Bowl with very little decoration

by Frances
(Durham)

Hi,

I was wondering if I could be given any further information on this bowl? I think it's Fujian and probably 19th century, which is based on advice from other experts. However, it's very crudely made. I was wondering why there is very little decoration and why the glaze is so thick and grey coloured when it's meant to be relatively modern? Also, I'm still not sure whether it is a cheap type of porcelain made for trade or earthenware, though obviously thisi s difficult to tell from photos.

Thanks,

Frances

Comments for Bowl with very little decoration

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Mar 24, 2011
Feedback
by: Frances

Thanks Peter, these explanations have been really helpful! Chinese pottery is such a complex area, I've been really struggling to get my head around it as there is so much literature. Your exlanations have been very clear and the website is a very good resource as well.

Thanks so much for your help!


Mar 24, 2011
bowl
by: peter

Frances,
First I want to clarify that the explanation at http://www.chinese-antique-porcelain.com/pottery-and-porcelain.html is a strict explanation of what consists of porcelain. Not all adher to this.
Personally, I think that items not containing Kaolin should not be classified as porcelain, but actually, due to some borderline cases it is sometimes difficult to tell if some early ceramics are pottery or porcelain.

In fact, many Ming items do not show a white body. You will not find this usually in Qing dynasty and later porcelain, ecept perhaps in some non-mainstream kilns, which may still have used such clay at later times. The key of what was used for clay often depended on availability. The kilns would prefer using clay mined in the vicinity. At later times the raw, white porcelain bodies were often transported to distant places for decoration.
The Ming dynasty was a period when a large part of the ceramics production gradually changed from pottery to porcelain. It appears that some clays were mixes of Kaolin and other clay. Further, some items were apparently made with a thin pottery body, which then was covered by slip of Kaolin clay to reinforce it and make the body stronger. Are these considered pottery or porcelain? I don't know.

From what I've seen the blue and white porcelain items from the Yuan and Song dynasties mostly show a non-white bottom. It is therefore to assume that one of the methods mentioned above was used for production, initially, which then gradually was modified by using the stronger porcelain body.

>I don't suppose you can tell what it's made from >just by looking at the photos?
If you look at the Ming dynasty items at earlyming.com, you will see that several of these have bottoms looking like that of your item. The same is the case with some of the Ming bowls I have here. Some Ming period items just have a bottom with the exactly same appearance as your bowl. That is why I think it could be Ming.


Mar 22, 2011
Feedback
by: Frances

Thanks Peter, that's really helpful! The plainess of the design is very puzzling, but it makes sense if it was for domestic use!
I don't suppose you can tell what it's made from just by looking at the photos? I thought at first it was earthenware, but as that's meant to be porous I don't think it could be as seen as so much of it is unglazed. It's got a slightly buff/tan colour to the pottery so I was thinking it must be stoneware as seen as porcelain is just meant to be white? The pottery is also quite rough and coarse. Am I right in assuming this?

Thanks,

Frances

Mar 21, 2011
bowl
by: peter

Hi Frances,
I do not know that much about Fujian wares, but if it weren't for the blue rings I would think that the bowl is from the Ming dynasty. The bottom looks like Ming to me, and the glaze has a funny, uneven appearance, as if the current glaze was applied over an older glaze. It could have been re-decorated.
But, many Fujian items were very simple even in the 18th and 19th centuries. Items like this bowl were often made in non-mainstream kilns of the time.

Please be aware that with many Fujian kilns decoration was secondary to usability and low cost.
These wares were made for use by the general population. Most people could not afford the decorated porcelain wares, both in ancient China and elsewhere. If it is was for domestic use is difficult to tell, but the area's kilns were originally producing more for export. There was a decline during the Ming dynasty due to the sea prohibition. I assume that what remained afterwards was largely oriented to the domestic market.

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