The Musée Ariana’s collections of eastern porcelain mainly comprise pieces made specifically for export. Until the early 18th century, Europe, unable to produce hard porcelain itself, in fact depended almost exclusively on China, and to a lesser extent Japan, for its supply of “white gold”.
At the turn of the 16th century, when Vasco de Gama discovered a passage to India, his highest priority was to find spices and silks. Yet the first blue and white porcelain brought back by the Portuguese carracks soon attracted the attention of the royal courts of Europe. When the Dutch East India Company was formed in 1602, trade in porcelain grew exponentially.
The different styles of porcelain sold on the European market by the Chinese (blue and white, Famille verte, Imari, Famille rose) and the Japanese (Imari, Kakiemon) had a distinct influence on western ceramic production, which ranged from exact imitations to freer interpretations.
The Chinese makers adapted their work to the specific needs of their distant customers by reproducing shapes copied from wooden or ceramic models provided by the Dutch merchants, and then by adding decoration that was completely foreign to their own traditions, based on drawings or engravings sent from Europe. This output is known as “Chinese export porcelain”.
“Lady with a parasol”
Arita (Japan), 1737-1740
Porcelain, polychrome enamels, gold
Diam. 26.3 cm
Photo : Nathalie Sabato