Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

with the spirit of the times, and that while it emphasizes for us the pseudo-classic taste of the late 18th century, it marks an advance in the technical skill of the potter, which is simply astounding. The co-ordination of labour, which had gone further with the Greek and the Italian potter than is generally supposed, was now brought to a climax. Mechanical appliances were introduced for the performance of many portions of the potter’s work that had hitherto been indifferently performed by rude and exhausting manual toil; and while the application of mechanism was pushed too far—so that in the first half of the 19th century we find the most inartistic pottery the world has ever seen—we must regard this even more as a cyclic movement of human feeling than as the work of any individual, or group of men. The late 18th century marks the period when pottery was no longer produced, as Italian majolica, the Henri-Deux ware, the Palissy wares, the best faience of Nevers, Rouen, Moustiers, Delft or Nuremberg had been, for the noble or the wealthy, but when it was largely in demand by the poorer classes, anxious in their turn to have a useful ware which should imitate the more costly porcelain used by the great. France, Germany, Sweden, Russia, and later the United States, all followed in the wake of the English potters, and the printing-press was applied in all countries to produce elaborate engraved patterns in blue, brown, green, &c., in order to get an effective-looking ware in harmony with the spirit of the times, and at the same time cheaper in price than the simple painted patterns of the vanquished tin-enamel.

Collections.—The British and the Victoria and Albert Museums naturally contain the most representative collections of English pottery. The museums at Liverpool, Bristol, Burslem, Hanley and Nottingham, also have good collections, while Birmingham, Manchester and Stoke-upon-Trent may be mentioned. The Guildhall Museum, London, is rich in early wares found or made in London and its vicinity. Continental collections of English pottery are meagre in the extreme and badly described, even in the ceramic museums at Sèvres and Limoges. The collection at Dresden is interesting, as it was purchased from the collection made by Enoch Wood, a Staffordshire potter. In America, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts at Philadelphia, contain interesting examples of wares exported to America in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Literature.—The earliest compilations, such as Jewitt’s Ceramic Art in Great Britain (1878), and Life of Josiah Wedgwood (1865); Chaffers, Marks and Monograms (1863; 9th edition revised, 1900); Meteyard’s Life of Wedgwood (1865–1866), and Shaw’s History of the Staffordshire Potteries (1829; reissued London, 1900), must always be of interest as original sources of information; but the later works, such as Church, English Earthenware (1884; new edition, 1906); Josiah Wedgwood (1894, reissue 1903 and 1907); Solon, Art of the Old English Potter (1883; 2nd ed., 1885); Hobson, Catalogue of English Pottery in the British Museum (1903); Burton, English Earthenware and Stoneware (1904), are the best authorities.

 (W. B.*) 

Chinese Pottery and Porcelain [1]

In China, as in every other country where pottery-making has been practised for centuries, we find a natural progression from primitive pottery akin in shape, decoration and manufacture to the pottery of other primitive races the world over. We find too the early use of bricks, tiles, &c., as in Egypt and Assyria; and then the usual succession of domestic utensils, funeral vases, and vessels for religious ceremonials. There is nothing to show that the potter’s wheel made its appearance in China earlier than elsewhere, and the Chinese potters have used the simple methods of carving and “pressing” from moulds which preceded the use of the potter’s wheel, even more than other nations. In books of the Chow dynasty (1122–249 B.C.) the difference between the processes of “throwing” and of “pressing” from moulds is clearly described,[2] and it is instructive to note that many early as well as late forms of Chinese pottery are remarkably like their works in bronze. In the same way there is no definite date to which we can refer the introduction of glazed pottery. The earliest specimens of glazed ware known are referred by the Chinese to the times of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.A.D. 220), a date much later than that of the earliest glazed wares of Egypt and Assyria. Remembering the intercourse between China and the West, at times historically remote, it is not impossible that the idea of coating a vessel of clay with a glaze was carried into China from Chaldaea or Assyria. In any case the Chinese developed the potter’s art on their own lines, for we have ample evidence that from very early times they fired their pottery to a much higher temperature than was common in the west of Asia, and so discovered types of glaze and of pottery that remained for centuries a mystery elsewhere. The glazed wares of the Han dynasty already mentioned are quite unlike any contemporary pottery produced in Syria, Egypt or Europe, for the body of the ware is so hard that it can scarcely be scratched by a knife, and the dark-greenish glaze has become iridescent by age as though it contained oxide of lead. The easily-fired friable wares of Assyria, Egypt and Greece seem to have had no attraction for the Chinese, and the glazes on their hard-fired wares were naturally different from those already described. The Chinese appear to have been the first potters in the world to discover that at a sufficiently high temperature pottery can be glazed with powdered felspathic rock mixed with lime. At first these glazes were used on any ordinary refractory clay which might burn red, drab or buff; but in this technique lay the germ of Chinese porcelain, the most advanced form of pottery the world has yet seen. It is necessary to consider the pottery that preceded porcelain, for not only was it the matrix out of which porcelain grew, but in certain districts of China, where the necessary materials for porcelain are not found, similar wares have been manufactured without intermission to the present time. Naturally, in progress of time, the technique of this pottery has been greatly improved, both by developments in the preparation and mixture of the clays, the shaping and modelling of the wares, the introduction of coloured enamels or glazes, and the like. Dr Bushell, who is our great authority on the Chinese arts and handicrafts, rightly seizes on two outstanding types of Chinese pottery other than porcelain which have exercised considerable influence on the doings of European potters.

1: Yi-Hsing-Yao.[3]—This is the pottery, generally of unglazed fawn, red or brown stoneware, made at Yi-hsing-hsien in the province of Kiang-su. Articles of every kind are made in these fine-coloured clays, but the general forms are dainty and skilfully finished pieces, such as small teapots, cups, saucers, dishes, trays, water-bottles and wine cups. This ware was largely manufactured under the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368–1643) and later.[4] It was imported into Europe by the Portuguese, who applied to it the name boccaro, formerly given only to a scented terra-cotta brought from Mexico and Peru.[5] This pottery and Chinese porcelain were wide asunder as the poles in nature as well as origin, but the potters of northern Europe regarded every kind of pottery coming from the Far East as a species of porcelain, and the manufacture of red teapots, mugs, bowls, cups, &c., in imitation of the Yi-Hsing-Yao was widespread during the late 17th and early 18th centuries under the name of red porcelain. Dwight, Elers and Böttger are notable names in this connexion.

2. Kuang-Yao.—The name given by the Chinese to the pottery made in the province of Kwang-tung. There are several centres of manufacture in this extensive province, but for the purposes of this article it is sufficient to state that the best-known of these wares are dense, hard-fired and glazed stonewares, which are always dark-coloured grey, red, brown or blackish. They are usually glazed with thick, variegated or opalescent glazes, grey, blue, green, yellow or red, but flecked, veined and streaked with other tints. The wares are so like the productions of the Sung dynasty (A.D. 960–1279) that modern pieces are often confounded with the more precious productions of that epoch. One of the first lessons to be learnt by the student of Chinese pottery is that, with great reverence for their own antiquities, the Chinese of every period have endeavoured to reproduce the famous wares of their ancestors, and often with such skill as to deceive the most expert. Even when the manufacture of porcelain was at its highest in King-tê-chên, the potters in other parts of China carried on the production of glazed or unglazed pottery in coloured clays, and, further, the directors of the imperial factory from time to time strove to reproduce the most archaic wares that could be found in the Empire.

  1. See examples in colour, Plates VII. and VIII.
  2. S. W. Bushell, Chinese Art (Victoria and Albert Museum Handbooks, ii. 5-6).
  3. Yao is the Chinese term equivalent of the English “pottery” or “ware.”
  4. See Brinkley, Japan and China, ix. 353-365.
  5. Solon, The Noble Buccaros (Stoke-upon-Trent, 1896).