Classic: ‘true’ Porcelain

When the west first accessed wares of true Chinese porcelain they seemed magically translucent, resonant when struck, impervious to liquids, aesthetically pleasing with great beauty of form. One of the earliest records of ‘true’ porcelain in the west is pieces listed in Queen Elizabeth 1’s 1574 inventories (pursseline’ or purselyn vessels). Enshrining a precious object was a practice of western Christianity for centuries. Adding gilded mounts offered some protection against the porcelain’s fragility while highlighting the esteem in which they were held. This pear shaped vessel painted under the glaze with cobalt blue has English silver gilt mounts dating from 1580. They comprise a neck mount spout cover with chain, a foliate handle mount and rim plus, an inner domed section within the cover. The painted flowers are lotus and peony interspersed with lozenges, lappets, floral medallions, cloud scrolls and so forth, with lingzhi, the sacred Chinese fungus on the spout symbolising longevity.

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