Transitional Porcelain A Quick Primer

A Chinese porcelain blue and white waisted brushpot, Transitional period. Circa 1640

During the early/mid seventeenth century in China, for some fifty years the absence of Imperial patronage meant non-Imperial kilns played a leading role in ceramic production.

This resulted in one of the most dynamic and fascinating periods in China’s porcelain history.

The withdrawal from Jingdezhen’s potters of Court patronage led to a dramatic diversity of production, as the kilns turned their attention to selling both into the non-Imperial domestic market, and into newly-emerging export markets, notably the Dutch and Japanese markets.

Much evidence suggests that the Jingdezhen potters and painters specifically designed porcelains to appeal to certain new markets, and developed decorative strategies to meet the demands of customers from varying sociological backgrounds. For example, porcelains for use in the ‘tea ceremony’ were produced for the Japanese market, and wares decorated with ‘tulip’ motifs were produced for the Dutch market.

In order to meet the commercial demands of the domestic market, potters for the first time regularly and systematically began incorporating woodblock prints illustrating domestic literature and artistic fashions into porcelain design.

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