CHRISTMAS, 2022 :
TRANSFORMATIONS : 'FROM THE EARTH & SANDS'
Our 'Christmas tables' so treasured
Where we feast in both comfort and leisure,
Have evolved from the earliest of times,
When our ancestors (yours and mine)
Began tinkering with 'earth' and 'sands' of all kinds.
At first, 'twas their needs to dine ... a bit later, to wine,
Then for pure beauty and pleasure
Followed by 'monetary measure',
Altering both 'Purses' and 'Powers' that ruled the deep Brine!*
PART I / 'FROM THE EARTH' : CERAMICS
About 1600 in England,
your likely 'Christmas plate' and 'drinking glass' would have been
a trencher (made from wood or stale bread) and maybe a German glass 'Roemer' :
Or, you might have had a very early 'Delftware' plate and 'stoneware' jug
(both the Delftware and stoneware deriving 'from the earth').
Tin-glazed 'Delftware' had reached the British Isles about 1550.
However, it was unfortunately rare for another 100 years.
A high-fired glazed non-porous 'stoneware' had been developed in China c1500 BC
But due to the limitation for heat in European kilns,
this marvelous stoneware did not move into Europe until about 1400 AD,
where it remained a specialty of Germany until the Renaissance.
Also about 1400, in Germany's Rhineland area,
a lustrous 'salt-glazing' (also from the earth) was added to the high-fired Stoneware,
as on the jug below, and ready to accompany your circa 1600 Christmas feast.
The ‘Bellarmine’ Jug is associated
with Jesuit Cardinal Roberto Francesco
Romolo Bellarmino (1542-1621).
17th Century Frechen 'Stoneware' Bartmannkruge ('Bellarmine Jug')
Cast and Engraved Silver Mounts, John Wilmin Figg, London, 1865
(Figg was often regarded as the 'De Lamerie of his day'.)
This c1500 BC Chinese 'high fired glazed stoneware' proved to be
the predecessor of the plates on our Christmas tables today :
made from a mixture of clays kept secret for over 1000 years.
Below is 'Kaolin', the 'secret' mineral rock (from the earth)
rich in silica & aluminum :
About 600 AD, the Chinese found that
adding Kaolin to their clay mixture,
‘Petuntse’, (pronounced pe'tun(t)sa),
would produce a hard white ceramic
that would withstand high heat.
"Extraction of Kaolin (left), & Petuntse (right)",
Gouache on Chinese Rice Paper (Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille, France) **
This hard white 'porcelain' would,
in time, be decorated in blue
with the mineral Cobalt (left),
a stable pigment (from the earth),
used since the 1300s as a coloring
agent on ceramics.
Some of the most prized Chinese BLUE & WHITE (cobalt) painted porcelain
dates throughout China's Ming Dynasty.
As early as the mid-1400s, this hard white glassy ceramic,
painted mostly in underglaze Blue & White,
began trickling into Europe :
a few pieces in Italy,
then greater amounts into Portugal (the major importer of the 1500s),
followed by Holland,importing even greater number during 1600s.
As well, in 1600 Great Britain founded the British East India Company.
The majority of these Ming porcelains were transported from China in sailing ships.
The Portuguese called their ships "carracks"
( a corruption of an Arabic word meaning "merchant ship" ).***
The Dutch, after capturing a few carracks, further adapted the name to
for which the Ming c1570-1650 "Kraak" Blue & White Porcelains below are named :
Left : Kraak Porcelain 'Crow' Bowl ('Kraaikoppen')
Wanli, c1600-20, Rinaldi Shape IV.1, 5" High
Center : Rare Ming Kraak Porcelain Charger
Centering 2 Long-Tailed Phoenix, The Symbol of the Empress of China,
rarely found on Kraak porcelains, 12.5" Diameter
Right : Ming Large Kraak Porcelain Klapmuts Bowl with Grasshopper & 'Toatie Masks'
Wanli, Rinaldi, Group V, China, c1600-20, 8.5" Diameter
Maura Rinaldi, author of "Kraak Porcelain",
compiled 5 years of research on Kraak porcelain into the definitive reference on the genre.)
The epitome of Chinese 'BLUE and WHITE PORCELAIN' is usually considered
the Kangxi period (1662-1722).
During last half of the 1600s, the Chinese perfected a fine white paste and sugary glaze,
added more precise, interesting and less stylized patterns of painting,
as well as complex and beautiful 'mouldings' of porcelain .
Left : Kangxi Scalloped & Fluted Blue & White Plate,
China, c1700, finely moulded and painted, 'fretted square' mark verso
Right : Fine Kangxi Large Porcelain Lobed & Scalloped 'Hunt' Plate
China, c1680-1700, with stylized lotus and precious objects border,
apocryphal 'Chenghua marks' verso
Early Chinese porcelains were known in the Western world as
collected by Royalty -
envied - fought for -
AND MUCH 'IMITATED'.
About 1700, throughout Europe, the quest to discover Chinese porcelain's 'secret' elements .
Johann Friedrich Böttger, German alchemist and ceramist of Saxony’s Augustus the Strong,
is credited with the European discovery of 'hard white porcelain’, c1708.
In France, c1765, a deposit of the secret mineral kaolin was found near Limoges,
and by 1769, enabling hard paste porcelain at the 'Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres'.
During most of the 18th century, England and other European countries experimented
with various clays and substitutes for kaolin to their 'porcelains',
known as "soft paste" porcelains,
hoping produce a ceramic of equivalent hardness, sheerness and beauty
London's 'Chelsea' and 'Bow' were two of the finest early manufactories of British "soft paste"
Chelsea often altered both clay and glaze, seeking a better, more durable porcelain.
An early specialty of Chelsea was moulded glazed white porcelain.
Pair of Chelsea Glazed White Leaf & Basket-Moulded Stands
London, c1752-54, Each 11" Wide, with relief grape vine and leaf decoration
Bow Manufactory, London (1747–1776)
also produced a distinctive ceramic with a very 'sensuous-to-the-touch' glaze,
the earlier wares in 'white' (as Chelsea), and in blue and white (cobalt).
During the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots,
1567-1542, St Andrews Links was built.
Mary, an avid golfer, is credited the term
caddy’, or ‘cadet’, for her assistant****
A Bow Porcelain Plate, "Golfer & Caddy" Pattern, London, c1758
It is interesting to note that the objects carried in this plate are a Chinese scepter and a scroll.
Somewhere along the line, the pattern was renamed from "Bordered Image" to "Golfer and Caddy",
likely by visual association.
In the late 17th century, the Chinese introduced on their porcelains
a color palette known as 'famille verte', having 5 colors including green -
the greens apparently a mixture of yellows from lead, and cobalt (again from the earth).
By c1720, German Jesuits working in Beijing perfected another color palette,
'famille rose' (family of pinks), featuring rust to rose pinks,
made from chloride (salt) of gold (as well from earth's elements).
Below : A Rare Pair of Bow Polychrome Platters, c1755, Each 16.5" Wide
the hollow rocks, bamboo and peonies copied from imported Chinese porcelain,
adding pinks and green to the cobalt - the mixture of various colors known in the West as
'polychrome (many-) colors’.
The shades of blue-green on these platters are somewhat unusual palette for Bow.
Quite rare and perfectly sized for the Christmas turkey and ham!
Or, just for delight in the coloration and form, sensuous glaze, and surprisingly heavy weight.
The use of the EARLY SOFTER "EARTHENWARE" has continued
unbroken worldwide from ancient times until the present day,
In England and Holland this earthenware was known as 'Delft',
as 'Majolica' in Italy, and 'Faience' in France.
The glazes are from tin oxide mixed with lead (from the earth),
both as white, and with earth pigments added for color
The early decorations are also often "after the Chinese".
Left : Large Manganese & Yellow 'Delft' Multi-Lobed Charger,
Right : Large Manganese, Blue & Yellow Dutch 'Delft' Lobed Charger
I am personally quite attracted to the softness of manganese on Delftwares.
Its muted shades of violet echo tones of wood, pewter, and silver.
Manganese is one of the most common elements in the earth's crust.
Below, A Rare Large Pair of French 'Faience' Polychrome Seated Lions
Luneville, France, c1800
An anomaly regarding Luneville pairs lions seems to be their slightly different size and coloration.
In similar pairs observed, the lion on the right is a little larger and lighter
(or altogether different) in color than the left, presumably indication of gender.
A mirrored pair of polychrome lions, 'couchant gardant',
Each 18" Long x 14" High
For your home, hearth, and continued good cheer
throughout all the seasons!
From this ancient earth, its skies, seas and sand
Comes all that we know - even made by man's hand.
It is with awe, on this surface, I stand.
MERRY CHRISTMAS !!
'Richard II Dining with the Dukes of York, Gloucester, & Ireland',
"Jean de Wavrin's Anciennes et nouvelles chroniques d'Angleterre"
Illustrated is a scene of Richard II (r. 1377–1399) at a sumptuous feast,
surrounded by members of the English court, including the Dukes of York, Gloucester and Ireland.
In the foreground, a servant carries a sugar sculpture of a ship,
an example of the extravagant culinary delicacies enjoyed by medieval royalty.
This copy of Jean de Wavrin's chronicle is lavishly illustrated and was completed for Edward IV
(reigns,1461– 1470, 1471–1483)
(Royal MS 14 E IV, f. 265v), British Library, Public Domain
For larger image and more about this detailed manuscript,
click the link below :
*Both ceramics and glass have been a factor in determining maritime powers and political needs.
Portuguese led the maritime powers from the late 1400s until the
1605 Dutch capture of the Portuguese carrack Santa Catarina (below).
The sale of Catarina's wealth of porcelain increased V.O.C capital by more than 50%,
and secured for Holland 17th century dominance in maritime trade (and resultant power).
The Dutch dominance - including imported porcelain - then moved to Great Britain in the late 1600s.
** Extraction of Kaolin (left) and Petuntse (right),
Gouache on Chinese paper, China, Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille, France, Creative Commons
*** Carrack : After the well known voyage of Vasco da Gama to India,
the Portuguese began using larger cargo ships,
as the Genoese and Venetians had sailed to the Middle East since the 1300s.
The Arabic name for these ships was "qaraquir", meaning "merchant ships".
An Iberian corruption of the Arabic work became "carraco",which then became "carrack"
**** Mary Queen of Scots Playing Golf at St Andrews,
This image from 'The Illustrated News' of 1905 depicts the 'legend' that
Mary Queen of Scots played golf on the links at St Andrews.
From 'The Illustrated London News', National Library of Scotland reference: NJ.67
Below : 'Glass Furnace, with Workers', c1580, Georg Agricola, German, 1494–1555,
Carnegie Museum of Glass; Creative Commons)
'Book of Divine Works, Part 1, Vision 4: Cosmos', Hildegard von Bingen, German,1098-1179
'Kutná Hora Illumination',
c1490 Bohemian Illuminated Manuscript
Inventory Photography : Millicent F. Creech
See Also :
PART II /
FROM THE SANDS :
Other Catalogs Online
In Our CHRISTMAS 2022 ,"TRANSFORMATIONS" Series :
'From The Human Spirit' (Fine Art)