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Chinese blue and white dish

Date: 1800-1899
Overall: 105 x 135 x 25 mm, 129 g
Medium: Ceramic
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Dish
Object No: 00026009

User Terms

    Produced cheaply in China, ceramics were an important trade commodity carried back to Europe and America. Blue decorated wares were perennially popular.
    SignificanceAmongst the many Chinese goods introduced into Europe from the 17th century on, Chinese ceramics were a staple. Produced in a variety of qualities they had such a profound influence on style and taste that they were copied by European potters, as exampled in the ever-popular 'Willow' pattern.
    HistoryIn the 14th century small quantities of Chinese porcelains were introduced into Europe via overland routes, but following the Portuguese discovery of a sea route to Asia at the end of the 15th century, larger quantities became available. Ceramics were used to fill cargo spaces in ships returning to Europe and, because they were unaffected by water, they were generally placed in the lowest part of the vessel. The new influx of ceramics influenced European taste and stimulated the popularity of Chinese ceramics in Europe. Ceramics were produced in a wide range of shapes and decorative styles to appeal to a broad European market.

    The popularity of blue and white ceramics is largely based on the properties of the cobalt pigment which, unlike many other colours, is unaffected by the firing process. Once fixed by the initial firing process, the ceramic is painted with a transparent glaze and fired again - thus giving rise to the description 'under glaze blue'. Chinese ceramics were an ideal cargo stowed in the lowest (and wettest) part of the ship, providing a base for more valuable cargoes such as tea and textiles.

    The European taste for tea grew steadily after the first cargoes from China were imported in the early 17th century. In 1711 the direct import of tea to England was made possible when the English East India Company was given regular access to Canton by the Chinese government, and by the end of the 18th century tea had become one of the most lucrative commodities brought back to Europe. Indeed, such was the demand for tea that the size of ships used by the East India Company grew to include ships of over 1200 tons. In the 1820s the East India Company began large-scale production of tea in Assam, later to be followed by production in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Darjeeling. The term 'tea' is believed to be an Anglicisation of the Amoy word 'tay'.

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