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Imitations Of Oriental Porcelain

( Originally Published 1911 )



CHINESE potters imitated Chinese potters and their productions for hundreds of years, but it has remained for later times to produce such imitations in hard paste as to be almost beyond detection, except by the expert. Closely studied, however, there are certain differences—a peculiarity of the tint of the paste, a loss of brilliance in the colour—which reveal the European origin. M. Sampson, of Paris, has been responsible for deceiving more beginners than perhaps any other maker by his wonderful imitations of Oriental enamel porcelain. In our own early English factories we often met with imitations of Chinese porcelain with regard to decoration. For instance, the early blue and white Worcester, the red and blue under the glaze Worcester, and many other patterns were direct imitations from the Chinese; in fact, the square mark used upon Worcester china was only a copy of a mandarin's seal, and other Oriental characters are to be found as marks upon Worcester china, such as the disguised numerals, which, more recently, have been ascribed to Caughley. Of course, the soft paste of Worcester makes the imitation very easy to detect. The Dresden factory, which brought Chinese style into prominence in Europe, in its oldest specimens, produced a hard paste with purely Oriental decoration, and copied even the intricate borders and medallions in Chinese style. Under the patronage of Augustus Rex, other-wise Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony, Dresden china became celebrated.

Coming again to later times, we find that at Herend, in Hungary, a manufacturer named Fischer, at about 1839, made a special feature of the imitation of Oriental porcelain, and his finest specimens are most deceptive. It is a great shame that pieces from this factory are so frequently used fraudulently by unscrupulous dealers. Again, at Talavera, near Toledo, in the later eighteenth century, perfect imitations of Oriental china were made, which, even as imitations, are valued everywhere for the beauty of the glaze and brilliance of the colour.

It is the slavish attention and too faithfully carrying out the detail that reveals the forgery to the expert. On this point one might almost say that the very skilful forgery of a five pound Bank of England note would deceive an expert, but there is always some apparently trivial point and detail, either omitted or added, which makes the forgery clear to those who really know.

Although various marks were copied in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries from porcelain belonging to earlier periods, it was not done with the idea of forgery or deception, but as a mark of reverence and appreciation of former masters. The mark most copied was in the reign of Yung-ching, when the Ching-hwa mark was often introduced into self-colour pieces.

It may further interest students to learn that many examples of the old porcelain, which are broken and yet put together without any of the portions being lost, are the result of the duty which was levied in the beginning of the eighteenth century on porcelain imported into England. Perfect specimens were liable to heavy charges, damaged ones came in free, and as at that time the values were in all probability what is paid to-day for a good modern plate or vase, or even less, pieces wanted for decoration were broken without any compunction, the pieces saved, and afterwards stuck together. Such examples are well worth acquiring, and the fact of the damage reduces the price, but so long as there are no portions missing, or the original beauty of the decoration impaired, the collector will be well advised not to pass such articles by on account of the break as there are many very fine examples which were thus ruthlessly treated.



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