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Oriental Porcelain - Chinese Crackle

( Originally Published 1911 )

THE crackle porcelain is a distinct class, though it will be found that many of the pieces having a single glaze are also crackled. They are covered with a clay or enamel which having been burnt in the kiln is taken out and subjected to the action of a current of cold air, or they are dipped in cold water, so that by unequal contraction cracks are formed with a regularity which, although in the first place accidental, became, in the skilful hands of the Chinese, science. Small crackles like the herring's roe, and large crackles like the ice cracks, could be produced by the potter as he chose. The cracks were filled with Indian ink, red or black, which made them stand out clearly. By further burning, possibly at a lower temperature, the entire surface seems to be covered with a clear glaze quite transparent, which to the touch offers no unequalities of surface. These wonderful potters have so far pushed this unique form of decoration, never successfully imitated in Europe, that it became one of the most important and striking means of decoration. Some of their work in this direction is marvellous and shows successive bands of enamel or glaze, crackled, self-colour and white all in one piece. Other pieces show a crackled network of two tints. Some of our English potters are making good attempts to imitate the fine old Chinese "famille verte," and surely for crackled porcelain there is still inspiration to be drawn from the East. The glaze was of white or coloured ; the body was somewhat coarse in paste, resembling red or white stoneware. History takes us back to the Sung dynasty, when this kind of ware was first known, and the accidental discovery was converted into an exact method of working. A pretty form of crackle resembles the scales of a trout, and is by the French called truite. All the colours that were employed as single glazes in that class seem to have been similarly employed as crackle glazes, with the possible exception of red, which did not lend itself to this process ; all the Celadon shades and the blues, including turquoise-blue. The most celebrated crackle is that known as apple-green crackle. This ware has, in addition to the beautiful effect of the crackling, a lovely soft tint of green, which was applied as the glaze.

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