porcelain tile

by Timothy
(Beaverton, OR)

Hi there,
I have no real idea about what I have, which is a set of 8 thin porcelain tiles, each with a different painting, all seemingly part of a bigger story (a blue fence ties them all together: can you give me some idea of their provenance, age, etc? Any help would be appreciated.
Thanks, Timothy

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by: peter

Hi Timothy,
I don't think these are wall tiles, even if they are square. The square shape is a bit unusual, but they would usually have been used with a wooden frame or inlaid in furniture. The frame is more likely as some of them are not quite rectangular. With the frame this would not be visible. The cement is sometimes found on items stuck unto wood, etc. as they did not have glue in those times. A wavy surface is found on certain antiques.

tile addenda
by: Timothy

Thanks for your excellent feedback! I now see that I possess two different sets: 1 set of 5 and 1 set of 3. First of all, every one of them was dislodged from a wall somewhere, and the backs have a reddish substance that I will guess was the mastic, and the edges still have an un-imbellished grout (cement-ish color): I will soak one and experiment to see if I can gently dislodge the substances. Otherwise, they are two different stories: the set of 5 has two broken tiles (both glued together but not particularly well), and seems to be of a lesser quality than the set of 3, as the tile belonging to the 5 is a bit wavy, like a cracker, but delightful because of that, and the painting detail is not as fine or rich (but still nice); the 3 are more regular as tile (but not perfect) and have a higher quality artwork, with light traces of a gold paint used in the outlining and detail of the heads, as well as a foreground motif.

porcelain plaques
by: peter

You didn't upload any picture of the backside. It can be important for deciding age. Also, can you upload a picture or two showing close-ups of people's faces?

From these pictures the plaques could be from the late Qing dynasty, but this needs to be verified with closeups.
I have never seen so many together. Normally, there would be about four at the most. If antique, I would think their collecting value would be best preserved by keeping them together.

This type of porcelain decoration was predominant in the Tongzhi and Guangxu reigns, but plaques are relatively seldom found. There are many later ones made in the 20th century (fakes). That is why the closeups are needed. Please be aware that there is the possibility that some missing ones were replaced with new ones, thus any difference in painting style should be inspected closely.

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