the grotto of the Nativity at Bethlehem. M. Jacquemart mentions and illustrates one of precisely the same kind: "Un de nos savants amis dira les merveilles de la verrerie, depuis les temps antiques jusqu'a nos jours, et il mentionnera, parmi les suprenants specimens de cet art au treizieme siecle, les lamps suspendues dans les mosquees de l'Asie Mineure, de 1'IJgypt et de la Perse. Or, les trois chaines de suspension de ces lamps virennent aboutir a un oeuf, qui, tres-souvent, est en faience siliceuse. Voici l'un de ces oeufs dont le decor est des plus interessants; l'influence chretienne s'y manifeste par de nombreuses croix et des figures de cherubins, evidemment imitees de celles qu'on voit encore sur les pendentifs de la coupole de Sainte-Sophie, a Constantinople. Le style, en passant de Byzance a Brousse ou a Nicee, n'a rien perdu de sa simplicite primitive, et il devait se perpetuer dans 1'ecole du mont Athos, oh ou le retrouve anjourd' hui.
These eggs, it seems, are most sacredly considered among the Arabs and oriental Christians, and carefully guarded, some virtue being attached to them as accessories of their places of adoration. The color of the enamel-w=hich is quite hard-is a dirty white, the decoration being in blue and yellow, shaded.
If we were to allow the Orient that due consideration which attaches to priority, an ordinary volume would scarcely contain the result.
First in everything that pertains to the arts, productive and ornamental, we can find here the study of all schools up to our own time. That we originate nothing, the most careless student of the antique arts can prove. Crude and imperfect as may have been many of their products, yet the idea was there, and wanted only the application of more skilled workmanship, a wider range of materials, and more complete implements, to make it as chaste and beautiful as our own copy. There is no thought of the ancient artist which has not its reflex and effect upon the productions of our own time.
In the catalogue of nations engaged in the manufacture of fictile wares, China is probably the most ancient which has continued steadily at the work from the re motest period to the present date. She has carried the art to a higher degree of excellence, and understood the methods, at a day far anterior to any record we possess. This, however, becomes rather a portion of the chapter upon porcelain than that of the less advanced form of pottery. One feature which renders both pottery and porcelain valuable and interesting to the collector is the mark, or monogram, establishing its date, place of manufacture, and frequently the artist. How many of our collectors are acquainted with the Chinese characters sufficiently to establish correctly any of these? how many are conversant enough with the habits and characteristics of those ingenious Orientals to distinguish between a genuine mark of antiquity and its nice counterfeit?
If the arts of the Chinese are what we conceive them to be, and the value of their work what we as well as they know it is, we cannot but think that they would well un derstand our Christian trick of counterfeiting. Hardly one man in our land is conversant with the Chinese language, while the languages of all Europe, and the characters of each, are well known. Under these circumstances it is scarcely possible that we should, as yet, definitely locate the details of a country regarding which we know so little, and which can only be conveyed to us in a fragmentary and desultory way by tongues which refuse any language but their own.