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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 )
Under the leadership of Yahye-Ben-Aly, the Moors achieved a series of successes seldom granted to a people not given to united effort. Little record remains of their wandering history which culminated in the invasion of the Spanish border. Regarding their immediate origin and progress there is nothing left of interest save those splendid structures which occasionally mark the line of their operations, and which we find best represented in their last and greatest work, that great monument to fictile art, the "Alhambra" at Granada. In this exquisite piece of acrhitecture we find the germ of an industry which, once planted on enlightened Christian soil, grew to its present magnificent proportions. Christianity, while it forgot them, absorbed their art. The advance of the Moors is everywhere defined by their free employment of pottery as a medium of decoration. Although their knowledge of the use of metallic oxides was exceedingly primitive, yet the design and decoration of their tiles and ornamental plates is artistic and pleasing, while the present vividness of the color is sufficient evidence of its permanency.
Other designs much employed by them were equally excellent, but executed in that peculiarly incorrect way which illustrates the imperfect knowledge of art-poverty of materials, and want of precision; the geometric inaccuracy being noticeable in those specimens where the sections of the drawing do not balance each other, the true centre and the apparent centre being much at variance. The colors most used in their decorations are blue and green ; red and yellow is occasionally introduced, but not so profusely. The tiles given in the drawings are about eight inches square, but so far as regards shape or size these are no criterion. Various forms, triangular, round, and mitred to fit corners, are in existence. By this means they were adapted to every irregularity, and thus introduced among the decorative effects of buildings, the square tile being principally used for flooring or paving.
We are not, however, obliged to look to the tiles alone for the specimens of the Moorish work; their vases also bear evidence of great skill and taste. Among these the most celebrated is known as the "Alhambra Vase." It was the first and most superb of those specimens exhibiting that peculiar iridescent lustre of decoration which, as among the lost arts, marks it of immediate value and interest.
Imitations of this lustrous decoration were exhibited in the last Paris Exposition, but the work fell so far short of successful imitation that it met with little or no approval.
The "Alhambra Vase" measures four feet three inches in height, and was found under the pavement of the palace from which it derives its name, with a com panion similar to itself. The latter was accidently destroyed, and the one now in existence might have been had it not been rescued from its neglected corner by hands which had more regard for art than the Spaniards possess.
Before Ferdinand and Isabella reclaimed their Granada estate in 1492, the art of pottery-making had distributed itself pretty extensively over other parts of the country, having been carried thither by straggling Moors who had deserted the fortunes of their leading commander. The people of Spain themselves attempted little in its manufacture, but Christian influences were brought to bear upon it, which somewhat affected its general character. More breadth of effort, and greater variety of designs in form, were the immediate consequence, while the main principles of decoration were still retained. Thus we find, among the remains of the Moors in that country, vases and other vessels bearing Christian inscriptions, and marking another era in the production of pottery which is termed the "Moorish-Catholic," this change being brought about, of course, by religious influence, and probably prompted by the patronage of the Spanish Church, which invested some of its vast wealth in the new art.
The vase exhibited, for which I am indebted to the admirable work of M. Jacquemart, is of Moorish work, and bears a Christian inscription, accompanied by emblems peculiar to the Church and the infallible mark of its period-the iridescent lustre.
THE contiguity of Malaga to the city of Granada, beside the fact that it was a seaport carrying on an extensive trade with the east, rendered it a place most appropriate for the extensive production of Moorish ware. Ibn-Batoutah, who wrote about the year 1350, says: "At this place is manufactured the beautiful gilded pottery or porcelain which is exported to the most distant countries." It was probably about this period that the vase of the Alhambra, and tiles, or azuelos, were manufactured at Malaga. This factory survived the fall of Granada, and continued until the middle of the sixteenth century, about which time the Valencia factory seems to have assumed its mantle. The little island of Majorca, of which I will speak more at length in the Italian chapter, was also extensively engaged in pottery work.