1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ceramics
CERAMICS, or Keramics (κἐραμος, earthenware), a general term for the study of the art of pottery. It is adopted for this purpose both in French (céramique) and in German (Keramik), and thus has its convenience in English as representing an international form of description for a study which owes much to the art experts of all nations, though “ceramic” and “ceramics” do not appear in English as technical terms till the middle of the 19th century.
The word “pottery” (Fr. poterie) in its widest sense includes all objects fashioned from clay and then hardened by fire, though there is a growing tendency to restrict the word to the commoner articles of this great class and to apply the word “porcelain” to all the finer varieties. This tendency is to be deprecated, as it is founded on a misconception; the word “porcelain” should only be applied to certain well-marked varieties of pottery. The very existence of pottery is dependent on two important natural properties of that great and widespread group of rocky or earthy substances known as clays, viz. the property of plasticity (the power of being readily kneaded or moulded while moist), and the property of being converted when fired into one of the most indestructible of ordinary things.
The clays form such an important group of mineral substances that the reader must refer to the article Clay for an account of their occurrence, composition and properties. In this article we shall only deal with the various clays as they have affected the problems of the potter throughout the ages. The clays found on or close to the earth’s surface are so varied in composition and properties that we may see in them one of the vital factors that has determined the nature of the pottery of different countries and different peoples. They vary in plasticity, and in the hardness, colour and texture of the fired product, through an astonishingly wide range. To-day the fine, plastic, white-burning clays of the south of England are carried all over Europe and America for the fabrication of modern wares, but that is a state of affairs which has only been attained in recent times. Even down to the 18th century, the potters of every country could only use on an extensive scale the clays of their own immediate district, and the influence of this controlling factor on the pottery of bygone centuries has never yet received the attention it deserves.
General Evolution of Pottery.—The primitive races of mankind, whether of remote ages or of to-day, took perforce such clay as they found on the surface of the ground, or by some river-bed, and with the rudimentary preparation of spreading it out on a stone slab if necessary and picking out any rocky fragments of appreciable size, then beating it with the hands, with stones or boards, or treading it with the feet to render it fairly uniform in consistency, proceeded to fashion it into such shapes as need or fancy dictated. Fired in an open fire, or in the most rudimentary form of potter’s kiln, such pottery may be buff, drab, brown or red—and these from imperfect firing become smoked, grey or black. How many generations of men, of any race, handed on their painfully acquired bits of knowledge before this earliest stage was passed, we can never know; but here and there, where the circumstances were favourable or the race was quick of observation, we can trace in the work of prehistoric man in many countries a gradually advancing skill based on increased technical knowledge. For ages tools and methods remained of the simplest—the fingers for shaping or building up vessels, a piece of mat or basket-work for giving initial support to a more ambitious vase,—until some original genius of the tribe finds that by starting to build up his pot on the flattened side of a boulder he can turn his support so as to bring every part in succession under his hand, and lo! the potter’s wheel is invented—not brought down from heaven by one of the gods to a favoured race, as the myths of all the older civilizations or barbarisms, Egyptian, Chaldean, Greek, Scythian, and Chinese have fabled, but born from the brain and hand of man struggling to fulfil his allotted task.
Formerly every writer on the history of pottery seemed to imagine that the very rudest pottery must have been the invention of Egyptian, Chinese or some other distinct race from which the knowledge radiated to all the other races of the prehistoric world. No conception could be more erroneous. Since the middle of the 19th century research has established beyond doubt that wherever clay was found men became potters of a sort, just as they became hunters, carpenters, smiths, &c., by sheer force of need and slowly-gathered tradition. The not yet exploded view that Egypt or Assyria was the special cradle of this art, and that the pottery of the Greeks and Romans directly descended from such a parent stock, cannot survive in view of the incontestable evidence that pottery was made by the prehistoric peoples of what we now call Greece, Italy, Spain and other countries, long before they were aware that any other peoples lived on the earth than themselves.
For centuries this simple hand-made pottery was hardened by drying in the sun, so that it would serve for the storage of dried grain, &c., but the increasing use of fire would soon bring out the amazing fact that a baked clay vessel became as hard as stone. Then, too, came the knowledge that even in one district all the clays did not fire to the same colour, and colour decoration arose, in a rude daubing or smearing of some clay or earth (a ruddle or bole perhaps), which was found to give a bright red or buff colour on vessels shaped in a duller-coloured clay—most precious of all were little deposits of white clay which kept their purity unsullied through the fire,—and by these primitive means the races of the dawn made their wares. On this substructure all the pottery of the last four thousand years has been built, for behind all Egyptian, Greek or Chinese pottery we find the same primitive foundations.
We now reach the beginnings of recorded history, and as the great nations of the past emerge from the shadows they each develop the potter’s art in an individual way. The Egyptians evolve schemes of glowing colour—brilliant glazes fired on objects, shaped in sand held together with a little clay, or actually carved from rocks or stones; the Greeks produce their marvels of plastic form, and then, excited by their growing skill in metal work, turn the plastic clay into imitations of metal forms. These nations are overthrown, and the Romans spread some knowledge—only a tincture, it must be confessed—over all the lands they hold in fee; and from the Euphrates to the Atlantic, from Egypt to the Wall of Hadrian, they set alight potters’ fires that have never since been extinguished. The Roman empire falls, and over Europe its pottery is forgotten along with its greater achievements; yet still pottery-making goes on in a very simple way, to be slowly revived and modified once more by the communities of monks, who, in later centuries, replace the Roman legions as the great civilizing influence in Europe. Meantime Egypt and the nearer East continued, in a debased form, the splendours of their glorious past, and glazed and painted pottery was still made by traditional methods. What part the Byzantine civilization and the Persians played during this obscure time, we are only just beginning to realize; but we now know that many interesting kinds of decorated pottery were made at Old Cairo, at Alexandria, at Damascus, in Syria, Anatolia and elsewhere (on which the later Moslem potters founded their glorious works), at a time when all over Europe crocks of simple red or drab clay, covered only with green and yellow lead-glazes, were the sole evidence of the potter’s skill. What the Arab conquests destroyed, and what their breath quickened into life, we can only guess; but the fact is indisputable that with the Mahommedan conquests there came a time when the potter’s art of the Occident reached its highest expression, and when methods and knowledge hitherto confined to Egypt, Syria and Persia were spread from Spain and the south of France to India—even, it may be, into China.
Meantime, in the farther East, the Chinese—the greatest race of potters the world has ever seen—were quietly gathering strength, until from their glazed, hard-fired pottery there emerged the marvellous, white translucent porcelain, one of the wonders of the medieval world.
With the dawn of the 15th century of our era, the state of affairs was practically this:—In European countries proper we find rudely fashioned and decorated wares in which we can trace the slow development of a native craft from the superposition of Roman methods on the primitive work of the peoples. The vessels were mostly intended for use and not for show; were clumsily fashioned of any local clay, and if glazed at all then only with coarse lead-glazes, coloured yellow or green; in no case above the level of workmanship of the travelling brick- or tile-maker. The finest expression of this native style is to be found in the Gothic tile pavements of France, Germany and England, where all the colours are due to the clays and there is no approach to painting. In the Moslem countries—including the greater part of Spain and Sicily, Egypt and the nearer East, probably even to the very centre of Asia—pottery was being made either of whitish clay and sand, or of a light reddish clay coated with a white facing of fine clay or of tin-enamel, on which splendid decorative patterns in vivid pigments or brilliant iridescent lustres were painted.
As early as the 12th century of our era this superior artistic pottery of the Moslem nations had already attracted the notice of Europeans as an article of luxury for the wealthy; and we may well believe the traditional accounts that Saracen potters were brought into Italy, France and Burgundy to introduce the practice of their art, while Italian potters certainly penetrated into the workshops of eastern Spain and elsewhere, and gathered new ideas. In Italy certainly, and in the south of France probably, efforts were continuously in progress to improve the native wares by coating the vessels with a white “slip” and drawing on them rude, painted patterns in green, yellow and purplish black. The increasing intercourse with Spain, in war and peace, also introduced the use of tin-enamel after the fashion of the famous Hispano-Moresque wares, and by the end of the 14th century a knowledge of tin-enamel was widespread in Italy and paved the way to the glorious painted majolica of the 15th and 16th centuries. From Italy and Spain, France and Holland, Germany, and finally, though much later, England learnt this art, and the tin-enamelled pottery of middle and northern Europe, so largely made during the 17th and 18th centuries, was the direct offshoot of this movement of the Italian Renaissance.
During the 15th and 16th centuries Chinese porcelain also began to find its way into Europe, and by the whiteness of its substance and its marvellous translucence excited the attention of the Italian majolists and alchemists. The first European imitation of this famous oriental porcelain of which we have indubitable record was made at Florence (1575–1585) by alchemists or potters working under the patronage, and, it is said, with the active collaboration of Francesco de’ Medici. This Florentine porcelain was the first of those distinctively European wares, made in avowed imitation of the Chinese, which form a connecting link between pottery and glass, for they may be considered either as pottery rendered translucent or as glass rendered opaque by shaping and firing a mixture containing a large percentage of glass with a very little clay. After the cessation of the Florentine experiments we know of no European porcelain for nearly a century, though the importation of Chinese porcelain had largely increased owing to the activity of the various “India” companies. The next European porcelain, made like the Florentine of glass and clay, was that of Rouen (1673) and St Cloud (1696); and during the 18th century artificial glassy porcelain was made in France and England largely, and in other countries experimentally. German experimenters worked in another direction, and the first porcelain made in Europe from materials similar to the Chinese was produced at Meissen by Böttger (1710–1712). During the 18th century not only was there a very large trade in imported Chinese and Japanese porcelain, but there was a great development of porcelain manufacture in Europe; and in every country factories were established, generally under royal or princely patronage, for the manufacture of artificial porcelain like the French, or genuine porcelain like the German. The English made a departure in the introduction of a porcelain distinct from either, through adding calcined ox-bones to the other ingredients; and this English bone-porcelain—a well-marked species—is now largely made in America, France, Germany and Sweden as well as in England.
By the end of the 18th century the risks and losses attendant on the manufacture of the French glassy porcelain had caused its abandonment, and a porcelain made from natural materials like the Chinese has since been generally made on the continent of Europe.
The older tin-enamelled wares—derived from the Hispano-Moresque and the Italian majolica—so largely made in France, Holland, Germany and elsewhere during the 17th and 18th centuries, met with a fate analogous to that of the French porcelain. Tin-enamelled earthenware is always a brittle substance, soon damaged in regular use; so that, when, in the middle of the 18th century, the English potter first appeared as a serious competitor with a fine white earthenware of superior durability and precision of manufacture, the old painted faience gradually disappeared between the upper millstone of European porcelain and the nether millstone of English earthenware.
The 19th century witnessed a great and steady growth in the output of porcelain and pottery of all kinds in Europe and the United States. Mechanical methods were largely called in to supplement or replace what had hitherto remained almost pure handicraft. The English methods of preparing and mixing the materials of the body and glaze, and the English device of replacing painted decoration by machine printing, to a large extent carried the day, with a great gain to the mechanical aspects of the work and in many cases with an entire extinction of its artistic spirit. Even the hand-work that still remained was largely affected by the growing dominance of machinery; and the painting, gilding and decoration of pottery and porcelain, in the first half of the 19th century, became everywhere mechanical and hackneyed. During the latter half of the 19th century another influence was fortunately at work. Side by side with the increasing mechanical perfection of the great bulk of modern pottery there grew up a school of innovators and experimentalists, who revived many of the older decorative methods that had fallen into oblivion and produced fresh and original work, in certain directions even beyond, the achievements of the past. The 20th century opened with a wider outlook among the potters of Europe and America. In every country men were striving once again to bring back to their world-old craft something of artistic taste and skill.
Technical Methods.—All primitive pottery, whether of ancient or of modern times, has been made by the simplest methods. The clay, dug from the earth’s surface, was or is prepared by beating and kneading with the hands, feet or simple mallets of stone or wood; stones and hard particles were picked out; and the mass, well tempered with water, was used without any addition. From this clay, vessels were shaped by scooping out or cutting a solid lump or ball, by building up piece by piece and smoothing down one layer upon another or by squeezing cakes of clay on to some natural object or prepared mould or form. The potter’s wheel, though very ancient, was a comparatively late invention, arrived at independently by many races of men. In its simplest form it was a heavy disk pivoted on a central point to be set going by the hand, as the workman squatted on the ground; and it may be seen to-day in India, Ceylon, China or Japan, in all its primitive simplicity (see fig. 1). This form of potter’s wheel was the only one known until about the Christian era, and then, in Egypt apparently, the improvement was introduced of lengthening the spindle which carries the throwing-wheel and mounting on it near the base a much larger disk which the potter could rotate with his foot, and so have both hands free for the manipulation of the clay (fig. 2). No further advance seems to have been made before the 17th century, when the wheel was spun by means of a cord working over a pulley; and though a steam-driven wheel was introduced in the middle of the 19th century, this form remains the best for the production of fine pottery.
A prevalent misconception with regard to the potter’s wheel needs correction. For anything beyond very simple shapes it is impossible to carry the work to completion on the wheel at one operation as is generally imagined. All that the potter can do while the clay is soft enough to “throw” on the wheel is to get a rough shape of even thickness. This operation completed, the piece is removed from the wheel and set aside to dry. When it is about leather-hard, it may be re-centred carefully on the wheel (the old practice), or placed in a horizontal lathe (since 16th century) and turned down to the exact shape and polished to an even, smooth surface. The Greek vase-makers were already adepts in what is often reckoned a modern, detestable practice. Many Greek vases have obviously been “thrown” in separate sections, and when these had contracted and hardened sufficiently they were luted together with slip, and the final vase-shape was smoothed and turned down on the wheel, and even polished to as fine a degree of mechanical finish as the modern potter ever attains. So too with the Chinese; many of their forms have been made in two or three portions, subsequently joined together and finished on the outside as one piece. Indeed it is remarkable how the Greeks and Chinese had discovered for themselves many devices of this kind which are generally held up to opprobrium as the debased methods of a mechanical age. Always it should be borne in mind that the shaping of pottery by “pressing” cakes of clay into moulds is much older than the potter’s wheel, and has always been the method of making shapes other than those in the round. The modern method of “casting” pottery by pouring slip, a fluid mixture of clay and water, into absorbent moulds seems to have originated in England about the middle of the 18th century; and this too is a genuine potter’s method which does not merit the disapproval with which it has been generally regarded by writers on the potter’s art.
In all ages the work of the “thrower” or “presser” has been largely supplemented by the modeller, who alters the shape, and applies to it handles, spouts or modelled accessories at will.
|Fig. 3.—Early Greek pottery-kiln, about 700-600 B.C. (from a painted votive tablet found at Corinth, now in the Louvre). The section shows the probable construction of the kiln.|
Firing.—The firing of pottery has become in modern times such a specialized branch of the manufacture that the student can only be referred here to the technological works mentioned in the bibliography at the end of this article. It is, however, necessary that we should briefly describe the earlier forms of potters’ kilns used by the nations whose pottery counts among the treasures of the collector and the antiquary. Here again we now know that the primitive types of kiln used by the potters of ancient Egypt or Greece have not vanished from the earth; it is only in the civilized countries of the modern world that they have been replaced by improved and perfected devices. The potters of the North-West Provinces of India use to-day a kiln practically identical with that depicted in severest silhouette on the rock-tombs of Thebes; and the skilful Japanese remain content with a kiln very similar to the one shown in fig. 3. This Greek type of kiln was improved and enlarged by the Romans, and its use seems to have been introduced wherever pottery was made under their sway, for remains of Roman kilns have been found in many countries (see fig. 4). With the end of Roman dominance we have ample evidence that their technical methods fell into disuse, and the northern European potter of the period from the 6th to the 12th century had to build up his methods afresh, and improved kilns were invented.
|Fig. 4.—Roman kiln found at Castor. The low arch is for the insertion of the fuel; the pots rested on the perforated floor, made of clay slabs; the top of the kiln is missing,—it was probably a dome.|
The general type of medieval potter’s kiln is illustrated for us in the manuscript of an Italian potter of the 16th century, now in the library of the Victoria and Albert Museum (fig. 5). Kilns of a different type, horizontal reverberatory kilns, were used for making the hard-fired pottery of Europe (Rhenish stoneware, &c.), as well as for Chinese porcelain and the earliest German porcelains. With the organization of pottery as a factory industry in the 18th century, improved kilns were introduced, and the type of kiln now so largely used in civilized countries is practically a vertical reverberatory furnace of circular section, from 10 to 22 ft. in diameter and of similar height, capable, therefore, of containing at one firing a quantity of pottery that would have formed the output of a medieval potter for a year. Every device that can be thought of for the better utilization of heat and its even distribution throughout the kiln or oven has been experimented with; and, though the results have been most successful from the point of view of the potter, even the most recent coal-fired ovens remain very wasteful types of apparatus, the amount of available heat being relatively small to the fuel consumption. Gas-fired kilns and ovens are now being used or experimented with in every country, and their perfection, which cannot be far distant, will improve the most vital of the potter’s processes both in certainty and economy.
|Fig. 5.—Two forms of Italian potter’s wheels, about 1540.|
Glazes.—We are never likely to known when glaze (i.e. a coating of fired glass) was first applied to pottery, though the present state of knowledge would incline us to the opinion that the earliest glazed objects we possess are those of ancient Egypt, but the practice may have been originated independently wherever a knowledge of the elements of glass-making had spread, as all the early glazes were of the alkaline type, which must first be fused into a glass before they can be applied to pottery.
Many primitive races seem to have burnished their pottery after it was fired, in order to get a glossy surface; and in other cases the surface was rendered shining and waterproof by coating it with waxy or resinous substances which were often coloured. It is possible that the black varnish of Greek vases was obtained by such a method, and though that point is not settled, we have many types of primitive pottery, both modern and ancient, which are coated in this way. Such a coating is only a substitute for glaze in the work of peoples who do not know or have not mastered the technical secrets of true glazes. We can only consider as glazes those definite superficial layers of molten material which have been fired on the clay substance. Glazes are as varied as the various kinds of pottery, and it must never be forgotten that each kind of pottery is at its best with its appropriate glaze. The earliest known glazes (Egyptian and Assyrian) were silicates of soda and lime containing very little alumina and no lead. Such glazes are very uncertain in use, and can only be applied to pottery unusually rich in silica (i.e. deficient in clay). Consequently these alkaline glazes cannot be used on ordinary clay wares, and when they have been used successfully, the clay has always been coated with a surface layer of highly siliceous substance (e.g. the so-called Persian, Rhodian, Syrian and Egyptian pottery of the early middle ages). The fact that glazes containing lead-oxide would adhere to ordinary pottery when alkaline glazes would not was discovered at a very early period; for lead glazes were extensively used in Egypt and the nearer East in Ptolemaic times, and it is significant that, though the Romans made singularly little use of glazes of any kind, the pottery that succeeded theirs, either in western Europe or in the Byzantine empire, was generally covered with glazes rich in lead. Throughout Europe, and over the greater part of the world, leaded glazes have been continuously used and improved for all ordinary pottery, and it is only with certain special hard-fired types of ware that they have yet been successfully replaced. Chinese porcelain and all the European porcelains made by analogous methods are fired at so high a temperature that a glaze by felspar softened by lime and silica is found most suitable for them, and the hard-fired stonewares, rich in silica, are often glazed with a salt glaze, or a melted earth rich in oxide of iron.
Every kind of potter’s clay (the mixture of clay, sand, flint, &c., from which the potter shapes his wares) has its own type of glaze, and from the earliest time down to our own what the potter could produce in form or glaze or colour has been largely decided for him by the clay material at his command. With any good plastic clay which cannot be fired at the highest temperature, lead glazes have always proved the most practicable. A similar clay, to which large quantities of sand are added, may be glazed by the vapours of common salt; and mixtures rich in felspar, like Chinese or European porcelain, can be glazed by melting felspathic materials upon them. Naturally those species of pottery which are the hardest fired are the most durable—the glazes of hard porcelain are more unchangeable than lead glazes, and these in their turn than alkaline glazes.
The most important types of glaze are (1) alkaline glazes (e.g. Egyptian, Syrian, Persian, &c.), the oldest and most uncertain; (2) lead glazes, the most widespread in use and the best for all ordinary purposes; (3) felspathic glazes, the glazes of hard-fired porcelains, generally unsuited to any other material; (4) salt glaze, produced by vapours of common salt, the special glaze of stonewares. Many intermediate glazes have been devised to meet special needs, but these remain the only important groups. Fuller details on this important subject must be sought in the technical works.
Colours.—The primitive potters of ancient and modern times have all striven to decorate their wares with colour. The simplest, and therefore the earliest, colour decoration was carried out in natural earths and clays. The clays are so varied in composition that they fire to every shade of colour from white to grey, cream, buff, red, brown, or even to a bronze which is almost black. One clay daubed or painted upon another formed the primitive palette of the potter, especially before the invention of glaze. When glaze was used these natural clays were changed in tint, and native earths, other than clays, containing iron, manganese and cobalt, were gradually discovered and used. It is also surprising to note that some of the very earliest glazes were coloured glasses containing copper or iron (the green, turquoise and yellow glazes of the ancient Egyptians and Assyrians). Marvellous work was wrought in these few materials, but the era of the finest pottery-colour dawns with the Persian, Syrian and Egyptian work that preceded the Crusades. By this time the art of glazing pottery with a clear soda-lime glaze had been thoroughly learnt. Vases, tiles, &c., shaped in good plastic clay, were covered with a white, highly siliceous coating fit to receive glazes of this type, and giving the best possible ground for the painted colours then known. With this rudimentary technique the potters of the countries south and east of the Mediterranean produced, between the 9th and 16th centuries of our era, a type of pottery that remains ideal from the point of view of colour: for, with nothing more than the greens given by oxide of copper and iron, the turquoise of pure copper, the deep yet vivid blue of cobalt, the beautiful uncertain purple of manganese, and in certain districts the rich red of Armenian bole, they achieved colour schemes that have never been surpassed in their brilliant yet harmonious richness.
When the coating of white siliceous clay was replaced by an opaque tin-enamel as in Spain, Italy, France, Holland, &c., a necessary change in the colour schemes resulted. At first only the copper-greens and cobalt-blues could be used on such a ground; the fine manganese purple turned to brown or black and the rich iron-reds to filthy shades of yellow. We cannot wonder that the Spanish-Arab potters paid more attention to their lustre decoration, for that was the natural thing to do. How strong and fine a palette could be evolved for use on a tin-enamel ground was shown by the Italian majolists of the 15th and 16th centuries; and when the later developments of tin-enamelled pottery took place in France, Holland, Germany, &c., their colour schemes are only echoes of Italian majolica crossed with Chinese porcelain. Delft, Nevers, Moustiers and Rouen may each charm us with its individuality; Nuremberg and other south German towns may show us that they too had mastered the use of tin-enamel; yet our minds always go back to the colour schemes of Italian majolica and of the Persian and Syrian pottery that lie behind and beyond them.
The colours already spoken of were either clay colours or what are known as “under glaze” colours, because they were painted on the pottery before the glaze was fired.
The earliest glazes of the Egyptians appear not to have been white, but were coloured throughout their substance, and this use of coloured glazes as apart from painted colour was developed along with the painted decoration by the later Egyptian, Syrian and Persian potters. Green, yellow and brown glazes were almost the only artistic productions of the medieval European potters’ kilns, and their use everywhere preceded the introduction of painted pottery. The most extensive application of coloured glazes was, however, that made by the Chinese, who developed this type of colour decoration before they used painted patterns in underglaze colour. The earliest Chinese porcelains, and the hard-fired stonewares out of which their porcelain arose, were decorated in this way, and the beauty of many of the early Sung coloured glazes has never been surpassed.
With the exceedingly refractory felspathic glazes of Chinese porcelain very few underglaze colours could be used; and the prevalence of blue and white among the early specimens of Chinese porcelains is due to the fact that cobalt was almost the only substance known to the potters of the Ming dynasty which would endure the high temperature needed to melt their glazes. Consequently the Chinese were driven to invent the method of painting in coloured fusible glasses on the already fired glaze. They adopted for this purpose the coloured enamels used on metal; hence the common term “enamel decoration,” which is so generally applied to painting in those colours which are attached to the already fired glaze by refiring at a lower temperature. With the introduction of this many-coloured Chinese porcelain into Europe the same practice was eagerly followed by our European potters, and a new palette of colours and fresh styles of decoration soon arose amongst us. Painting in on-glaze colours, being executed on the fired glaze, resembles glass painting, and it generally offers a striking contrast both in technique and colour-quality to the painting executed in colours under the glaze. In the former the work can be highly finished and the most mechanical execution is possible, but the colours are neither so rich nor so brilliant as under-glaze colours, nor have they the same softness as is given by the slight spread of the under-glaze colour when the glaze is melted over it.
It must be pointed out that the colour possibilities in any method of pottery decoration are largely dependent on the temperature at which the colour needs to be fired. The clay colours are naturally more limited in range than the under-glaze colours, and these in their turn than the on-glaze colours.
When, about the middle of the 18th century, European pottery took on its modern form, of earthenware made after the English fashion, and porcelain like the French and German, the lead or felspathic glazes used brought about another revolution in the potter’s palette. The growing ideal of mechanical perfection discounted the freedom of the earlier brushwork, and printed patterns, or painting that might almost have been printed, removed the mind still farther from the richness of painted faience or majolica. It is useless to look for the glorious colour of Persian faience, Italian majolica, or Chinese porcelain, in modern wares produced by manufacturing processes where mechanical perfection is demanded to a degree undreamt of before the 19th century. The finest modern pottery colour is only to be sought in the work of those enthusiasts and experimenters who are striving to produce work as rich and free as the best of past times.
Metals.—The noble metals, such as gold, platinum and silver, have, since the early years of the 18th century, been largely used as adjuncts to pottery decoration, especially on the fine white earthen-wares and porcelains of the last two centuries. At first the gold was applied with a kind of japanner’s size and was not fired to the glaze, but for the last 150 years or so the metals have generally been fired to the surface of the glaze like enamel colours, by mixing the metal with a small proportion of flux or fusible ground glass. There can scarcely be a doubt that the ancient lustres of Persia, Syria and Spain were believed to be a form of gilding, though their decorative effect was much more beautiful than gilding has ever been. The early Chinese and Japanese gilding appears, like the European, to have been “sized” or water-gilt, not fired; and it seems probable that the use of “fired” gold was taught to the Oriental by the European in the 18th century. To-day “liquid” gold is exported to China and Japan from Europe for the use of the potter.
We can group together that great and widely-spread class of vessels made by the primitive races of mankind, whether before the dawn of civilization or at the present day, for it is interesting to note that many modern races still make pottery by the same rude method as the Neolithic races of Europe and Asia, and with striking similarity of result. In fact, the knowledge of the methods and practices of the primitive potters of our own time furnishes the best possible guide to the methods of fabrication and ornamentation of the ancient specimens that are dug up from barrows, grave mounds, and tumuli. It is only natural that the materials and methods of such pottery are always of the simplest. The clay is used with very little preparation, and it is no unusual thing to find bits of stone, gravel, &c., embedded in the paste of such wares, though at a later stage of development they would have been removed. It must be remarked, however, that no race of potters practised the art for long without discovering that their vessels were not so liable to crack in drying, or lose their shape in firing, if fine sand or pounded “potsherds” were mixed with the clay; and when we are dealing with the work of races that have passed beyond the Stone Age and have learned the use of metals we find this custom universal.
There are three methods of shaping which seem to be common to almost every primitive race:—
1. The scooping out of a vessel from a ball of clay.
2. The building up of a form, often on a piece of basket-work or matting, gradually raising the walls higher by applying and smoothing down successive layers of clay.
3. Coiling; in which the clay is rolled out into thin ropes, and these are coiled round and round upon each other and smoothed down with the hands and with simple tools of bone, wood or metal.
The use of the potter’s wheel is unknown, while it is remarkable how beautifully true and finely-fashioned much primitive pottery is. The primitive red and black vases discovered by Flinders Petrie in Egypt, and the somewhat similar vessels of prehistoric date from Spain, are remarkable instances of this. Some primitive races leave their pottery without decoration, especially when they have a fine red-burning clay to work in, but, generally speaking, primitive pottery of every race and time is elaborately decorated, but only with the simplest patterns. Such decorations consist of lines, dots or lunette-shaped depressions arranged in crosses, chevrons, zigzags or all-over repeated pattern. All this ornament is scratched or impressed into the clay before it is fired. Simplest of all is, perhaps, the pattern which has so obviously been produced by pressing a twisted thong round the neck or bowl of a vase; though the thong may have been used in the first instance merely to serve as a support while the vessel was dried. At a later stage the ornament is generally obtained by scratching with a tool, by pressing the end of a hollow stick into the clay to form rows of circles, by using a stick cut at the end into the shape of a half-moon, or other equally simple decorative device. In certain tropical countries this rudimentary pottery becomes hard enough for a certain amount of use when merely dried in the sun, but in all northern and temperate countries it must have been fired, probably in the most imperfect way, in an open fire or in such a kiln as could be formed by sinking a hole into the ground and erecting round it a screen of stones. How imperfect the firing was is shown by the ashen-grey colour due to smoke. In those countries where the ware has been more perfectly fired the pieces naturally become buff, drab, brown or red.
The primitive vessels that have been found in the grave-mounds of England and the northern countries generally have received a number of fanciful names for which there is very little warrant except in the case of the cinerary urns. These are generally the largest vessels of this class, and as they were used to contain burnt bones there seems sufficient warrant for the supposition that they were made for this and for no other purpose.
Our knowledge of primitive pottery has been greatly improved during recent years by the labours of a number of American students connected with the United States Geological Survey, who have carefully recorded the present-day practices of those native tribes who make and use pottery in various parts of North America and Mexico; while, in the same way, Peruvian, Brazilian and other South American pottery has been as closely investigated by European observers. It should be noted that no primitive pottery reveals any trace of a knowledge of glaze, though much of it has been highly polished after firing, and in some cases a varnish has been applied which may perhaps be regarded as the earliest kind of “glazing” ever applied to pottery vessels.
Literature.—On primitive pottery the following works may be specially mentioned. W. Greenwell, British Barrows (1877); Boyd-Dawkins, Early Man in Britain (1880); Mortimer, Forty Years’ Researches in British and Saxon Burial-mounds of East Yorkshire (1905); Abercromby, “The Oldest Bronze-age Ceramic Type in Britain,” J. Anth. Inst. vol. xxxii. (1902), 373; Guide to Antiquities of the Bronze Age (British Museum, 1904); Koenen, Gefässkunde der vorrömischen, römischen und fränkischen Zeit in den Rheinländern (1895); Wosinsky, Der inkrustierte Keramik der Stein- und Bronze-zeit (1904); Walters, History of Ancient Pottery (Greek and Roman) (1905); Holmes, Aboriginal Pottery of the Eastern United States (Bureau of Ethnology, Washington, 1899); also Holmes and Cushing in Report of Bureau of Ethnology for 1882; Wiener, Pérou et Bolivie (1880); Von der Steinen, Natur-Völkerei Central Brasiliens (1894); Hartman, Archaeological Researches in Costa Rica (1905); Strebel, on “Mexican Pottery” in Publications of Museum für Völkerkunde (Berlin, vol. 6, 1899); Werner, British Central Africa (1907); Füllborn, Deutsche Ost-Afrika, vol. ix. (1907); Macluer, “Kabyle Pottery,” Journ. Anth. Inst. vol. xxxii. p. 245, and “Upper Egypt,” ibid. xxxv. p. 20; Myres, “Early Pottery Fabrics of Asia Minor,” Journ. Anth. Inst. xxxiii. p. 367; Turveren Museum, Notes analytiques sur les collections ethnographiques du Congo, tome ii. (1907); Cupart, Debuts de l’art de l’ancienne Égypte (1903). (W. B.*)
Egypt and Western Asia
Egyptian Pottery.—Egypt affords us the most striking instance of the development of the potter’s art. As in other countries pottery was made even in Neolithic times, for the Nile mud forms a fine plastic clay and sand is of course abundant. With these materials various kinds of pottery, often extremely well made and of good form, have been continuously produced for common domestic requirements, but such pottery was never glazed.
The wonderful glazes of the Egyptians were applied to a special preparation which can hardly be called pottery at all, it contained so little clay. Yet as early as the 1st Dynasty the Egyptians had learnt to shape little objects in this tender material and cover them with their wonderful turquoise glazes. We have therefore to study the development of two independent things: (1) the ordinary pottery of common clay left without glaze; (2) the brilliant glazed faience which appears to be special to Egypt, though it may have been the groundwork for the technique of the slip-faced painted and glazed pottery of the nearer East.
We probably do not possess any specimens of the most primitive Neolithic pottery; the oldest type known to us, the black and red ware of Ballas and Nagada (1), dates from the later Neolithic age, when copper was just beginning to be used. This ware is very hard and compact and the face is highly burnished. The red colour was produced by a wash of fine red clay; the black is an oxide of iron obtained by limiting the access of air in the process of baking, which was done, Professor Petrie suggests, by placing the pot’s mouth down in the kiln, and leaving the ashes over the part which was to be burnt black. Both red and black colour go right through in every case. All-red and all-black vases are occasionally found, the red with geometrical decorations in white colour, and the black with incised decoration. The forms are usually very simple, but at the same time graceful, and the grace of form is more remarkable when it is remembered that none of this early pottery was made on the wheel. Pottery of almost similar technique was found in Crete in 1905 during the American excavations at Vasiliki near Hierapetra. The general appearance of the Cretan pottery is much the same as that of the Egyptian, and the duller red and black decoration (which here has a spotted or mottled appearance) was probably obtained in the same way, the black spots being due to the action of separate fragments of the baking material. This discovery is important in view of the probable early connexion of the Cretan and Egyptian culture-centres.
A very similar red and black ware, usually of thinner and harder make, and often with a brighter surface, was introduced into Egypt at a later date (XIIth Dynasty), probably by Nubian tribes who were descended from relatives of the Neolithic Egyptians. From their characteristic graves these people are called the Pan-Grave people, and their pottery is known by the same name.
Perhaps rather later in date than the early red and black wares, but by no means certainly so, the second characteristic type of primeval Egyptian pottery is a ware of buff colour with surface decorations in red. These decorations are varied in character, including ships, birds and human figures; wavy lines and geometrical designs commonly occur. The whole facies of this ware seems very un-Egyptian, and it has been compared with the decorated “Kabyle pottery” of modern times. To call the people who made this ware “Libyans” on the strength of this resemblance of their pottery to that of the modern Kabyles, six thousand years later, seems, however, rash. The prehistoric Egyptians were not Kabyles or Libyans, but Nilotes, and the peculiar decoration of their pottery, which seems so strangely barbaric, is in reality merely the most ancient handiwork of the Egyptian painter, and marks the first stage in the development of pictorial art on the banks of the Nile (2). Other types of pottery (3), in colour chiefly buff or brown, were also in use at this period; the most noticeable form is a cylindrical vase with a wavy or rope band round it just below the lip, which developed out of a necked vase with a wavy handle on either side. This cylindrical type outlived the red and black and the red and buff decorated styles (which are purely Neolithic and predynastic) and continued in use in the early dynastic period, well into the Copper age. The other unglazed pottery of the first three dynasties is not very remarkable for beauty of form or colour, and is indeed of the roughest description (4), but under the IVth Dynasty we find beautiful wheel-made bowls, vases and vase-stands of a fine red polished ware (4). This fine ware continued in use at least as late as the XVIIIth Dynasty, though the forms of course differed from age to age. Under the XIIth Dynasty, and during the Middle Kingdom generally, either this or a coarser unpolished red ware was in use. The forms of this period are very characteristic (5); the vases are usually footless, and have a peculiar globular or drop-like shape—some small ones seem almost spherical. At this period the foreign “Pan-Grave” black and red pottery was also in use (see above).
The art of making a pottery consisting of a siliceous sandy body coated with a vitreous copper glaze seems to have been known unexpectedly early, possibly even as early as the period immediately preceding the Ist Dynasty (4000 B.C.). Under the XIIth Dynasty pottery made of this characteristic Egyptian faience seems to have come into general use, and it continued in use down to the days of the Romans, and is the ancestor of the glazed wares of the Arabs and their modern successors (6). The oldest Egyptian glazed ware is found usually in the shape of beads, plaques, &c.—rarely in the form of pottery vessels. The colour is usually a light blue, which may turn either white or green; but beads of the grey-black manganese colour are found, and on the light blue vases of King Aha (who is probably one of the historical originals of the legendary “Mena” or Menes) in the British Museum (No. 38,010) we have the king’s name traced in the manganese glaze on (or rather in) the blue-white glaze of the vase itself, for the second glaze is inlaid. This style of decoration in manganese black or purple on copper-blue continued till the end of the “New Empire” shortly before the XXVIth (Saite) Dynasty. It was not usual actually to inlay the decoration before the time of the XVIIIth Dynasty. The light blue glaze was used well into the time of the XIIth Dynasty (British Museum, No. 36,346), but was then displaced by a new tint, a brilliant turquoise blue, on which the black decoration shows up in sharper contrast than before. This blue, and a somewhat duller, greyer or greener tint was used at the time for small figures, beads and vases, as well as for the glaze of scarabs, which, however, were usually of stone-schist or steatite —not faience. The characteristically Egyptian technique of glazed stone begins about this period, and not only steatite or schist was employed (on account of its softness), but a remarkably brilliant effect was obtained by glazing hard shining white quartzite with the wonderfully delicate XIIth Dynasty blue. A fragment of a statuette plinth of this beautiful material was obtained during the excavation of the XIth Dynasty temple at Deir el-Bahri in 1904 (British Museum, No. 40,948). Vessels of diorite and other hard stones are also found coated with the blue glaze. A good specimen of the finest XIIth Dynasty blue-glazed faience is the small vase of King Senwosri I. (2400 B.C.) in the Cairo Museum (No. 3666) (6). The blue-glazed hippopotami of this period, with the reeds and water-plants in purplish black upon their bodies to indicate their habitat, are well known. Fine specimens of these are in the collection of the Rev. Wm. MacGregor at Tamworth (8).
The blue glaze of the XIIth Dynasty deepened in colour under the XIIIth, to which the fine blue bowls with designs (in the manganese black) of fish and lotus plants belong (8) (British Museum, Nos. 4790, &c.). The finest specimens of XVIIIth Dynasty blue ware have come from Deir el-Bahri, in the neighbourhood of which place there may have been a factory for the manufacture of votive bowls, cups, beads, &c., of this fine faience, for dedication by pilgrims in the temple of Hathor (good collection in British Museum). Towards the end of this dynasty polychrome glazes came into fashion; white, light and dark blue, violet, purple, red, bright yellow, apple-green and other tints were used, not only for smaller objects of faience, such as rings, scarabs, kohl-pots, &c., but also for vases, e.g. No. 3965 of the Cairo Museum (Amenophis III. wine-bottle), the ground colour of which is white with a decoration of flower wreaths in blue, yellow and red, with an inscription in delicate blue (6). This polychrome faience was also now used for the ushabti figures which were placed in the tombs; hitherto they had been made exclusively of stone or wood, never of glazed stone or pottery; henceforward they were made exclusively of faience, but the polychrome glazes (e.g. British Museum, Nos. 34,180, 34,185) were soon abandoned, and the plain blue and black of the ordinary vases was adopted. The ushabtis of King Seti I. (British Museum, No. 22,818, &c.) (9) are fine specimens of this type. Under the XXth Dynasty the blue paled and became weak in quality, but the priest-king family of the XXIst used for their ushabtis a most brilliant blue glaze, an extraordinary colour which at once distinguishes the faience of this period from that of all others (9). The same brilliant glaze was used for vases of various kinds as well. The polychrome ware had developed into a style of inlaying with glazed faience, which we see at Tel el-Amarna under the XVIIIth Dynasty (1400 B.C.) (10), and at Tel el-Yahūdīya under the XXth (1200 B.C.), used for wall decoration. After this time polychrome ceramic decoration seems to have died out in Egypt, but was retained in Asia (see below).
|Fig. 6.—Egyptian pottery made of fine blue paste.|
The technical skill of the New Empire potters is shown by such a remarkable object as the gigantic Uas-sceptre of blue glazed faience, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum (12, 8). This is the largest known piece of Egyptian glazed faience; really large vases of faience are not found. Faience vases were very commonly built up or carved out of a ball of the dried material, perhaps held together by some mucilaginous substance —it seems impossible that such a substance could ever have been fashioned on the wheel. Sometimes even small vases were made of separately moulded pieces united by a glassy material (6). Under the XXIInd Dynasty small glazed vases with figures of deities or animals in relief became common; these were made in moulds (6). In the matter of form the faience pottery of the New Empire follows the lead of the new earthenware types. Forms had altered considerably from those of the XIIth Dynasty. In place of the simple flowing lines of that period, we now find egg-shaped bodies with cylindrical necks, with or without handles, great amphorae with almost pointed bases, sometimes with the handles perched upon the shoulders of the vase; flat-tipped, squat jugs; little handleless vases somewhat resembling the modern kulla, “mit mehrfach eingezogenem Bauch” (V.B.), and the common flat flask-like type known as the “pilgrim bottle” (6, 13, 14, 15).
Owing to the extended foreign relations of Egypt at this time, imported vases from Greece and Asia, including Mycenaean Bugelkannen and Cypriote black “base ring” jugs, have been found in the tombs and deposits of this age (14). Imitations of foreign forms, especially the Bugelkannen, are found chiefly in faience (British Museum, 22,731, is an imitation of a Minoan jug from Crete). The faience forms of the XVIIIth and XXIInd Dynasties include also the kulla shape, the pilgrim bottle, miniature amphorae, &c. (see fig. 6), and miscellaneous forms not found in common pottery, imitating metal and stone vases, e.g. the blue-green ribbed pots of the XXIInd Dynasty, imitating bronze originals, and the alabastron of the XVIIIth; these last go back to the XIIth Dynasty. Very pretty cups in the shape of lotus flowers (see fig. 7) are to be seen in most museums; they are of the XIXth Dynasty, and mostly came from Tuna (6, 8).
|Fig. 7.—Egyptian blue-glazed pottery.|
The continuance of the old red polished ware of the IVth Dynasty during the Middle Kingdom to the time of the XVIIIth Dynasty has already been mentioned. Characteristic of the latter period of this ware are long jugs with attenuated body and single handle, which, because they have been found with Mycenaean objects in Cyprus, have been considered to be of foreign, probably of Syrian origin. They may, however, be Egyptian. Vases of the same ware in the shape of men and animals are not uncommon (17). Another ware of this period has a highly polished yellow face, sometimes becoming ruddy, and passing off into a pinkish red; in this ware the pilgrim bottles are common. An unpolished, brittle, and thin yellow ware was also used largely for wine-vases. The rougher, commoner red and brown ware at this period became decorated with designs, chiefly of lily wreaths, &c., in paint of various colours (13). This new development hid the ugly colour of the common pottery and was a cheaply obtained imitation of the expensive, polychrome glazed ware of the period (see fig. 8). This painted pottery continued in use until about the time of the XXIInd Dynasty. From this time onwards, till the Ptolemaic period, the commonest pottery was a red ware, usually covered with a white slip. Under the XXVIth Dynasty a finer homogeneous white ware occurs, usually for vases with a rude representation of the face of the god Bes on their bodies.
|Fig. 8.—Egyptian pottery with painted ornament and sham marbling.|
The XXVIth Dynasty marks a new period of development in the history of Egyptian faience. The old deep blue colour had gradually deteriorated into an ugly green (British Museum, No. 8962), which was replaced by the Saite potters with a new light blue of very delicate tint, imitated, in accordance with the archaistic spirit of the time, from the old light blue of the earliest Dynasties. The glaze itself is very thin and “sugary” in texture. The old decoration of the blue with designs and inscriptions in manganese-black is abandoned; on the ushabtis the inscriptions are now incised. Side by side with this light blue glaze was used an unglazed faience, a sort of composition paste with the colour going right through. It has more variety of colour than the glazed faience, light green and a dark indigo blue being found as well as the Saite light blue. Sometimes it is of a very soft, almost chalky consistency. It was used for vases, but more generally for small figures and scarabs (6). The commonest vase-form of this period is the pilgrim bottle, now made with the neck in the form of a lily flower, and with inscriptions on the sides wishing good luck in the New Year to the possessor. These flasks appear to have been common New Year’s gifts.
Under the Sebennyte kings of the XXXth Dynasty a further new development of glaze began, of a more radical character than ever before. The colour deepened, and the glaze itself became much more glassy, and was thickly laid on. The new glaze was partly translucent, and differed very greatly from the old opaque glaze. It first appeared on ushabtis at the end of the Saite period. A curious effect was obtained by glazing the head-dress, the inscription &c., of the ushabtis in dark blue, and then covering the whole with translucent light blue glaze. This method was regularly used during the succeeding Ptolemaic and Roman periods, when the new style of glaze came into general use. A yellowish green effect was obtained by glazing parts of the body of the vases in yellow and covering this with the translucent blue glaze. This method was used to touch up the salient portions of the designs in relief, imitated from foreign originals, a style which now became usual on vases. The usual decoration is mixed Egyptian and classical, the latter generally predominating. A large range of colours was employed; purple, dark blue, blue-green, grass-green, and yellow glazes all being found. The glaze is very thickly laid on, and is often “crazed” (6, 8). A remarkable instance of this Romano-Egyptian faience is the head of the god Bes in the British Museum (No. 35,028). A hard, light blue, opaque glaze like that of the XXVIth Dynasty is occasionally, but rarely, met with in the case of vases (British Museum, Nos. 37,407, 37,408).
We know something of the common wares in use during this period from the study of the ostraka, fragments of pottery on which dated tax-receipts, notes, and so forth were written. From the ostraka we see that during the Ptolemaic period the commonest pottery was made of red ware covered with white slip, which has already been mentioned. At the beginning of the Roman period we find at Elephantine a peculiar light pink ware with a brownish pink face, and elsewhere a smooth dark brown ware. About the 3rd century A.D. horizontally ribbed or fluted pots, usually of a coarse brown ware, came into general use. These were often large-sized amphorae, with very attenuated necks and long handles (see fig. 9). During the Byzantine (Coptic) period most of the pottery in use was ribbed, and usually pitched inside to hold water, as the ware was loose in texture and porous.
|Fig. 9.—Egyptian pottery under the Ptolemies, showing Greek influence in the shapes.|
During the Coptic period, a lighter ware was also in use, decorated with designs of various kinds in white, brown or red paint on the dull red or buff body. In Nubia a peculiar development of this ware is characteristic of the later period (Brit. Mus. No. 30,712).
A polished red ware of Roman origin (imitation Arretine or “Samian”) was commonly used as well.
The heavily glazed blue faience continued in use until replaced in the early Arab period by the well-known yellow and brown lead-glazed pottery, of which fragments are found in the mounds of Fostat (Old Cairo).
Western Asia.—Palestine. The most ancient Palestinian pottery is the rough “Amorite” ware from Lachish (Tel el-Hesi) which sometimes has wavy handles like the prehistoric Egyptian (18). Later we find actual Mycenaean pottery in Philistia (19), an interesting testimony to the truth of the legend which brings the Philistines from Crete; the fourth and fifth cities of Lachish (1200–1000 B.C.) show us the first ordinary Phoenician or Israelite pottery—buff or red lamps and bowls, the latter with the handles sometimes painted in bistre, and vases showing strong Egyptian influence; while pottery from Cyprus and elsewhere is found as in Egypt.
The only remarkable later development of Palestinian pottery is the Phoenician imitation of Egyptian faience of the Saite period, of which the characteristics are well known. Some of this may actually have been made in Egypt.
The course of the potter’s art in Mesopotamia and Persia appears to have run on lines of development parallel with the art in Egypt, for the country between the Tigris and the Euphrates is rich in good clays, and, wherever the invention of glass arose, its application to pottery decoration was certainly developed at an early period in Egypt and in Mesopotamia.
Two characteristic uses of clay wares must, however, be pointed out, though they have nothing to do with vase-making.
1. The Babylonian and Assyrian use of clay shaped into tablets, cylinders and prisms, to produce an imperishable record of the literature of the time. The cylinders and prisms were thrown on the potter’s wheel and are consequently hollow; the circular form was then sliced down, and the surface was impressed with cuneiform inscriptions, the prism, tablet or cylinder being subsequently dried and fired.
2. The architectural use of glazed bricks and slabs. While the Egyptians remained content for the most part with the application of their brilliant alkaline glazes to small and delicately-finished objects, the Babylonians and Assyrians developed an architecture decorated with glazed and coloured brickwork. The bricks were of very open texture, and the ornamental pattern or figure subjects were obtained by a strong outline in dark-coloured clay which formed a kind of cloison or boundary, the shallow cells between being filled in with coloured clays—yellow, red or white—or with coloured glazes of turquoise, green or blue, yellow and purplish brown. These glazes are obviously like the Egyptian, but they are more coarsely prepared and are always full of bubbles and consequently more or less opaque. Yet the severe simplicity of the method, the splendid colour effect, strong yet sumptuous, entitles these productions to a very high rank among all the world’s work in clay and glaze. The “Frieze of the Archers” now in the Louvre may be mentioned as one of the finest productions of its kind, and the Louvre and British Museum possess the finest collections of this early architectural use of glazed and coloured clay. (See also Mural Decoration)
|Fig. 10.—Assyrian biscuit pottery.|
Coming to ordinary pottery we find that in early times well-formed vases made of good clay, unglazed and unpainted, were made. Small figures of deities made of the same clay are often found. It is practically the same terra-cotta as that of the inscribed tablets. None of the forms are particularly distinctive (see fig. 10). The excavations of the French in Persia have brought to light at Moussian in Susiana an extremely interesting painted ware, which belongs to a very early period. The decoration is usually geometrical. The technique seems to be analogous to the Mycenaean-Greek (Firnismalerei), and the whole effect is very like that of the Greek, Late Mycenaean or Dipylon pottery. The ware is buff in colour and fine in texture, with a polished surface. The decoration is sometimes in polychrome, but usually in the grey-brown iron-glaze (?) alone. This pottery degenerates later and finally disappears (20).
|Fig. 11.—Assyrian glazed and enamelled pottery.|
During the Sargonide period in Assyria (7th century B.C.) we find a polychrome faience (colours usually white and brown) obviously of Egyptian origin. It was used, not for vases, but architectonically for friezes, ornamental bosses, &c. Its origin may be found in Egypt under the XVIIIth Dynasty, when Egyptian influence extended to the Tigris, and Babylonia had regular diplomatic relations with Egypt In Asia this polychrome decoration in glazes continued to be used long after it had ceased to be made in the country of its origin; the enamelled brick decoration of Persepolis is the descendant of the glazed inlay decorations of Tel el-Amarna, Tel el-Yahudiya and Kuyunjik. In the Sargonide period blue glazed vases occur (see fig. 11) which are probably of Egyptian origin or are Phoenician imitations of Egyptian faience.
Characteristic of the Parthian period is a coarse green glazed pottery of which the slipper-shaped coffins, of the time were made (British Museum, Nos. 1645-1647) (21). This glaze possibly contains a small amount of lead; in appearance it is not unlike the contemporary translucent blue glaze of Egypt. The Egyptian glaze certainly spread into western Asia, and we find the last specimens of it in the tiles from the destroyed city of Rhagae in Persia, which may be as late as the 13th century A.D. The lead glazes, unknown in Egypt till the late Roman period, may be of Asiatic origin, though this important point is by no means clear.
References.—(1) Petrie-Quibell, Ballas and Nagada (date erroneous); (2) Jacques de Morgan, L’ Âge de la pierre et des métaux; (3) Petrie, Diospolis Parva, frontispiece (also for “sequence-dates” of pottery); (4) Garstang, Mahâsna and Bêt Khallâf, pls. xxix.—xxxii.; (5) Petrie, Illahûn, pl. xii. (corr. by V. Bissing in (14)); (6) V. Bissing, Catalogue générale du musée de Caire, “Die Fayencegefässe”; (7) Petrie, Abydos, ii., frontispiece; (8) Henry Wallis, Egyptian Ceramic Art (Macgregor Collection); (9) Guide to Third and Fourth Egyptian Rooms, British Museum, p. 252 ff.; (10) Petrie, Tel-el-Amarna; (11) Guide to Third and Fourth Egyptian Rooms, p. 261; (12) Petrie, Nagâda, pl. xxviii.; (13) Petrie, Illahûn, pls. xx., xxi.; (14) V. Bissing, Strena Helbigiana, p. 20 ff.; (15) Garstang, El Arábah, pls. xviii.-xxi., xxviii., xxix.; (16) Hall, Oldest Civilization of Greece, p. 143 ff. ibid. figs. 29, 30, 69; (17) Guide to Third and Fourth Egyptian Rooms, pl. viii.; (18) Petrie, Tell-el-Hesy, pl. v.; (19) Welch, Ann. Brit. Sch. Ath. vi.; (20) de Morgan, Délégation en Perse, viii. (1905); (21) Brit. Mus.: Guide to Babylonian and Assyrian Room. (H. R. H.)
Greek, Etruscan and Roman
Greek. Study of Greek Vases.—It is not so many years since an account of Greek pottery would naturally have followed chronologically the history of Egyptian pottery with little overlapping; but recent discoveries have reversed all such ideas, and, while up to the end of the 19th century the earliest remains to be traced on Greek soil could be assigned at the furthest to the period 2500-2000 B.C., it is now possible not only to show that at that period technical processes were highly developed, but even to trace a continuous development of Greek pottery from the Neolithic age. This result has been mainly brought about by Dr Arthur Evans’s researches at Cnossus in Crete, but traces of similar phenomena are not wanting in other parts of Greece. Whether the race which produced this pottery can strictly be called Greek may be open to question, but at all events the ware is the independent product of a people inhabiting in prehistoric times the region afterwards known as Greece; its connexion with the pottery of the historic period can now be clearly traced, and in its advanced technical character and the genuinely artistic appearance of its decoration even this early ware proclaims itself as inspired by a similar genius.
The study of Greek vases has thus received an additional impetus from the light that it throws on the early civilization of the country, and its value for the student of ethnology. But it has always appealed strongly to the archaeologist and in some degree also to the artist or connoisseur, to the former from its importance as a contribution to the history of Greek art, mythology and antiquities, to the latter from its beauty of form and decoration. Attention was first redirected to the painted vases at the end of the 17th century, though for a long time they served as little more than an adjunct to the cabinet of the amateur or a pleasing souvenir for the traveller; but even during the 18th century it dawned on the minds of students that they were of more than merely artistic importance, and attention was devoted to the elucidation of their subjects, and attempts made to arrive at a chronological classification. Two facts must, however, be borne in mind: firstly, that down to the middle of the 19th century the great majority of painted vases had been found only in Italy; secondly, that these vases were mostly of the later and more florid styles, which, if artistically advanced, are now known to represent a decadent phase of Greek art.
|Fig. 12.—Jug from Cyprus of|
Oriental style, 10 in. high.
|Fig. 13.—Pottery from Cyprus with|
From the former cause arose the notion that these vases were the product not of Greek but of Etruscan artists, and so the term “Etruscan vase” arose and passed into the languages of Europe, surviving even at this day in popular speech in spite of a century of refutation. Meanwhile, the study of the subjects depicted on the vases passed through the successive stages of allegorical, historical and mystical interpretation, until a century and more of painstaking study led to the more rational principles of modern archaeologists.
Sites and Discoveries.—The sites on which Greek vases have been found cover the whole area of the Mediterranean and beyond, from the Crimea to Spain, and from Marseilles to Egypt. By far the great majority, at all events of the finer specimens, have been extracted from the tombs of Vulci and other sites in Etruria; those of the later period or decadence have been found in large numbers on various sites in southern Italy, such as Capua, Curnae and Nola in Campania, Anzi in Lucania, and Ruvo in Apulia. In the western Mediterranean, Sicily has also been a fruitful field for this pottery, early varieties being found at Syracuse, later ones at Gela, Girgenti and elsewhere. Painted vases have also come to light in Sardinia and in North Africa, especially in the Cyrenaica, where the finds mostly belong to the 4th century B.C. In Greece proper the most prolific site has been Athens, where the finds extend from the Dipylon vases of the 8th century B.C. down to the decadent productions of the 4th century; one group, that of the white funeral lekythoi, is almost peculiar to Athens. Next to this city, Corinth has been most productive, especially in pottery of the archaic period and of local manufacture. Large quantities of pottery of all periods have been yielded by Thebes, Tanagra and other sites in Boeotia, and remains of the “Mycenaean” period at Mycenae, Argos and elsewhere. But on the whole painted pottery is rare in other parts of the mainland. Among the western islands of the archipelago, Aegina and Euboea have proved fruitful in vases of all periods; Thera, Melos and others of the Cyclades are remarkable for pottery of the prehistoric period with rudely painted designs; and above all Crete is now famous for the wondrous series of painted and ornamented pottery of pre-Mycenacan date, which can be traced back even to the Neolithic period, and the discovery of which has entirely revolutionized the preconceived theories on the appearance of painted pottery in Greece. This has been found in the recent excavations at Cnossus, Palaeokastro and elsewhere. In Asia Minor there have been some important finds on the mainland, but only along the coast; some of the islands, more especially Samos and Rhodes, have been more fruitful in this respect. At Kertch and elsewhere in the Crimea, large numbers of fine but somewhat florid vases of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. have come to light. Cyprus has long been known as a rich field for pottery of all periods, from the Mycenaean onwards, the later varieties being marked by strong local quasi-oriental characteristics, with little development from the more primitive types (figs. 12 and 13). The principal sites are Salamis, Amathus, Marion (Poli) and Curium. Lastly, in the Egyptian delta two sites, Naucratis and Daphnae, have yielded results of considerable importance for the history of early Greek vase-painting.
The great majority of these vases have been found in tombs; but some important discoveries have been made on the sites of temples and sanctuaries, as on the Acropolis of Athens, or at Naucratis. In such cases the vases are seldom complete, having been broken up and cast away into rubbish-heaps, where the fragments have remained undisturbed. The tombs vary greatly in form, those of Greece being usually small rock-graves or shafts, those of Italy often fine and elaborate chambers with architectural details, and the manner in which the vases are found in these tombs varies greatly. Plain unornamented pottery is almost universal, and may be considered to have formed the “tomb-furniture” proper—the painted vases being as in daily life merely ornamental adjuncts.
Shapes and Uses of Greek Vases.—The enormous number of painted vases now collected in museums is in itself sufficient evidence of the important part they must have played in the daily life, of the Greeks, and the care which was bestowed on their decoration shows the high estimation in which they were held. It is, however, remarkable that, with the exception of general allusions to pottery and its use in daily life, there are singularly few passages in classical literature which throw light on the purposes for which these vases were used. Where any are described at full length there is always evidence that metal vases are intended. Athenaeus and the lexicographers have indeed put on record a long list of names of shapes, but it is only in a few cases that we can be certain what forms they describe, or whether any of the typical forms of existing vases can be identified with the literary descriptions.
We have then two questions to consider in this section: firstly, the uses to which painted vases were put by the Greeks; secondly, the classical names of the various forms of plain and painted pottery which have come down to us.
As we have seen, the majority of painted vases have been discovered in tombs, which at first sight seems to suggest that they were made principally for sepulchral purposes; but that they also had their uses in daily life as much as plain pottery or earthenware cannot be doubted. They stand, in fact, in the same relation to the commoner wares of their day as china or porcelain does with us, being largely ornamental only, but used by wealthy people or on special occasions for the purposes of daily life, as for instance at banquets or in religious ceremonies.
Vases were used as measures, as in the case of a small one-handled cup in the British Museum (see fig. 15), found at Cerigo (Cythera) and inscribed with the word ἡμικοτύλιον or “half-kotyle,” equivalent to about one-fourth of a pint. Another vase found at Athens is supposed to represent the official χοῖνιξ or quart, having a capacity of 0.96 litre; it is inscribed δημόσιον or “official measure,” and bears the official stamp of the state. Conversely many names of vases, such as the amphora or the kotyle, were adopted to indicate measures of capacity for liquid or dry commodities. Earthenware vessels were used for storing both liquids and food, for the preparation of foods and liquids, and for the various uses of the table and the toilet. That the painted ware was used at banquets or on great occasions we learn from scenes depicted on the vases themselves, in which vases painted with subjects appear in use. In connexion with athletics, they were given as prizes, as in the case of the Panathenaic amphorae, a class of vases given for victories in the games held at Athens at the Panathenaic festivals, where, however, they do not represent prizes so much as marks of honour corresponding to modern racing cups. Vases were also used as toys for children, as is proved by the discovery of many diminutive specimens, chiefly jugs, in the tombs of children at Athens, on which are depicted children playing at various games. They also served a purely decorative use as domestic ornaments, being placed on columns or shelves; or, in the case of flat cups and plaques, suspended on the wall. Many of the later Greek and Italian painted vases are very carelessly decorated on the one side, which was obviously not intended to be seen.
We come now to the use of vases for religious purposes, dedicatory, sacrificial or funerary. Of all these uses, especially the last, there is ample evidence. That vases were often placed in temples or shrines as votive offerings is clear from the frequent mention in literature of the dedication of metal vases, and it can hardly be doubted that painted pottery served the same purpose for those who could only afford the humbler material. Of late years much light has been thrown upon this subject by excavations, notably on the Acropolis of Athens, at Corinth, and at Naucratis in the Egyptian delta, where numerous fragments have been found bearing inscriptions which attest their use for such purposes. It was a well-known Greek custom to clear out the temples from time to time and form rubbish-heaps (favissae) of the disused vases and statuettes, which were broken in pieces as useless, but it is to this very fact that we owe their preservation. At Naucratis many of the fragments bear incised inscriptions, such as Άπόλλωνός εἰμι, “I am Apollo’s” (possibly a memorandum of the priest’s, to mark consecrated property), or ὁ δεῖνά με ἀνέθηκε τῇ Άφροδίτῃ, “So-and-so dedicated me to Aphrodite.” Fig. 14 gives another example with a dedication to Apollo. At Penteskouphia, near Corinth, a large series of painted tablets (πίνακες), dating from 600 to 550 B.C., with representations of Poseidon and dedicatory inscriptions to that deity, were found in 1879. Votive offerings in this latter form were common at all periods, and tablets painted with figures and hung on trees or walls are often depicted on the vases, usually in connexion with scenes representing sacrifices or offerings.
There is no doubt that vases (though not necessarily painted ones) must have played a considerable part in the religious ceremonies of the Greeks. We read of them in connexion with the Athenian festival of the Anthesteria, and that of the gardens of Adonis. They were also used in sacrifices, as shown on an early black-figured cup in the British Museum and on a vase at Naples with a sacrifice to Dionysus. In scenes of libation the use of the jug and bowl (phiale) is invariable.
|Fig. 14.—Part of vase from Naucratis with dedication to Apollo.|
But their most important use, and that to which their preservation is mainly due, was in connexion with funeral ceremonies. They were not only employed at the burial, but were placed both outside the tombs to receive offerings, and inside them either to hold the ashes of the dead or as “tomb-furniture,” in accordance with Greek religious beliefs in regard to the future life. Several classes of vases are marked out by their subjects as exclusively devoted to this purpose, such as the large jars found in the Dipylon cemetery at Athens, which were placed outside the tombs, the white Athenian lekythoi of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C., and the large krateres and other vases of the 4th century B.C. found in the tombs of Apulia and other parts of southern Italy. Their use as cinerary urns was perhaps more restricted, at all events as regards the painted vases, though the custom is well known and is referred to in literature from Homer downwards. In “Mycenaean” times coffers (λάρνακες) of clay were used for this purpose, especially in Crete, where fine painted examples have been found; but of Greek pottery of the best periods there are but isolated instances.
The diagrams in fig. 15 show the principal shapes characteristic of Greek pottery in all but the earliest periods, when the variety of form was as yet too great to permit of more than the vaguest nomenclature; each form has its conventional name appended. These shapes may be classified under the following heads: (1) Vases in which food or liquids were preserved; (2) vases in which liquids were mixed or food cooked; (3) those by means of which liquids were poured out or food distributed; (4) drinking-cups; (5) other vases for the use of the table or toilet. Thus we have the pithos and amphora for storing wine, the krater for mixing it, the psykter for cooling it, the kyathos for ladling it out, and the oinochoe or prochoos for pouring it out; the hydria was used for fetching water from the well. The names and forms of drinking-cups are innumerable, the principal being the kylix, kotyle, kantharos, rhyton (drinking-horn) and phiale (libation bowl). The pyxis was used by women at their toilet, and the lekythos, alabastron and askos for oil and unguents.
Technical Processes.—Though the Greeks succeeded in making pottery of a very high order from the point of view of form and decoration, the technical processes remained throughout of the most elementary—for glaze was not used at all, the colour was of the simplest, and the temperature at which the ware was fired was not high enough to introduce any serious difficulties. As we should expect, it is possible to trace a gradual improvement in the technical processes in the direction of greater precision and refinement, for no vase-painter of the best period could have achieved his decorative triumphs on wares so coarse in substance and so rough in finish as those that satisfied his predecessors. As in every other case technical and artistic refinement went hand in hand. In the earliest times the clay was used with very little preparation; at all events before the introduction of the potter’s wheel the finish is not to be compared with that of the early races in Egypt. As the practice developed no doubt, specially good clays were found in certain districts, and these became centres of manufacture or the clays were carried to other established centres. The primitive wares usually exhibit the natural buff, yellow, grey or brownish colours of other elementary pottery, and the surface is somewhat rough and possesses no gloss. Thenceforward it becomes appreciably warmer in tone as it becomes finer in texture, until it reaches its perfection in the glowing orange, inclining to red, of the best Attic vases of the 5th century B.C. In the vases of the later Italian centres the colour again reverts to a paler hue.
The clay for the potter was doubtless prepared by a system of sedimentation, so as to get rid of all coarse particles. It was mixed with water and decanted into a series of vats so that ultimately fine clay of two or three grades was obtained. Both red and whitish clays were used, and the best potters gradually discovered that mixtures of different clays gave the best results. The clay for the Athenian vases was obtained from Cape Kolias in Attica; and as it did not burn to a very warm tone, ruddle or red ochre (rubrica) was added to it to produce the lovely deep orange glow that distinguishes the best vases. Corinth, Cnidus, Samos and other places were also famous for their clays, and at the first named tablets have been found bearing representations of the digging of clay for pottery.
|Fig. 15.—Shapes of Greek Vases.|
The improved manipulation of the clays, and the increasing knowledge that the colour of a clay could be modified by admixture of other substances such as ruddle and ochre, really paved the way for what is known as the glaze of the Greek painted vases. This delicate gloss, so thin as to defy analysis, has been commonly called glaze, but it cannot be a glaze in the sense of a separate coating of finely-ground glass superimposed upon the clay. In all probability, as the Greek potter used finer and finer clays and so was enabled to perfect his shapes, he found that after a vase had been “thrown” he could get a closer texture on it by dipping it in a slip of still finer clay material and then smoothing it down and polishing it on the wheel when sufficiently dry. But the mixtures he would use for such a purpose—of very siliceous clay and ochre—would, when they were burnt in the Greek kiln, not only fire to a beautifully bright colour, but also to a glossy surface, especially where the flames had freely played about them; and it is more in accordance with our knowledge to believe that the exquisitely thin gloss of the finest Greek red vases was produced in this way, for it seems impossible that it can have been a coating of any special glaze.
In any case we may state broadly that the body of Greek vases is always fine in grain, fired hard enough to give forth a dull metallic sound when it is struck, but seldom fired above a temperature of about 900° C., which a modern potter would consider very low. When broken the inside is generally found to be duller in colour, and is often yellow or grey, even where the external surface is red. The material is exceedingly porous, and allows water to ooze through it (another proof that it was not glazed). Numerous analyses of the material of Greek vases have been published, but they tell us nothing of the secrets of the Greek potter. The results of a great number of these analyses may be summed up as follows: silica, 52-60 parts; alumina, 13-19 parts; lime, 5-10 parts; magnesia, 1-3 parts; oxide of iron, 12-19 parts. Analyses of a thousand ordinary simple red burning clays would give a similar result. It is to the glory of the Greek potter that with such ordinary materials, by the exercise of selection, patience and skill, he achieved the fine artistic results we see. He did as much as can be done with natural clay materials, but the glory of painted colour and glaze, like the later Persian or Chinese, was not for him.
|Fig. 16.—Votive tablet from Corinth; a potter applying|
painted bands while the vessel revolves on the wheel.
Manufacture of Vases.—The earliest Greek pottery is, like all primitive pottery, hand-made. The introduction of the potter’s wheel into Greece was the subject of various ancient traditions, but we now know that it can be easily traced by a study of the primitive pottery of Crete, Cyprus or Troy. In Cyprus, for instance, the Bronze age tombs of 2500–1500 B.C. contain only hand-made pottery, but in the next period (1500–1000 B.C.) we find hand-made and coarse vases side by side with a more developed kind of painted pottery—the “Mycenaean”—obviously made on the wheel. It seems probable, therefore, that the wheel was introduced into Greece about 1500 B.C.; it was certainly known to Homer, as a familiar allusion shows (Il. xviii. 600). It was still a low circular table turned with the hand, not the foot; representations of its use are seen on several vases of the archaic period (fig. 16), and they further prove that the vase was replaced on the wheel for the subsequent processes of painting, polishing and adding separately modelled parts, as well as for the original shaping or “throwing.”
The method of shaping the vase on the wheel, which is the same as that still in use, need not be described in detail; the feet, necks, mouths and handles were modelled separately or shaped in moulds, and attached while the clay was moist, as is also indicated on a vase. Large and coarse vases, such as wine casks (πίθοι), were always modelled by hand on a kind of hooped mould (κάνναβος).
Parts of vases were modelled by hand at all periods by way of decoration. Even in the geometrical period we find horses modelled in the round on the covers of vases and later on handles enriched with moulded figures of serpents twining round them. Such embellishments are frequently, if not always, deliberate imitations of metal forms, but the plastic principle is one which obtained in Greek pottery from the very first, as for instance in the primitive pottery of Troy, in which the vases are often modelled in human or animal forms; and the same principle is involved in the common practice of speaking of the “neck,” “shoulder” or “foot” of a vessel. In the best period the practice of adding moulded ornaments or of modelling vases in natural forms took a subsidiary place, but examples occur from time to time, as in the beautiful rhyta or drinking-horns of the red-figure period (Plate II., fig. 58), or in smaller details such as are seen in handles enriched with heads in relief, a favourite practice of the potter Nicosthenes. In the 4th-century vases of southern Italy the handles are often much ornamented in this fashion, as in the large krateres, where they are adorned with masks in relief.
The system of moulding whole vases or ornamenting them with designs in relief taken from moulds really belongs to the decadence of the art, when imitations of metal were superseding the painted pottery. Even then it is rare to find whole vases produced from a mould, except in the case of those in the form of human figures or animals (Plate II., figs. 57 and 58), which almost come under the heading of terra-cotta figures, except for the fact that they are usually painted in the manner of the vases. But in southern Italy the tendency to imitate metal led to the popularity of ornaments made separately from moulds and attached or let in to vases otherwise plain. Vases of this period, with reeded bodies, must also have been made from moulds, as were a series of phialae or libation-bowls associated with Cales in Campania (Plate II., fig. 56), which are known to be direct imitations of metal.
All or nearly all of these vases are covered with a plain black glaze or varnish, and painted decoration is rare except in the case of those moulded in special forms or of a certain class made in Apulia with opaque colouring laid on the varnish. Some of these plain black vases of the 4th century are ornamented with stamped patterns made with a metal punch impressed in the moist clay. This decoration is confined to simple patterns.
After the vases had been made on the wheel they were dried in the sun and lightly baked, after which they were ready for varnishing and painting; it is also probable that the gloss was brought out by a process of polishing, the surface of the clay being smoothed with a piece of wood or hard leather. On a vase in Berlin a boy is seen applying a tool of some kind to an unfinished cup, probably for this purpose; the cup, being shown in red on the vase, has evidently not been varnished. Many vases are varnished black all over the exterior (whether decorated with designs or not) with the exception of the foot and lip.
|Fig. 17.—Model of Kiln found in Essex.|
The process of baking was regarded as one of the most critical in the potter’s art. It was not indeed universal, as we read of sun-dried vessels for utilitarian purposes, but all the vases that have come down to us have been baked. The amount of heat required was regulated by the character of the ware, but was not very high. Many examples exist of discoloured vases which have been subjected to too much or too little heat, the varnish having acquired a greenish or reddish hue. Or again the red gloss is sometimes turned to an ashen-grey colour, the black remaining unimpaired. Other accidents were liable to occur in the baking, such as cracking under too great heat, or the damaging of the shape by vases knocking against one another and so being dented in or crushed. The form of the oven was of the simplest (fig. 17). No furnaces have been found in Greece, and only one or two in Italy, but we have a variety of evidence from vase-paintings. They were fed by fires from beneath, and the vases were inserted with a long shovel. They were heated with charcoal or wood fuel, and there are representations of men poking or raking the fires with long-handled implements. One vase-painting gives a bird’s-eye view, in horizontal section, of the interior of an oven full of jugs of various forms. Others have more complete presentations of potteries, with men engaged in the different processes of vase manufacture, modelling, painting or supplying the kilns with newly-made wares.
The Painting of Vases.—We may distinguish three principal classes of painted pottery, of Which two admit of subdivision.
2. Greek vases painted with figures. These may be subdivided as follows:—
3. Vases with polychrome decoration.
Of these the second group is by far the largest and most important, including the majority of the finest specimens of Greek vase-painting, and the following account will deal mainly with the technical processes by which the most successful results were obtained. In both the classes (a) and (b) the colouring is almost confined to a contrasting of the glossy red ground and shining black.
This black varnish (?) is particularly deep and lustrous, but varies under different circumstances according to differences of locality, of manufacture or accidents of production. It is seen in its greatest perfection in the “Nolan” amphorae of the earlier red-figure period, at its worst in the Etruscan and Italian imitations of Greek vases. The gradations of quality may be partly due to the action of heat, i.e. stoving at a higher or lower temperature. It also varies in thickness. At present no certainty has been attained as to its composition—Brongniart’s oft-quoted analysis cannot be accepted —nor has any acid been found to have an effect upon it, though the chemical action of the earth sometimes causes it to disappear.
The method of its use forms the chief distinction between the black-figured and red-figured vases, but there is a class of the former which approaches near in treatment to the latter, the whole vase being covered with black except a framed panel which is left red to receive the figures. It is obvious that the transition to merely leaving the figures red is but a slight one. But in all black-figured vases the main principle is that the figures are painted in black silhouette on the red ground, the outlines being first roughly indicated by a pointed instrument making a faint line. The surface within these outlines being filled in with black, details of anatomy, dress, &c., were brought out by incising inner lines with a pointed tool. After a second baking or perhaps stoving had taken place, the designs were further enriched by the application of opaque purple and white pigments, which follow certain conventional principles in their respective use. After a third baking at a lower heat still to fix these colours the vase was complete.
|(From a photo supplied by the Director of the Sèvres Museum)|
|Fig. 18.—Fragment of unfinished red-figured vase.|
In the red-figured vases the shining black is used as a background. But before it is applied the outlines of the figures are indicated not by incised lines, but by drawing a thick line of black round their contours. Recent researches have attempted to show that the instrument with which this was achieved may have been a feather brush or pen, by which the lines were drawn separately, not concurrently. The other tools used for painting would be an ordinary metal or reed pen and a camel’s-hair brush, or at any rate something analogous. Thus the outlines of the figures were clearly marked, and the process is one of drawing rather than painting, but it was in draughtsmanship that the best vase-painters excelled. The next stage was to mark the inner details by very fine black lines or by masses of black for surfaces such as the hair; white and purple were also employed, but more sparingly than on the earlier vases. The main processes always remain the same down to the termination of vase-painting, though the tendency to polychromy, which came in about the end of the 5th century B.C., effected some modifications. The blacking of the whole exterior surface—a purely mechanical process—took place after the figures had been completed and protected from accidents by the thick black border of which we have spoken.
A fragment of an unfinished vase preserved in the Sèvres Museum gives a very clear idea of the process just described, the figures being completed, but the back ground not yet applied (fig. 18). There is also another vase in existence which gives the interior of a vase-painter’s studio, in which three artists are at work with their brushes, their paint-pots by their side.
In the class of vases (3 (a)), with polychrome figures on a white ground, the essential feature is the white slip or engobe with which the naturally pale clay is covered. In the archaic vases of the 7th and 6th centuries B.C., especially in the Ionian centres, as at Rhodes, Naucratis and Cyrene, this slip is frequently employed, but with this, difference, that the figures are painted in the ordinary black-figure method, the only additional colour being purple laid on the black. We first find polychrome decoration, whether in wash or outline, in a small class of fragments from Naucratis, of the 6th century B.C., which technically are of a very advanced character. The colours used either for outline or wash include purple, brown, yellow, crimson and rose-colour, but some, if not all, of these colours were not fired.
In the 5th century this practice was revived at Athens, chiefly in the class of lekythoi or oil-flasks devoted exclusively to sepulchral uses. Here the vases, after leaving the wheel and being fitted with handles, &c., were covered with a coating of white clay. A second coating of black was applied to the parts not required for decoration, and the white was then finely polished, acquiring a dull gloss, and finally fired at a low temperature. The decoration was achieved as follows: a preliminary sketch was made with fine grey lines, ignoring draperies, &c., and not always followed when the colours were laid on. This was done when the first lines were dry, the colour being applied with a fine brush in monochrome—black, yellow or red—following the lines of the sketch. For the drapery and other details polychrome washes were employed, laid on with a large brush. All varieties of red from rose to brown are found, also violet, yellow, blue, black and green. Hair is treated either in outline or by means of washes.
Finally, we have to deal with the class of vases (3 (b)) in which opaque pigments are laid over the surface of the shining black with which the whole vase is coated. This method is met with at three distinct periods in the history of vase-painting, separated by long distances of time.
We first find it in the earlier Cretan or Kamares ware, where it seems to have been introduced not long after the close of the Neolithic period, about 2500 B.C., and where it holds its own for about a thousand years against the contrasted method of “dark on light” painting, till it was finally ousted by the latter at the height of “Mycenaean” civilization in Crete. The colouring is very varied, orange, brown, pink and white being the principal tints employed.
The process appears again at the end of the 5th century in a small class of Attic vases, which have been regarded as a sort of transition between the black-figured and red-figured. White and orange-red are here employed, sometimes with accessory details in purple and black and incised lines, so that the technique is virtually black-figured, though the appearance of the vases is often red-figured. Lastly, it appears in southern Italy as a final effort of vase-painting to flicker into life again about the end of the 3rd century. Some of these vases were made in Campania, where the method resembles that of the Attic class just described, others in Apulia, probably at Gnathia. The latter have feeble conventional decoration in purple and white with details in yellow, confined to one side of the vases, and are also distinguished by the use of ornaments in relief. They were also occasionally made in Greece proper.
Remarkably few colours were used by the Greek vase painters, especially in the best periods. The deep purple used for accessory details was produced from iron oxide, but the red used for lines on the white lekythoi is an ochre (μίλτος, rubrica). The white also used for accessories is an earth or clay; in the slip coating of the white ground vases it assumes the consistency of pipe-clay. Yellow, where used for details on the later vases, is an ochre, and blue and green are produced from artificial compounds containing copper. A number of the colours, such as blue, rose and green, used by the polychrome painters, are obviously artificial pigments which have not been fired. When gilding was employed it was laid on over a raised ground of clay finely modelled with a small tool or brush, and was attached by varnish, not by fire.
Potters and Inscriptions.—The potters who made these vases were mostly—at least at Athens in the 6th and 5th centuries, B.C.—μἐτοικοι, or resident aliens, as their names in many cases imply. We have an Amasis (an Egyptian name), a Brygus (a Scythian), a Lydus and a Scythes. The dialect of many of the inscriptions on Attic vases seems to show foreign influence, though in other cases peculiarities may be merely due to the use of a vernacular. They formed a gild or fraternity, and in each pottery there was probably more or less division of labour, the more simple processes being the work of slaves. This seems to be implied in the vase-paintings representing the interior of potteries. Others again “specialized” in different shapes, and were known as χυτροπλάθοι, ληκυθοποιοί, and so on.
Over a hundred names of artists are known, found on some five hundred vases. They go back to about 700 B.C., the earliest names being found on Corinthian and Boeotian vases; but the majority of the signatures are found on Attic black- and red-figured wares. Some, such as Andocides, made vases in which the two methods are combined. The best known is Nicosthenes, whose signature occurs eighty times. The ordinary forms of signature are four—(1) ὁ δεῖνα ἐποίησεν; (2) ὁ δεῖνα ἔγραχεν; (3) ὁ δεῖνα ἔγραχε καὶ ἐποίησεν; (4) Α ἔγραψε. Β ἐποίησεν. Where ἐποίησε alone occurs (as in a signature of Euxitheus), it probably refers to the master of the pottery who designed the vase and superintended its production; in other cases the share of the actual artist is clearly indicated. Some artists, such as Duris and Makron, sign ἔγραψε alone; in all cases, the form of signature affords us a useful guide to their style.
Space forbids the discussion of other inscriptions found on vases, which include those descriptive of subjects or persons, ejaculations uttered by the figures, convivial exclamations, or the καλός names discussed below; all these are painted on the designs themselves. There is also another class of graffiti inscriptions, which includes those incised by the owners with their names and memoranda scratched under the foot, probably made by the potter or his workmen relating to the number of vases in a batch or “set” and their price.
Vitreous and Lead-glazed Wares.—In Greek tombs a class of pottery is often found which approximates, more in appearance to porcelain, but, though often spoken of by that name, it is not porcelain at all, but is analogous to the Egyptian glazed faience, of which it is in point of fact an imitation. It is distinguished by the white gritty material of which it is made, largely composed of sand, and forming what is sometimes known as “frit” from its semi-vitreous consistency. The surface is covered with a glaze, usually of a pale blue or cream colour, but other colours such as a manganese-purple or brown are sometimes found. Some of the earliest examples of this ware have been found in Mycenaean tombs at Enkomi in Cyprus, in the form of vases moulded in the shape of human or animal heads. These exhibit a remarkably advanced skill in modelling, and are more like Greek work of the 6th century B.C. Apart from the technique they have nothing in common with the Egyptian importations so often found in Mycenaean tombs.
|Fig. 19.—Enamelled pottery from tombs in Rhodes, made under Egyptian influence.|
In a subsequent period (8th–7th century B.C.) Egyptian objects in faience became a common import into Greek cities, such as those of Rhodes, and to a less degree in Sardinia and southern Italy, through the commercial medium of the Phoenicians. Flasks of faience occur in the Polledrara tomb at Vulci (610–600 B.C.) and similar vases with a pale green glaze at Tharros in Sardinia in tombs of the same date. In Rhodes, small flasks and jars are found ornamented with friezes of men and animals in relief, or imitating in colour and design the glass vessels of the Phoenicians. It also seems probable that the Greeks of Rhodes and other centres attempted the imitation of this ware (see fig. 19), for we find faience aryballi or globular oil-flasks modelled in the form of helmeted heads or animals, which are purely Greek in style.
In the Hellenistic period the fashion was revived at Alexandria, and under the Ptolemies large jugs of blue-enamelled faience with figures in relief and bearing the names of reigning sovereigns were made and exported to the Cyrenaica and to southern Italy. Two of these are in the British Museum (Egyptian department). The same collection includes a very beautiful glazed vase in the form of Eros riding on a duck, found in a tomb at Tanagra, but undoubtedly of Alexandrine make, and a head of a Ptolemaic queen, with a surface of bright blue glaze.
Subsequently in the 1st century B.C., this so-called porcelain ware was replaced by a variety of ware characterized by a brilliantly coloured glaze coating, in which the presence of lead is often indicated. This ware was principally made at three centres; at Tarsus in Asia Minor, at Alexandria and at Lezoux in central Gaul. But it was probably also made in western Asia Minor and in Italy. It is not confined to vases, being also employed for lamps and small figures; the vases are usually of small size, in shapes imitated from metal (Plate II., fig. 59). The colour of the glaze varies from a deep green to bright yellow, and the inside of a vessel is often of a different tint from the exterior. Many of these vases are decorated with figures or designs in relief, others are quite plain. The colours of these glazes are of course due to the addition of oxide of copper and oxide of iron to a lead glaze, and they are strictly analogous to the green and yellow glazes of medieval Europe.
Historical Account of Greek Vase-painting.—It has been indicated in the section dealing with technical processes that Greek vases may be classified under four headings according to the character of the decoration, and this classification may with a slight modification be adopted as a chronological one, the history of the art falling under four main heads, under which it will be convenient to describe its development from the earliest specimens of painted pottery down to the period when it was finally replaced by other methods of decoration.
These four classes and their main characteristics may be summarized as follows:—
I. Vases of the Primitive Period from about 2500 or 2000 to 600 B.C., including both the Cretan-Mycenaean epoch and the early ages of historical Greece. In the former the pottery is either decorated in polychrome on a shining black ground or conversely in shining black on a buff ground; in the latter, the decoration is in brown or black (usually dull, not shiny) on an unglazed ground varying from white to pale red. In the former again the decoration is marked by its naturalistic treatment of plant and animal forms; in the latter the ornaments are chiefly linear, floral or figures of animals; human figures and mythological scenes being very rare.
II. Black-figured Vases from about 600–500 B.C.; figures painted in shining black on a glossy ground varying from cream colour to bright orange red, with engraved lines and white and purple for details; subjects mainly from mythology and legend.
III. Red-figured Vases, from 520 to 400 B.C.; figures drawn in outline on red clay and the background wholly filled in with shining black, inner details indicated by painted lines or dashes of purple and white, scenes from daily life or mythology. With these are included the vases with polychrome figures on white ground. In these, which are exclusively made at Athens, the perfection of vase-painting is reached between 480 and 450 B.C.
IV. Vases of the Decadence, from 400 to 200 B.C.; mostly from southern Italy, technique as in Class III., but the drawing is free and often careless, and the general effect gaudy; subjects funereal, theatrical and fanciful. At the end of this period vases are largely replaced by plain shining black pottery modelled in various forms, or with decorations in relief, all these being imitations of the metal vases which began to take the place of painted wares in the estimation of the Hellenistic world.
| From Annual of the British School at Athens.|
Fig. 20.—Minoan or “Kamares” ware, from Crete.
|Fig. 21.—Primitive black pottery from the Troad.|
I. Vases of the Primitive Period.—It has been noted in the introductory section that it is possible to trace the development of pottery in Greece as far back as the Neolithic period, owing chiefly to the light recently thrown on the subject by the excavations in Crete. These have yielded large quantities of painted pottery of high technical merit, usually with decoration in polychrome or white on a dark ground, in what is known as the Kamares ware, covering the period 2500–1500 B.C. (fig. 20). This was gradually superseded by painting in dark shining pigments on a light glossy ground during the later Minoan period (1500–1000 B.C.), forming what is known as the “Mycenaean” style. The subjects, though chiefly confined to floral ornaments or aquatic plants and creatures, are marvellously naturalistic yet decorative in their treatment, often rivalling in this respect the pottery of the Far East. In the latter part of this period this class of pottery was spread all over the Mediterranean, and large quantities have been found in Greece, especially at Mycenae, in Rhodes and other Greek islands, and in Cyprus, where a series of vases with animals, monsters, and even human figures shows what is probably the latest development of the pure Minoan or Mycenaean style.
Outside Crete the earliest Greek pottery has been found in Cyprus and at Troy, with simple incised or painted patterns on a black polished ground, the vases being all hand-made, and often treated in a plastic fashion with rude modelling of human or animal forms (figs. 21, 22); these cover the period 2500-2000 B.C. Early painted pottery, parallel with the Kamares ware, has been found in Thera and in the important cemeteries of Phylakopi in Melos. But until the general spread of Mycenaean civilization and art in the latter half of the second millennium there is no site except Crete where a continuous and successful development can be studied.
|Fig. 22.—Primitive red pottery from the Troad.|
|Fig. 23.—Vase with bands of animals, Oriental in style, (British Museum.)|
About the time which is represented in Greek tradition by the Dorian invasion (1100 B.C.) the then decadent Mycenaean civilization was replaced by a new one much more backward in development, making pottery of a far simpler and more conventional type, the decoration being largely confined to geometrical patterns to the exclusion of motives derived from plant forms. This is usually known as the geometrical style, and the pottery covers the period from about 1000 to 700 B.C. It is found all over the mainland and islands of Greece, and exhibits a certain development towards a more advanced stage. The patterns include the chevron, the triangle, the key or maeander, and the circle, in various combinations, painted in dull black on a brown ground. In most places the art advanced no further, but in Boeotia, and still more at Athens, we can trace the gradual growth of decorative skill, first in the introduction of animals, and then in the appearance of the human figure. In the Athenian cemetery outside the Dipylon gate a series of colossal vases has come to light, on which are painted such subjects as sea-fights and funeral processions. The human figures are exceedingly rude and conventional, painted almost entirely in silhouette, but there is a distinct striving after artistic effect in the composition and arrangement. In Boeotia the vases do not advance beyond the animal stage, and many exhibit a tendency to decadence in their carelessness, as contrasted with the painstaking helplessness of the Athenian artists.
|Fig. 24.—Ionic amphora, with contest between Heracles and Hera,|
and bands of birds and animals; black, with incised lines.
In Ionia and the islands of the Aegean such as Rhodes, the art of vase-painting from the first carried on the Mycenaean tradition, and was distinguished by its naturalism and originality, and by the bold and diverse effects produced by variety of colour or novelty of subject. The ornamentation is at first elementary, consisting of friezes of animals, especially lions, deer and goats (figs. 23 and 24). These figures stand out sharply in black against the creamy buff ground which is characteristic of nearly all Ionic pottery, and details are brought out by means of engraved lines, patches of purplish iron pigment, or by drawing parts of the figures, especially the heads, in outline on the clay ground. Another feature is the general use of small ornaments such as rosettes and crosses in great variety of form to cover the background and avoid the vacant spaces which the Greek artist abhorred. The system of decoration has been thought to owe much to Assyrian textile fabrics.
One of the best though most advanced examples of early Ionic pottery is a pinax or plate from Rhodes in the British Museum, on which is represented the combat of Menelaus and Hector over the body of Euphorbus (fig. 25); their names are inscribed over the figures, and this is almost the earliest known instance of a mythological subject, the date of the painting being not later than 600 B.C. To a slightly later date belongs another remarkable group of cups with figures on a white ground, probably made at Cyrene in North Africa. Of these the most famous has a painting in the interior, of Arcesilaus II., king of Cyrene from 580 to 550 B.C., weighing goods for export in a ship. Others have mythological subjects, such as Zeus, Atlas and Prometheus, Cadmus and Pelops.
But these vases, though still retaining the older technique, really belong to the second class, that of black-figured vases, and they belong to a time when in all Ionian centres this method was being superseded by the new technique which Corinth had introduced and Athens perfected, to the consideration of which we must return.
|Fig. 25.—Early inscribed pinax from Rhodes, with contest of|
Menelaus and Hector over the body of Euphorbus.
For some 150 years Corinth almost monopolized the industry of pottery on the west of the Aegean. Large numbers of examples have been found in or near the city itself, many bearing inscriptions in the peculiar local alphabet. They show a continuous progress from the simplest ornamentation to fully-developed black-figured wares. In the earliest (Plate I. fig. 52) oriental influence is very marked, the surface being so covered with the figures and patterns that the background disappears and the designs are at times almost unintelligible. The general effect is thus that of a rich oriental tapestry, and the subjects are largely chosen from the fantastic and monstrous creations of Assyrian art, such as the sphinx and gryphon. The vases are mostly small, the ground varies from cream to yellow, and the figures are painted in black and purple.
Both in Ionia and at Corinth during the early part of the 6th century the same tendencies are seen to be at work, tending to a unification of styles under the growing influence of Athens. In Ionia (see above) figure subjects become more common, and the technique approaches gradually nearer to the black-figure method. Similarly at Corinth the ground ornaments diminish and disappear, the friezes of animals are restricted to the borders of the designs, and human figures are introduced, first singly, then in friezes or groups, and finally engaged in some definite action such as combats or hunting scenes. In the last stages Greek myths and legends are freely employed. A new development, traditionally associated with the painter Eumarus of Athens, was the distinguishing of female figures by the use of white for flesh tints. A somewhat similar development was in progress at Athens, though represented by comparatively few vases. Here the adoption of Corinthian and Ionian technical improvements evolved by the middle of the 6th century the fully developed black-figure style which by degrees supplanted or assimilated all other schools.
II. Black-figured Vases.—At the head of this new development stands the famous Francois vase at Florence, found at Chiusi in 1844 (Plate I. fig. 53). Its shape is that of a krater or mixing-bowl, and it bears the signatures of its maker and decorator in the form “Ergotimos made me, Klitias painted me.” It might be described as a Greek mythology in miniature, with its numerous subjects and groups of figures all from legendary sources such as the stories of Peleus, Theseus and Meleager, or the return of Hephaestus to heaven. All the figures have their names inscribed.
The general technique of the black-figured vases has already been described. It may be noted as a chronological guide that the use of purple for details is much commoner in the earlier vases, white in the later, but towards the end of the century when the new fashion of red figures was gaining ground, both colours were almost entirely dropped. The drawing of the figures is, as might be expected, somewhat stiff and conventional, though it advanced considerably in freedom before the style went out of fashion. Many vases, otherwise carefully and delicately executed, are marred by an excess of mannerism and affectation, as in the works of the artists Amasis and Exekias (Plate I. fig. 54). The treatment of drapery is a good indication of date, ranging from flat masses of colour to oblique flowing lines of angular falling folds.
|Fig. 26.—Panathenaic amphora.|
The shapes most commonly employed by the Athenian potters of this period are the amphora, hydria, kylix, oinochoe and lekythos, the first-named being the most popular. A special class of amphorae is formed by the Panathenaic vases, which were given as prizes in the Athenian games, and were adorned with a figure of the patron goddess Athena on one side and a representation of the contest in which they were won on the other (fig. 26). They usually bear the inscription τῶν Άθηνῆθεν ἄθλων εἰμί “I am (a prize) from the games at Athens.” Some of these can be dated by the names of Athenian archons which they bear, as late as the 4th century, the old method of painting in black figures with a stiff conventional pose for the goddess being retained for religious reasons.
The chief interest of the black-figured vases is really derived from their subjects, which range over every conceivable field, the proportion of myth and legend to scenes from daily life being much greater than in the succeeding period. They include groups of Olympian and other deities, and the various scenes in which they take part, such as the battle of the gods and giants, or the birth of Athena (treated in a very conventional manner, as on a fine amphora in the British Museum); Dionysus and his attendant satyrs and maenads, the labours and exploits of Heracles and other heroes, subjects taken from the tale of Troy and other less familiar legends; and scenes from daily life, battle scenes, athletics, the chase and so on. The same classification of course holds good for the later periods of vase-painting, with some exceptions. The proportion of genre-scenes subsequently becomes greater, and some myths disappear, others rise into prominence, new deities such as Eros (Love), and Nikē (Victory) appear for the first time, and, generally speaking, the later subjects are characterized by a sentimentality or tendency to emotion which is entirely foreign to the conventional stereotyped compositions of the 6th century artist.
A remarkable feature of the subjects on black-figured vases is that a stereotyped form of composition is invariably adopted at least for the principal figures, but minor variations are generally to be found, as, for instance, in the number of bystanders; and it is almost an impossibility to find any two vase-paintings which are exact duplicates. The form of the composition, was partly determined by the field available for the design; when this took the form of a long frieze the space was filled up with a series of spectators or the repetition of typical groups, but when the design is on a framed panel or confined by ornamental borders the method of treatment is adapted from that of a sculptured metope, and the figures limited to two or three. In many cases it is difficult to decide, in the absence of inscriptions, whether or no a scene has mythological signification; the mythological types are over and over again adopted for scenes of ordinary life, even to the divine attributes or poses of certain figures.
|Vase by Andocides. Black figures on obverse.||Vase by Andocides. Red figures on reverse.|
Among the artists of the period who have left their names on the vases, besides those already mentioned, the most conspicuous is Nicosthenes, a potter of some originality, from whose hand we have over seventy examples, a few being in the red-figure method. He is supposed to have introduced at Athens a revival of the Ionic fashion of painting on a cream-coloured ground instead of on red, of which some very effective examples have been preserved. He was always a potter rather than a painter, and most of his vases are remarkable for their forms—introducing plastic imitations of metal vases—rather than for their painted decoration. Most of the artists of this period, as in the succeeding one, have left their signatures on cups (kylikes), but this form did not receive so much attention from the painter as at a later period, and many of these examples bear only inscriptions and no painted decoration.
III. Red-figured Vases.—The sudden reversal of technical method involved in the change from black figures on a red ground to red figures on black is not at first sight easy of explanation. Some artists, like Nicosthenes and Andocides, used both methods, sometimes on the same vase, and there is no doubt that the two went on for some years concurrently. As, however, no intermediate stage is possible, there is no question of development or transition. The new style was in fact a bold and ingenious innovation. It may possibly have been suggested by a small class of vases in which the figures are painted in the black-figure method, but have the converse appearance, that is to say they are painted in a thick red pigment on a ground of shining black. It may therefore have occurred to the artist that he could obtain the same effect merely by leaving the figures unpainted on the red clay and surrounding them with the black. The change, must, however, be closely associated with the career of the artist Andocides, who not only produced vases in each method, but also several in which the two are combined (fig. 27). In two or three cases the subject is actually the same on each side, almost every detail being repeated, except that the colouring is reversed.
The date at which the change took place was formerly placed well on in the 5th century, on account of the great advance in drawing which most of the red-figured vases show, as compared with the black. They were thus regarded as contemporary with the painter Polygnotus, if not with Pheidias. But the excavations on the Acropolis of Athens yielded so many fragments in the advanced red-figured style which must be earlier than 480 B.C., that it has become necessary to find an earlier date for its appearance. This is now usually placed at about 520 B.C., overlapping with the preceding period.
The red-figure period is usually subdivided into four, marking the chief stages of development, and known respectively as the “severe,” “strong,” “fine,” and “late fine” periods. Their principal characteristics and representative painters may be briefly enumerated.
In the severe period there is no marked advance on the black-figured vases as regards style. The figures are still more or less stiff and conventional, and some vases even show signs of an analogous decadence. The real development is partly technical, partly in the introduction of new subjects. Although the change of style probably had its actual origin in the amphora, as treated by Andocides, the new developments are best seen in the kylix, a form of vase which now sprang into popularity and called forth the chief efforts of the principal artists. Its curved surface gave ample scope for skilful effects of drawing and decorative arrangement, and the earlier painters devoted all their attention to perfecting it as a work of decorative art. For other shapes, such as the hydria, and lekythos, the old method was for a time preferred.
The most typical artist of the period was Epictetus, and other famous cup-painters were Pamphaeus, Cachrylion and Phintias. The earliest cups are decorated in a quite simple fashion like those of the black-figure period, often with a single figure each side between two large “symbolical” eyes, and a single figure in a circle in the interior. To the latter the artist at first devoted his chief efforts, though even here his scope was at first limited. But although he had not yet attained to skill in composition, he did discover that the circular space was well adapted for exhibiting his newly-acquired abilities as a draughtsman and for disposing figures in ingeniously conceived attitudes. In all cases the object was to fill the space as far as possible, a characteristic of all the best Greek art. By degrees more attention was paid to the designs on the exterior, and the single figures were replaced by groups, but regular compositions in the form of friezes telling some story were not introduced until quite the end of this period. Epictetus was throughout his career a thoroughly “archaic” artist, but a considerable advance was made by Cachrylion, who stands on the verge of the succeeding stage.
|Fig. 28.—Cup by Euphronius.|
The strong period centres round the name of Euphronius, the author of a really great artistic movement. His capacity for inventing new subjects or new poses—or otherwise overcoming technical and artistic difficulties—marks a great advance on all previous achievements, and he seems to represent the stage of development traditionally associated with the painter Cimon of Cleonae, the inventor of foreshortening and other novelties. Thus figures were no longer represented exclusively in profile, as in the black-figured vases which had made no advance beyond the conventions of Egyptian art. Ten vases signed by him are in existence (though it is not certain that all were actually painted by him), most of them having mythological subjects (fig. 28).
Of his contemporaries, Duris, Hieron and Brygus take foremost rank, all three being, like Euphronius, essentially cup-painters, though they use other forms at times. For decorative effect and beauty of composition their vases have never been surpassed. As an example we may quote a kotyle or beaker in the British Museum signed by Hieron, with a group of Eleusinian deities. The larger vases of this period are more rarely signed, but many of them rival the cups in execution, though the subjects are characterized by greater simplicity and largeness of style.
In the fine style (460–440 B.C.) breadth of effect and dignity are aimed at, and although cup-painting had passed its zenith, and signed specimens become rarer, yet, considering the red-figured vases as a whole, this period exhibits the perfection of technique and drawing. In many of the larger vases the scenes are of a pictorial character, landscape being introduced, with figures ranged at different levels, and herein we may see a reflection of the style of the painter Polygnotus. One of the finest cups in this style is in the Berlin Museum, it is signed by the artists Erginus and Aristophanes, and the subject is the battle of the gods and giants. To the end of the period belongs a beautiful hydria in the British Museum by the painter Meidias with subjects from Greek legend in two friezes (fig. 29). Generally speaking, there is a reaction in favour of mythological subjects.
|Fig. 29.—Hydria by Meidias in the style of Polygnotus.|
In the late fine style, which begins about 440 B.C., the pictorial effect is preserved, but with perfected skill in drawing the compositions deteriorate greatly in merit, and become at once over-refined and careless. The figures are crowded together without meaning or interest. The fashion also arose of enhancing the designs by means of accessory colours—almost unknown in the previous stages—such as white laid on in masses, blue and green, and even with gilding. Athletic and mythological subjects yield place to scenes from the life of women and children or meaningless groups of figures (fig. 30).
A good example of this style is an amphora from Rhodes with the subject of Peleus wooing Thetis, in which polychrome colouring and gilding are introduced. There are also many imposing and elaborate specimens found (and perhaps made) in the colonies of the Crimea and the Cyrenaica; in particular one signed by Xenophantus with the Persian king hunting, and another representing the contest of Athena and Poseidon for the soil of Attica, both from the Crimea.
Contemporary with the red-figure method is one in which the figures are painted on a white slip or engobe resembling pipe-clay, with which the whole surface was covered; the figures are drawn in outline in red or black, and partly filled in with washes of colour, chiefly red, purplish red, or brown, but sometimes also with blue or green. This style seems to have been popular about the middle of the 5th century B.C. and was employed for the funeral lekythoi which came into fashion at Athens about that time. These vases, which form a class by themselves, were made specially for funeral ceremonies and were painted with subjects relating to the tomb, such as the laying-out of the corpse on the bier, the ferrying of the dead over the Styx by Charon, or (most frequently) mourners bringing offerings to the tomb (fig. 31). They continued to be made well on into the 4th century, but the later examples are very degenerate and careless.
Of other forms, especially the kylix and the pyxis (toilet-box), some exceedingly beautiful specimens have come down to us, which show a delicacy of drawing and firmness of touch never surpassed, although the lines were probably only drawn with a brush. The technique of these vases may reflect the methods of the painter Polygnotus and his contemporaries, who used a limited number of colours on a white ground. Among them no finer specimen exists than the cup in the British Museum with Aphrodite riding on a goose; the design is entirely in brown outlines, and the drawing, if slightly archaic, full of grace and refinement.
|Fig. 31.—Funeral lekythos showing vases placed inside tomb.|
In the subjects on red-figured vases we do not find the same variety of choice as on the black-figured, but on the other hand there is infinitely greater freedom of treatment. The stereotyped form of composition is almost entirely discarded, and each painter forms his own conception of his subject. The class of slim amphorae, known as “Nolan” from the place where they were mostly found, are distinguished by having the design limited to one or at most two figures on each side, often on a large scale; these vases are also famous for the marvellous brilliance of their shining black (fig. 32).
Towards the middle of the 5th century the patriotism of the Athenian artist finds expression in the growing importance which he attaches to local legends, especially those of Theseus, the typical Attic hero. He seems to have been regarded as the typical Athenian athlete or ephebus, and his contests as analogous to episodes of the gymnasium. Hence the grouping on some vases of scenes from his labours are like so many groups of athletes (fig. 33), and hence, too, a general tendency of the red-figured vases, especially the cups, to become a sort of glorification of the Attic ephebus, the representations of whom in all sorts of occupations are out of all proportion to other subjects.
We find evidence of this, too, in another form. Many vases, especially the cups of the “severe” and “strong” periods, bear names of persons inscribed on the designs with the word καλός, “fair” or “noble,” attached; sometimes merely, “the boy is fair.” The exact meaning of this practice has been much discussed, but evidence seems to show that the persons celebrated must have been quite young at the time, and were probably youths famous for their beauty or athletic prowess. Some of the names are those of historical characters, such as Hipparchus, Miltiades or Alcibiades, and, though they cannot always be identified with these celebrated personages, enough evidence has been obtained to be of great value for the chronology of the vases, Further, the practice of the vase-painter of adopting his own particular favourite name or set of names has enabled us to increase our knowledge of the characteristics of individual artists by identifying unsigned vases with the work of particular schools.
|Fig. 32.—“Nolan” amphora by Euxitheus (c. 450 B.C.), figure of Briseis; the other side has Achilles.|
IV. Vases of the Decadence.—For all practical purposes the red-figure style at Athens came to an end with the fall of the city in 404 B.C. Painted vases did not then altogether cease to be made, as the Panathenaic prize vases and the funeral lekythoi testify, but at the same time a rapid decadence set in. The whole tendency of the 4th century B.C. in Greece was one of decentralization, and the art of vase-painting was no exception, for we find that there must have been a general migration of craftsmen from Athens, not only to the Crimea and to North Africa, but also to southern Italy, which now becomes the chief centre of vase production. Here there were many rich and flourishing Greek colonies or Grecianized towns, such as Tarentum, Paestum and Capua, ready to welcome the new art as an addition to their many luxuries. In the character of the vases of this period we see their tendencies reflected, especially in their splendid or showy aspect; the only aim being size and gaudy colouring.
The general method of painting remains that of the Athenian red-figure vases, but with entire loss of simplicity or refinement, either in the ornamentation, the choice of colours, or the drawing of the figures. Large masses of white are invariably employed, especially for the flesh of women or of Eros, the universally present god of Love, and for architectural details. Yellow is introduced for details of hair or features, and in attempts at shading, nor is a dull iron-purple uncommon. The reverses of the vases, when they have subjects, are devoid of all accessory colouring, and the figures are drawn with the greatest carelessness, as if not intended to be seen. There is throughout a lavish use of ornamental patterns such as palmettes, wreaths of leaves, or ornaments strewn over the field (a reversion to an old practice).
The drawing, having now become entirely free, errs in the opposite extreme; the forms are soft and the male figures often effeminate. The fanciful and richly-embroidered draperies of the figures and the frequent architectural settings seem to indicate that theatrical representations exercised much influence on the vase-painters. The great painters of the 4th century may also have contributed their share of inspiration, but rather perhaps in the subjects chosen than in regard to style; though the effect of many scenes on the larger vases is decidedly pictorial, they are chiefly remarkable for their emotional and dramatic themes.
The influence of the stage is twofold, for tragedy as well as comedy plays its part. Many subjects are taken directly, others indirectly, from the plays of Euripides, such as the Medea, Hecuba (Plate II. fig. 60), or Hercules Furens, and the arrangement of the scenes is essentially theatrical. The influence of comedy is seen in subjects derived from the phlyakes, a kind of farce or burlesque popular in southern Italy, and here again the setting is adapted from the stage, some vases having parodies of myths, others comic scenes of daily life.
Many vases of this period, especially those of large size, were expressly designed for funeral purposes. Some of these bear representations of the underworld, with groups of figures undergoing punishment. On others shrines or tombs are depicted—sometimes containing effigies of the deceased, at which the relatives make offerings—as on the Athenian lekythoi. But by far the greater portion of the subjects are taken from daily life, many of these being of a purely fanciful and meaningless character like the designs on Sèvres or Meissen china; the commonest type is that of a young man and a woman exchanging presents, the presence of Eros implying that they are scenes of courtship.
The vases of this period are usually grouped in three or four different types, corresponding to the ancient districts of Lucania, Campania and Apulia, each with its special features of technique, drawing and subjects. In Lucanian vases the drawing is bold and restrained, more akin to that of the Attic vases; in Campania a fondness for polychromy is combined with careless execution. In Apulia a tendency to magnificence exemplified in the great funeral and theatrical vases is followed by a period of decadence characterized by small vases of fantastic form with purely decorative subjects. Besides these we have the school of Paestum, represented by two artists who have left their names on their vases, Assteas and Python. A well-known example of the work of the former is a krater in Madrid with Heracles destroying his children, a theatrical and quasi-grotesque composition, and there is a fine example of Python’s work in a krater in the British Museum, with Alkmena, the mother of Heracles, placed on the funeral pyre by her husband Amphitryon, and rain-nymphs quenching the flames (Plate I. fig. 55).
|Fig. 33.—Cup with exploits of Theseus.|
About the end of the 3rd century B.C. the manufacture of painted vases would seem to have been rapidly dying out in Italy, as had long been the case elsewhere, and their place is taken by unpainted vases modelled in the form of animals and human figures, or ornamented with stamped and moulded reliefs. These in their turn gave way to the Arretine and so-called “Samian” red wares of the Roman period. In all these wares we see a tendency to the imitation of metal vases, which, with the growth of luxury in the Hellenistic age, had entirely replaced painted pottery both for use and ornament; the pottery of the period is reduced to a subordinate and utilitarian position, merely supplying the demands of those in the humbler spheres of life.
Collections.—The majority of the painted vases now in existence are to be found in the various public museums and collections of Europe, of which the largest and most important are the British Museum, the Louvre and the Berlin Museum. Next to these come the collections at Athens, Naples, Munich, Vienna, Rome and St Petersburg; isolated specimens of importance are to be found in other museums, as at Florence, Madrid or the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris. Most of the great private collections of the two preceding centuries have now been dispersed. In recent years the Boston Museum has raised America to a level with Europe in this respect; and the Metropolitan Museum at New York contains a vast collection of Cypriote pottery.
Literature.—Important original articles are to be found in various archaeological journals such as American Journal of Archaeology (1885, &c); Annual of the British School at Athens (1894, &c.); Athenische Mitteilungen (1876, &c.); Bulletin de correspondance hellénique (1877, &c.); Comptes rendus de la commission impériale archéologique (St Petersburg, 1859–1888); Gazette archéologique (Paris, 1875–1889); Jahrbuch des kaiserlichen deutschen archäologischen Instituts, Berlin (1886, &c.); Journal of Hellenic Studies (1880, &c.); Monumenti antichi (Milan, 1890, &c.); Monuments grecs (Paris, 1872–1898); Monuments Piot (Paris, 1894, &c.); Revue archéologique (Paris, 1844, &c.). The older works have been recently superseded by important publications embodying the latest views such as Hartwig, Die griechischen Meisterschalen des strengen rotfigurigen Stils (1893); Louvre, Catalogue des vases antiques de terre cuite, by E. Pottier (1896, &c.); S. Reinach, Répertoire des vases peints (Paris, 1899–1900); H. B. Walters, History of Ancient Pottery (Greek, Etruscan and Roman), 1905, with an excellent bibliographical list; also art. “Hischylos” in J.H.S. xxix. (1909) p. 103.
Etruscan Pottery.—Parallel with the development of the art of pottery in Greece runs the course of the art in Etruria, though with far inferior results; in its later stages it is actually no more than a feeble imitation of the Greek. The period of time which we must consider extends from the Bronze age (1000 B.C. or earlier) down to the 3rd century B.C., when Etruscan civilization was merged into Roman.
The earliest civilization traced in Italy is not, strictly speaking, Etruscan, but may perhaps be more accurately styled “Umbrian.” It is usually referred to as the “Terramare” period from the remains discovered in that district in the basin of the Po. These people were lake-dwellers, barely removed from the Neolithic stage of culture, and their pottery was of the rudest kind, hand-made and roughly baked. Cups and pots have been found sometimes with simple decoration in the form of knobs or bosses, and many have a crescent-shaped handle serving as a support for the thumb.
The next period, the earliest which can be spoken of as “Etruscan,” is known as the “Villanova” period, from a site of that name near Bologna, or as the period of pit-tombs (a pozzo), from the form of the graves in which the pottery has been found (see Villanova). It begins with the 9th century B.C. and lasts for about two hundred years. The pit-tombs usually contain large cinerary urns or ossuaria (containing the ashes of the dead), fashioned by hand from a badly-levigated volcanic clay known as impasto Italico. These vessels were irregularly baked in an open fire, and the colour of the surface varies from red-brown to greyish black. They appear to have been covered with a polished slip, intended to give the vases a metallic appearance. The shape of the urns is peculiar, but uniform; they have a small handle at the widest part and a cover in the form of an inverted bowl with handle (Plate III. fig. 63). Their ornamentation consists of incised or stamped geometrical ornaments formed in the moist clay in bands round the neck and body; more rarely patterns painted in white are found. Common pottery is also found showing little advance on that of the Terramare period except in variety of decoration. The technique and ornament are the same as in the case of the urns. They correspond in development, though not in date, to the early pottery of Troy and Cyprus, as well as to the primitive pottery of other races, but one marked difference is the general fondness of the Italian potter for vases with handles.
Sometimes the cinerary urns take the form of huts (tuguria), though these are more often found in the neighbourhood of Rome. One of the best examples is in the British Museum; it still contains ashes which were inserted through a little door secured by a cord passing through rings. The ornamentation suggests the rude carpentry of a primitive hut, the cover or roof being vaulted with raised ridges to represent the beams. The surface is polished, and other specimens are occasionally painted with patterns in white.
In the next stage a change is seen in the form of the tombs, the pit being replaced by a trench; this is accordingly known as the “trench-tomb” or a fossa period, and extends from the 8th century B.C. to the beginning of the 6th. Importations of Greek pottery now first make their appearance. The character of the local pottery actually remains for some time the same as that of the preceding period, but it improves in technique. By degrees an improvement in the forms is also noted, and new varieties of ornamentation are introduced; there is, however, no evidence that the wheel was used.
Two entirely new classes of pottery are found at Cervetri (Caere) belonging to the 7th century. One consists of large jars (πίθοι) of red ware, the lower part being moulded in ribs, while the upper has bands of design stamped round it in groups or friezes. These designs were either produced from single stamps or rolled out from cylinders like those used in Babylonia. The subjects are usually quasi-oriental in character, and it is not certain that this ware was made in Etruria, especially as similar vases have been found in Rhodes and Sicily; either it was imported, or it was a local imitation of Greek models.
The other class is similar as regards the shapes and the nature of the clay, but is distinguished by having painted subjects in white outlines on a red glossy ground. The clay, a kind of impasto Italico, was first hardened by baking, and then a mixture of wax, resin and iron oxide was applied and polished; on this the pigments, a mixture of chalk and earth, were laid. The subjects are from Greek mythology or are at least Greek in character, but the technique is purely Etruscan, and the drawing is crude and un-Greek in the extreme.
The fourth period shows a close continuity with the third; but the difference is defined firstly by the appearance of a new type of tomb in the form of a chamber (a camera), secondly, by the all-pervading influence of oriental art, and to a less extent of that of the Greeks. The period extends from about 650 to 550 B.C., and is further marked by the general introduction of the wheel into Etruria and by the appearance of inscriptions in an alphabet derived from western Greece. In the earlier tombs the typical local pottery is of hand-made impasto Italico resembling that of the previous periods; in the later we find what is known as bucchero ware—the national pottery of Etruria—which is made on the wheel and baked in a furnace, and shows a marked tendency to imitate metal.
To this period also belongs the famous Polledrara tomb or Grotto d’lside at Vulci, the contents of which are now in the British Museum and include some remarkable specimens of pottery. It dates from about 620–610 B.C. The most remarkable of the vases is a hydria, of reddish-brown clay covered with a lustrous black slip on which have been painted designs in red, blue and a yellowish white. The colours have unfortunately now almost disappeared, and it is doubtful if they had been fired. The principal subject is from the story of Theseus and Ariadne. This tomb also contained a large wheel-made pithos of red impasto ware with designs painted in polychrome. In the Regulini-Galassi tomb at Cervetri (about 650 B.C.) large cauldrons of red glossy ware were found, with gryphons’ heads projecting all round, to which chains were attached. A similar cauldron from Falerii on a high open-work stand is now in the British Museum.
|Fig. 34.—Etruscan oinochoe, of black bucchero ware, with figures in relief. (British Museum.)|
We now come to the bucchero ware, which is characteristic of the later portion of this period, though the earliest examples go back to the end of the 7th century. Its main feature is the black paste of which it is composed, covered with a more or less shining black slip. Modern experiments seem to indicate that the clay was smoked or fumigated in a closed chamber after baking, becoming thereby blackened throughout, and the surface was then polished with wax and resin. Analyses of the ware have proved that it contains carbon and that it had been lightly fired. The oldest bucchero vases are small and hand-made, sometimes with incised geometrical patterns engraved with a sharp tool like metal-work. Oriental influence then appears in a series of chalice-shaped cups found at Cervetri with friezes of animals. From about 560 B.C. onwards the vases are all wheel-made, with ornaments in relief either stamped from a cylinder or composed of separate medallions attached to the vase. The subjects range from animals or monsters to winged deities or suppliants making offerings (fig. 34); in other cases we find meaningless groups of figures or plant forms. These types are found chiefly in southern Etruria, but at Chiusi (Clusium) a more elaborate variety found favour from about 500 to 300 B.C. The shapes are very varied and the ornament covers the vase from top to bottom, the covers of the vases being also frequently modelled in various forms. The figures are stamped from moulds, incised designs being added to fill up the spaces. The range of subjects is much widened, including scenes from Greek mythology and oriental types combining Egyptian and Assyrian motives, which must have been introduced by the Phoenicians.
Thus the technique of the bucchero wares is purely native, but the decoration is entirely dependent on foreign types whether Greek or oriental, and throughout the whole series the tendency to imitate metal-work is to be observed in every detail, both in the forms and in the methods of decoration. Some are mere counterparts of existing work in bronze.
The last variety of peculiarly Etruscan pottery which calls for notice is the Canopic jar, so called from its resemblance to the κάνωποι in which the Egyptians placed the bowels of their mummies. They are rude representations of the human figure, the head forming the cover, and in the tombs were placed on round chairs of wood, bronze or terra-cotta. An example of such a jar on a bronze-plated chair may be seen in the Etruscan Room of the British Museum (Plate III. fig. 65). Their origin has been traced to the funeral masks found in the earliest Etruscan tombs. From these a gradual transition may be observed from the mask (1) placed on the corpse, (2) on the cinerary urn, (3) the head modelled in the round and combined with the vase, and (4) at last the complete human figure. The earliest of these jars are found in the “pit-tombs” of the 8th century B.C., and the latest and most developed types belong to the 5th century B.C.
The skill shown by the Etruscans in metal-work and gem-engraving never extended to their pottery, which is always purely imitative, especially when they attempted painted vases after the Greek fashion. The kinds already described are all more or less plastic in character and imitative of metal, except in the case of the Cervetri and Polledrara finds, which have little in common with anything Greek, and exhibit a quite undeveloped art. But towards the end of the 6th century B.C., when Greek vases were coming into the country in large numbers, attempts were made to imitate the black-figure style, especially of a particular class of Ionian vases. Imitations of these are to be found in most museums and may be readily recognized as Etruscan from peculiarities of style, drawing and subject, as well as their inferior technique (fig. 35).
|Fig. 35.—Etruscan Amphora imitating Greek style; parting scene|
of Alcestis and Admetus, with Etruscan inscriptions.
At a later date (4th-3rd century B.C.) they began to copy red-figured vases with similarly unsuccessful results. With the exception of a small class of a somewhat ambitious character made at Falerii (Civita Castellana), of which there is a good example in the British Museum with the subject of the infant Heracles strangling the serpents, they are all marked by their inferior material and finish and their bizarre decoration. The style is often repulsive and disagreeable, as well as ineffective, and the grim Etruscan deities, such as Charun, are generally introduced. Some of these vases have painted inscriptions in the Etruscan alphabet. The latest specimens positively degenerate into barbarism.
Painted vases of native manufacture are also found in the extreme south of Italy and have been attributed to the indigenous races of the Peucetians and Messapians; their decoration is partly geometrical, partly in conventional plant forms, and is the result of natural development rather than of imitation of Greek types. Some of the shapes are characteristic, especially a large four-handled krater. They cover the period 600–450 B.C., after which they were ousted by the Graeco-Italian productions we have already described.
Roman Pottery.—Roman vases are far inferior to Greek; the shapes are less artistic, and the decoration, though sometimes not without merits of its own, owes most of its success to the imitation or adaptation of motives learnt from earlier Grecian, Egyptian or Syrian potters. They required only the skill of the potter for their completion, and, being made by processes largely mechanical, they are altogether on a lower scale of artistic production.
It has been noted that during a certain period—namely, the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C.—ceramic art had reached the same stage of evolution all round the Mediterranean, painted pottery had been ousted by metal-work, and such vases as continued to be made were practically imitations of metal both in Greece and Italy. These latter we must regard as representing ordinary household pottery, or as supplying to those who could not afford to adorn their houses and temples with costly works in metal, a humble but fairly efficient substitute. There is a terra-cotta bowl of the 2nd century B.C. in the British Museum which is an exact replica of a chased silver bowl with reliefs in the same collection, and may serve as an illustration of this condition of things (Plate II. fig. 56).
These imitations of metal were largely made in southern Italy, a district which enjoyed close artistic relations with Etruria, and we have already seen that the same principle had long been in vogue among the Etruscans. Hence it is not surprising that an important centre of pottery manufacture should have sprung up in Etruria, in the and century B.C., which for many years set the fashion to the whole Roman world. But before discussing such products it may be as well to say something on the technical character, shapes and uses of Roman pottery in general.
Technical Processes.—Roman pottery regarded in its purely technical aspect is in some ways better known to us than the Greek, chiefly owing to extensive discoveries of kilns and potters’ apparatus in western Europe. It may be classified under two heads, of which only the second will concern us for the most part as yielding by far the greater amount of material and interest: (1) the plain, dull earthenware used for domestic purposes, and (2) the fine, red shining wares, usually known to archaeologists as terra sigillata, clay suited to receive stamps (sigilla) or impressions.
For both classes all kinds of clay were used, varying somewhat in different regions, and ranging in colour when fired from black to grey, drab, yellow, brown and red. The clays varied greatly in quality; most of the pottery made in southern Gaul was fashioned from the ferruginous red clay of the Allier district, but at St-Remy-en-Rollat and in that neighbourhood a white clay was used. In Italy we find a carefully levigated red clay in use, great care being devoted to its preparation and admixture. But apart from decoration and style there is a great similarity in the general appearance of the Italian and provincial pottery made under Roman influence, and it is often very difficult to decide whether the vases were manufactured where they had been found or were imported from some famous centre of manufacture. The secret of the glossy red surface seems to have been common property and found its way from Italy to Gaul, Spain and Germany, and perhaps even to Britain.
The manner in which this glossy red surface was produced has been a much-disputed question, some, as for instance Artis, the excavator of the Castor potteries in Northamptonshire, claiming that it was a natural result obtained in the baking, after polishing of the surface, by means of specially contrived kilns. But it is now generally agreed that it was artificial. It is true that the Roman lamps and many of the commoner wares have a gloss produced by polishing only, varying in colour and brightness with the proportion of iron oxide in the clay and the degree of heat at which the pieces were fired. But the surface finish of the finer or terra sigillata wares is something quite distinct, and reaches a high and wonderfully uniform perfection.
It is possible that the technical secret of the potters of the Roman world was only a development from the practice of the Greeks, but it does seem as if the finer Roman wares were coated with a brilliant glossy coating so thin as to defy analysis, yet so persistent as to leave no doubt of its existence as a definite glossy coat. Repeated attempts have been made to determine its nature by analysis, but chemists ought to have known better, for the coating is so thin that it is impossible to remove it without detaching much more body than glaze. Examination shows it to be much more than a surface polish or than the gloss of the finest Greek vases, and we shall have to wait for a final determination of its nature until some one who is at once a chemist and a potter can reconstruct it synthetically. Whatever its nature and method of production, it is certain that the glaze itself was a transparent film which heightened the natural red colour of the clay, until in the finest specimens it has something of the quality of red coral.
In the manufacture of vases the Romans used the same processes as the Greeks. They were all made on the wheel, except those of abnormal size, such as the large casks (dolia), which were built up on a frame. Specimens of potters’ wheels have been found at Arezzo and Nancy, made of terra-cotta, with a pierced centre for the pivot, and bearing small cylinders of lead round the circumference to give a purchase for the hand and to aid the momentum of the wheel. For the ornamental vases with reliefs an additional process was necessary, and the decoration was in nearly all cases produced from moulds. The process in this case was a threefold one: first the stamps had to be made bearing the designs; these were then pressed upon the inside of a clay mould which had been previously made on the wheel to the size and shape required; finally, the clay was impressed in the mould and the vase was thus produced, decoration and all. Handles being of rare occurrence in Roman pottery, the vases were thus practically complete, requiring only the addition of rim and foot. The stamps were made in various materials, and had a handle at the back (Plate III. fig. 64). The moulds were of lighter clay than the vases, and were lightly fired when completed, so as to absorb the moisture from the pressed-in clay. Large numbers of these moulds are in existence (Plate III. fig. 61), and the British Museum possesses a fine series from Arezzo. Those discovered in various parts of Gaul have afforded valuable evidence as to the sites of the various pottery centres, as their presence obviously denoted a place of manufacture, and the value of this evidence is increased when they bear potters’ names.
Remains of kilns for baking Roman pottery are very numerous in western Europe, especially in Gaul, where the best examples are at Lezoux near Clermont, at Châtelet in Haute-Marne, and near Agen in Lot-el-Garonne. In Germany good remains have come to light at Heiligenberg in Baden, al Heddernheim near Frankfort, Rheinzabern near Carlsruhe, and Westerndorf in Bavaria. In England the best kilns are those discovered by Artis in 1821–1827 at Castor in Northamptonshire (see fig. 4).
Shapes.—As is the case with Greek vases, a long list of names of shapes may be collected from Latin literature, and the same difficulties as to identification arise in the majority of cases. They may, however, be classified in the same manner; as vases for storing liquids, for mixing or pouring wine, for use at the table, and so on. In addition Varro and other writers have preserved a number of archaic and obscure names chiefly applied to the vases used in sacrifices.
The principal vases for storing liquid or solid food were:—The dolium, a large cask or barrel of earthenware; the amphora, a jar holding about six gallons; and the cadus, a jar about half as large as the amphora. The dolium had no foot, and was usually buried in the earth; it was also used for purposes of burial. The amphora corresponds to the Greek wine-jar of that name, and had, like its prototype, a pointed base. Many examples were found at Pompeii stamped with the names of consuls (cf. Hor. Od. in. 21. 1), or with painted inscriptions relating to their contents. The cadus is mentioned by Horace and Martial.
Of smaller vases for holding liquids, such as jugs, bottles and flasks, the principal were the urceus, answering to the Greek οἰνοχόη, the ampulla, a kind of flask with globular body, and the lagena, a narrow-necked flask or bottle. Of drinking-cups the Romans had almost as large a variety as the Greeks, and the great majority of the ornamented vases preserved to the present day were devoted to this purpose. The generic name for a cup was poculum, but the Romans borrowed many of the Greek names, such as cantharus and scyphus. The calix appears to have answered in popularity, though not in form, to the Greek kylix, and is probably the name by which the ornamented bowls were usually known. The names for a dish are lanx, patina and catinum. Another common form is the olla (Greek χύτρα), which served many purposes, being used for a cooking-pot, for a jar in which money was kept, or for a cinerary urn. The form of vase identified with this name has a spherical or elliptical body with short neck and wide mouth. Of sacrificial vases the principal was the patera or libation-bowl, corresponding to the Greek φιάλη.
Arretine Ware.—The Latin writers, and in particular Pliny, mention numerous places in Italy, Asia Minor and elsewhere, which were famous for the production of pottery in Roman times. Pliny mentions with special commendation the “Samian Ware,” the reputation of which, he says, was maintained by Arretium (Arezzo). Samian pottery is also alluded to by other writers, and hence the term was adopted in modern times as descriptive of the typical Roman red wares with reliefs, whether found in Italy, Germany, Gaul or Britain. But it was only accepted with diffidence as a convenient name, and as early as 1840 discoveries at Arezzo made it possible to distinguish the vases found there as a local product, now known as “Arretine” ware. The name “Samian” has, however, adhered to the provincial wares and at the present day is often used even by archaeologists. But recent researches have shown that nearly all the provincial wares can be traced to Gaulish or German potteries, and, since it is implied by Pliny that “Samian” pottery is older than “Arretine,” the name may now be fairly rejected altogether, as we have rejected the name “Etruscan” for Greek pottery. The Romans probably used it as a generic term, just as we speak of “china,” and the real Samian ware is to be seen in the later Greek pottery, with reliefs, of the 3rd century B.C.
There were, as Pliny and other writers imply, many pottery centres in Italy, at Rhegium, Cumae, Mutina and elsewhere, as well as at Saguntum in Spain, but all were surpassed in excellence by Arretium. In more modern times its pottery came under notice even in the middle ages, and discoveries were made in the time of Leo X (about 1500) and again in the 18th century. The Arretine ware may be regarded as the Roman pottery par excellence, and its popularity extended from about 150 B.C. down to the end of the 1st century of the Empire, reaching its height in the 1st century B.C., after which it rapidly degenerated, and its place was taken by the wares of the provinces. Its general characteristics may be summed up as follows:—(1) The fine local red clay, carefully levigated and baked very hard to a rich coral red or a colour like sealing-wax; (2) the fine red glaze, which has already been discussed; (3) the great variety of forms employed, showing the marked influence of metal-work; (4) the almost invariable presence of stamps with potters’ names. The majority of the specimens have been found at Arezzo itself, but there was a branch of the industry at Puteoli, producing pottery almost equal in merit, and it was also exported to central and eastern Europe and Spain.
The earliest examples are of black glossy ware, but the red appears to have been introduced by 100 B.C., when the first potters’ stamps appear. These are usually quadrangular in form, though other shapes are found, and are impressed in the midst of the design on the ornamented vases, or on plain wares on the bottom of the interior. The number of potters’ names is very large, though some appear to have been more prolific than others, and to have employed a large number of slaves, whose names appear with their masters’ on the stamps. The best known is Marcus Perennius, whose wares take highest rank for their artistic merit, the designs being copied from good Greek models. He employed seventeen slaves, of whom the best known is Tigranes, the stamps usually appearing as M·PEREN and TIGRAN. The slave-name of Bargates is found on one of his finest vases, in the Boston Museum, the subject being the fall of Phaethon. We may suppose that the stamps for the figures were designed by the masters, but that the vases were actually moulded by the slaves. Other important artists are Calidius Strigo, who had twenty slaves; P. Cornelius, who had no less than forty; Aulus Titius, who signs himself A·TITI·FIGVL·ARRET; the Annii and the Tetii; and L. Rasinius Pisanus, a degenerate potter of the Flavian period, who imitated Gaulish wares.
The forms of the vases are all, without exception, borrowed from metal shapes and are of marked simplicity (see fig. 37, Nos. 1, 8, 9, 11). They are mostly of small size and devoid of handles, but a notable exception is a bell-shaped krater or mixing-bowl, of which there is a very fine example in the British Museum, found at Capua and decorated with the four seasons (Plate III. fig. 62). For the decoration and subjects the potters undoubtedly drew their inspiration from the “new-Attic” reliefs of the Hellenistic period, of which the krater just cited is an example. So, too, are such subjects as the dancing maenads or priestesses with wicker head-dresses, or the Dionysiac scenes which are found, for instance, on the vases of Perennius. Others again are distinguished by a free use of conventional ornament, figures when they occur being merely decorative. There is throughout a remarkable variety both in the ornamentation and in the methods of composition.
Provincial Wares.—The Arretine ware, as has been noted, steadily degenerated during the 1st century of the Empire, and the manufacture of ornamental pottery appears to have entirely died out in Italy by the time of Trajan. Its place was taken by the pottery of the provinces, especially by that of Gaul, where the transference of artistic traditions led to the rise of new industrial centres in the country bordering on the Rhone and the Rhine.
As to the general characteristics of the provincial wares, that is, of the ornamented wares or terra sigillata, the clay is fine and close-grained, harder than the Arretine, and when broken shows a light red fracture; the surface is smooth and lustrous, of a brighter yet darker red colour (i.e. less like coral) than that of Arretine ware, but the tone varies with the degree of heat used. The most important feature is the fine glaze with which it is coated, similar in composition to that of the Arretine; it is exceedingly thin and transparent, and laid equally over the whole surface, only slightly brightening the color of the clay. The ornament is invariably coarser than that of Arretine ware, by which, however, it is indirectly inspired.
The vases are usually of small dimensions, consisting of various types of bowls, cups and dishes, of which two or three forms are preferred almost to the exclusion of the rest, and they frequently bear the stamp of the potter impressed on the inside or outside. Although this ware is found all over the Roman world, by far the greater portion comes from Gaul, Germany or Britain, and evidence points to two—and only two—districts as the principal centres of manufacture: the valleys of the Loire and the Rhine and their immediate neighbourhood. In the 1st century A.D. Gaulish pottery was largely exported into Italy, and isolated finds of it occur in Spain and other parts.
The recent researches of Dr Dragendorff and M. Déchelette have shown that a chronological sequence of the pottery may be clearly traced, both in the shapes employed and in the method of decoration; and, further, that it is possible—at least as regards Gaul—to associate certain potters’ names and certain types of figures, though found in many places, with two centres in particular, Graufesenque near Rodez (department of Aveyron) in the district occupied by the Ruteni, and Lezoux near Clermont (department of Puy-de-Dôme) in the country of the Arverni. The periods during which these potteries flourished are consecutive, or rather overlapping, but not contemporaneous, the former being practically coincident with the 1st century A.D., the latter with the 2nd and 3rd down to about A.D. 260, when the manufacture of terra sigillata practically came to an end in Gaul.
|Fig. 36.—Bowl of Gaulish ware, with|
moulded patterns in slight relief.
There were also certain smaller potteries, some of which mark a transition between the Italian and provincial wares, in the north of Italy and on the Rhine and upper Loire, e.g. St Remy-en-Rollat, and others of later date, as at Banassac and Montans in the latter district, but none of these produced pottery of special merit or importance. The early Rhenish wares are, strictly speaking, of a semi-Celtic or Teutonic character, while the later German terra sigillata, for which the principal centres were Rheinzabern near Carlsruhe and Westerndorf in Bavaria, are of similar character but inferior to the 2nd-century pottery of Lezoux. A mould from Rheinzabern is illustrated, Plate IV. fig. 66.
The ornamented vases produced in these potteries are, as we have said, almost confined to two or three varieties, which follow one another chronologically. A shape favoured at first is the krater, which has been mentioned as one of the characteristic Arretine forms; but this enjoyed but a short term of popularity. Early in the 1st century we find a typical form of bowl in use, which, following the numeration of Dr Dragendorff’s treatise, is usually spoken of as No. 29. This is characterized by its moulded rim engraved with finely incised hatchings, and by the division of the body by a moulding into two separate friezes for the designs (fig. 36). Its ornament is at first purely decorative, consisting of scrolls and wreaths, then small animals and birds are introduced, and finally figure subjects arranged in rectangular panels or circular medallions. About the middle of the century a second variety of bowl (known as No. 30; see fig. 37) was introduced; this is cylindrical in form, and, being found both at Graufesenque and Lezoux, may be regarded as transitional in character. In the latter half of this century a new form arises (No. 37; fig. 37), a more or less hemispherical bowl which holds the field exclusively on all sites down to the termination of the potteries. In this form and in No. 30 a new system of decoration is introduced, the upper edge being left quite plain. The panels and medallions at first prevail, but are then succeeded by arcading or inverted semicircles enclosing figures, and finally after the end of the 1st century (and on form 37 only) we find the whole surface covered with a single composition of figures unconfined by borders or frames of any kind, but in a continuous frieze; this is known as the “free” style (Plate IV. fig. 69).
|Fig. 37.—Shapes used in Roman Pottery. 1-11, Arretine; 18-65, Gaulish and German.|
As regards the figure subjects, it may be generally laid down that the conceptions are good, but the execution poor. Many are obvious imitations of well-known types or works of art, and the absence of Gaulish subjects is remarkable. They include representations of gods and heroes, warriors and gladiators, hunters and animals, the two latter classes being pre-eminently popular.
The potters’ names at Graufesenque are nearly all of a common Roman type, such as Bassus, Primus, Vitalis; those at Lezoux are Gaulish in form, such as Advocisus, Butrio, Illixo or Laxtrucisa. This seems to imply that Roman influence was still strong in the earlier centre which drew its inspiration more directly from Arretium. But even the purely Roman names are sometimes converted into Gaulish forms, as Masclus for Masculus, or Tornos for Turnus. The stamps are quadrangular in form, depressed in the surface of the vase with the letters in relief; on the plain wares they are usually in the centre of the interior, but on the ornamented vases are impressed on the exterior among the figures. The usual formula is OF (for officina) or M (for manu) with the name in the genitive, or F, FE or FEC for fecit with the nominative.
Besides the ordinary terra sigillata with figures produced in moulds we find other methods of decoration employed. In the south of France, about Arles and Orange, vases were made with medallions separately moulded and attached round the body; these have a great variety of subjects, both mythological and gladiatorial or theatrical, or even portraits of emperors. There is a remarkable specimen in the British Museum with a scene from the tragedy of the Cycnus, on which Heracles and Ares are represented, with seated deities in the background (Plate IV. fig. 67). The date of these reliefs is the 3rd century after Christ.
|Fig. 38.—Jar of Castor ware, with reliefs of a stag pursued by a hound, executed in semi-fluid slip. 6 in. high.|
Of the same date is a somewhat similar ware made at Lezoux. Here each figure is attached separately to the vase, and the background is filled in with foliage produced by the method known as en barbotine (slip-painting), of which we shall speak presently. The effect of these vases, which are mostly large jars or ollae (Plate IV. fig. 70), is often very decorative, and there is a fine specimen in the British Museum from Felixstowe, on which the modelling is really admirable. Other good examples have been found in various parts of Britain.
The “slip-decoration” process is practically unknown in Italy, but it is found early in the 1st century of our era in Germany, and appears to have originated in the Rhine district. It is not confined to the red ware, but in the early German examples is applied on a dull grey or black background. On the continent its use is almost limited to simple decorative patterns of scrolls or foliage, but in Britain it was largely adopted, as in the well-known Castor ware made on the site of that name (Durobrivae) in Northamptonshire. Many of the vases found or made here have gladiatorial combats, hunting-scenes, or chariots executed by this method (fig. 38). The decoration was applied in the form of a thick viscous slip, usually of the same colour as the clay, but reduced to this consistency with water, and was laid on by means of a narrow tube or run from the edge of a spatula. The Castor ware appears to date from the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D.
Painted wares are at all times rare, but were occasionally produced in Gaul, Germany and Britain. A notable class of such ware seems to have been produced in the Rhine district, represented by small jars covered with a glossy black coating, on which are painted in thick white slip inscriptions of a convivial character, such as BIBE, REPLE, DA VINUM, or VIVAS (Plate IV. fig. 68). A very effective ware, obviously imitating cut glass, by means of sharply incised patterns, was made at Lezoux in both the red and black varieties.
Literature.—Dragendorff in Bonner Jahrbücher, xcvi. 37 ff.; Déchelette, Vases céramiques de la Gaule romaine (1904); Walters, Ancient Pottery, ii. chaps, xxi.-xxiii.; British Museum Catalogue of Roman Pottery (1908). (H. B. Wa.)
Persian, Syrian, Egyptian and Turkish Pottery
Formerly, in all general accounts of the potter’s art, it was the custom to pass over the period between the fall of the Roman empire and the appearance of the beautiful Persian and Syrian pottery of the early middle ages, as if the intervening centuries had produced nothing worthy of note. Even yet the successive steps by which this beautiful art arose are largely matters of inference and deduction, but it must be borne in mind that while the Greeks and Romans made singularly little use of glaze and painted colour, the Egyptians and the inhabitants of Syria and Mesopotamia had long been noted for their skill in this direction. In discussing the pottery of these peoples we have already pointed out at what a very early period they had developed the production of rich and beautiful coloured glazes—the Egyptians as a jewel-like decoration of small pieces made in a very sandy paste, or actually carved from stone, and the Assyrians, on a bolder scale, in their glazed and coloured brickwork. Though the Egyptian and Syrian empires were overthrown, the peoples of these countries remained; and, as we are now aware, carried on their traditional craft, though in a less splendid way. There is abundant evidence that pottery was made in the Egypt of Roman times and later with rich turquoise blue and yellow glazes, though the potters had learned to produce this glaze on a material containing more clay and less sand than that used in earlier days. We know also that they had learned that the addition of lead oxide to a glaze enabled such glaze to be applied on vessels formed from clay which was sufficiently plastic to be shaped on the wheel. This knowledge was not confined to Egypt, but appears to have been spread over Syria and parts of Asia Minor; and throughout the Byzantine empire many forms of pottery were made which were clearly the starting-points of much of the fine pottery produced in Europe in later times. We find, for instance, side by side, a manufacture of bowls, dishes and vases of very simple shape, yet made of two distinct materials: (1) a whitish sandy body on which turquoise blue, green or even white glaze, consisting mainly of silicates of soda and lime, was used either without ornament or with simple painted patterns in black or cobalt blue under the glaze; (2) similar vessels made of a lightish red clay, also rather sandy and porous, coated with a white slip (pipeclay or impure kaolin) covered with a yellowish lead glaze. These vessels were decorated in a variety of ways: (1) Graffiati; patterns cut or scratched through the coating of white slip while it was still soft, down to the red ground, so that when the vessel was glazed it displayed a pattern in dark upon a light ground. (2) Yellow and red ochre and copper scales were rudely “dabbed” over the white slip surface, so that when the vessel was glazed it presented a marbled or mottled appearance with touches of red, yellow, brown or green, on a yellowish-white ground. (See the section on Egyptian pottery above.) (3) Oxides of copper or iron were added to the lead glaze, and the resulting green or yellow glazes were applied to plain vases or to vessels decorated with moulded reliefs. In all these methods we see the continuation of old tradition in simpler forms, but we shall also see that these, in their turn, became the starting-point of much of the medieval pottery of Europe, particularly of Italy and the other southern countries.
In the same way, a little farther east, the Persians of Sassanian times seem to have preserved some of the traditions of the potters of Assyria, just as they inherited their skill; and the Assyrian device of raising strong brown outlines round a design to control the flow of coloured glazes, which is exemplified in the Frieze of Archers in the Louvre, was carried on by them, for it appears unchanged in the tiles of the Mosque of Mahommed I. built at Brusa in the 15th century. The intercourse between the Persian and Byzantine empires at this time must have led to a general diffusion of technical knowledge among the pottery centres of the various countries round the eastern end of the Mediterranean, though our knowledge is too fragmentary to furnish sufficient data for any definite placing of the progress made. Our information is mainly derived from the examination of the rubbish mounds at Fostat, or Old Cairo, in Egypt, by Dr Fouquet, and by eager inquirers like Henry Wallis. Fostat was built in A.D. 640 by Amr and destroyed in the 12th century; partially rebuilt, it was given over to pillage in 1252 by a Mameluke sultan, and all that remains is the Old Cairo of to-day, the rest of the site being covered with accumulated rubbish heaps. In the same way Rhagae or Rai, one of the ancient capitals of Persia, the site of which lies a few miles east of Teheran, was destroyed about 1220 by Jenghiz Khan. Like Fostat it was partially rebuilt, but was destroyed again in the following century, so that its existence practically ceased in the 14th century. Rhagae was once an important centre of the ceramic industry, but this was transferred to the neighbouring town of Veramin, in the 13th century. Excavations have also been made on the site of Rakka, near Aleppo, in Syria, and from all these sources, and a few others of minor importance, much interesting light has been thrown on the development of the potter’s art in these countries during the period between the 4th and 12th centuries. Yet, until systematic excavations have been made in Persia, Anatolia, Syria and the Delta, on the same scale as those which have proved so valuable in Greece, Crete, Cyprus and the valley of the Nile, we cannot hope to possess sound chronological data of the developments of the arts in these countries. Meantime the exact share which should be allotted to each district for its discoveries will remain ground of contention for scholars of conflicting schools, though there can be little doubt that Egypt and the southern part of Syria played a more important part than has generally been supposed in the development of the potter’s art at this period.
Persian Pottery.—The most important pottery of the nearer East, whether considered on its own merits or from the influence it has exercised on the pottery of later times, is that so highly valued by collectors under the distinctive name of Persian; though much that passes under that name may not have been made in Persia. From the 10th to the 16th centuries the craftsmen of Persia were perfect masters of decorative design and colour; and, as potters, they possessed a sense of the forms proper to clay, such as none of the great races of antiquity ever exhibited. The shapes of Greek pottery speak more strongly of metal than of clay, but the best Persian work exhibits a feeling for the material that has rarely been equalled. The shapes are not only true clay-shapes but they are designed so as best to exhibit the qualities of the glaze and colour with which they were to be decorated. Certainly from the 12th to the 16th centuries the pottery of the Persians must rank among the greatest achievements of the potter’s art. The ware was shaped from various mixtures such as we have already spoken of—but whether its body was a mixture of white clay with a large proportion of sand, or some inferior clay that burnt to a yellowish or red tint, and was surfaced with a fine white coating of siliceous slip, or with a mixture of soda-glass, clay and oxide of tin, which made it whiter still—the one aim was to produce a white pottery. On this white ground—with a coarsish absorbent surface—beautiful patterns, in conventional floral or animal forms, were deftly painted in cobalt-blues, manganese-purples, copper-greens and turquoise, with mixtures for intermediate tints; while a strong brownish-black outline colour was compounded by mixing the oxides of iron and manganese, to be turned into a fine, still black by the addition of a trace of cobalt and later of oxide of chromium. Over this freely painted colour, often used in broad flat masses, a singularly limpid alkaline glaze, generally of considerable thickness, was fired until it just fused; and the resultant effect is of the most rich and brilliant colour relieved on a ground of slightly toned white. Judging from fragments which have been found at Rai, and which can scarcely therefore be later than the 13th century, we find the characteristic Persian style of ornament already developed; dumpy little figures kneeling, standing or riding on grass between cypress trees, or animals and birds similarly disposed, with conventional borders and bands of Cufic inscriptions. Another well-known type of pattern consists of highly conventionalized floral ornament which often runs to a beautiful tracery of “arabesque” lines. The drawing is generally finely outlined with brown or black (a survival of the ancient Assyrian practice), and in the earliest pieces the flat washes of colour are laid in only in cobalt-blue, turquoise or green from copper, and shades of purple and brown from manganese. From the 16th century onwards Chinese influence is strongly felt both in the designs and in the colour schemes, particularly in the wares painted with patterns in blue only (fig. 39), which sometimes carry the imitation of Chinese porcelain so far as to bear forged Chinese marks. Finally, Shah Abbas I. (1587–1629) is said to have brought a number of Chinese artificers, among them many potters, to Ispahan, and we find that Chinese porcelain was largely painted at King-tê-Chên, with blue decorations in the Persian taste, so that we cannot be surprised at the growth of a hybrid Perso-Chinese style of decoration. From this period, however, Persian pottery deteriorated both in its technical and artistic aspects. Crudely moulded figures in fairly high relief, coloured with an opaque yellow and green as well as with transparent blue and turquoise, began to make their appearance, especially on the famous Persian tiles; and in the 18th century the brown and black outlines of the drawing (a most valuable decorative resource) vanish, and we get brighter and more glittering, yet poorer colours, including a rose-red enamel fired over the glaze, evidently imitated from the Chinese famille-rose porcelains of the 18th century.
|Fig. 39.—Persian Plate painted in blues only. (Victoria and Albert Museum.)|
The finest work appears to have been produced from the 11th to the 14th centuries; yet so imperfect is our knowledge of what is truly Persian, Syrian or Egyptian, that we are forced to accept many conventional names that have perhaps little but custom to recommend them. There is, for instance, an important class of pottery known, until recently, only from a few remarkably handsome vases, and once called “Siculo-Arab” because these few examples had been mostly found in Sicily. This ware is characterized by its fine quality and its distinguished ornament—leaf-shaped panels with arabesques; interlacing patterns; striped and dotted bands; friezes of animals or birds amidst flowers and foliage, inscriptions, &c.; all strongly and firmly drawn in black or brown outlines and washed in with a very pure cobalt-blue or with turquoise. In spite of the resemblance of these pieces to the oldest Persian wares, we know that bowls, dishes, vases and spoilt pieces of the same kind have been dug up on the site of Rakka near Aleppo; similar ware has been found at Fostat, together with evidences of local manufacture, and occasional pieces have been brought from Persia; so that probably this distinguished ware was made at Rakka in Syria between the 9th and the 13th centuries, and was afterwards made by Syrian potters both in Persia and Egypt.
Other Persian Wares.—We have already spoken of the prevalent use of coloured glazes in all the countries of the nearer East—from Egypt to Persia—from remote times, either as the sole colour decoration or in conjunction with modelled or painted ornament. The fragments from Rai and Fostat include rich turquoise glazes (derived from the ancient Egyptian), deep and light-green glazes containing lead and copper, imitations of ancient Chinese céladon-green, a brownish-purple glaze, a coffee-brown glaze and a deep cobalt-blue glaze. All these may be found either on plain vases, or on vessels with modelled ornament; or covering delicate floral or arabesque patterns painted in white slip or incised in the paste. Sometimes, even at this early period, there are traces of applied gold-leaf attached, but not fired, to the glaze.
At a very early period, too, we find those beautiful bowls, dishes and vases decorated with geometrical or arabesque patterns in a singularly still underglaze black, and covered with the blue turquoise or green copper glazes. This characteristic and beautiful ware is common to Persia, Syria and Egypt in Saracen times, and it was soon prized in Europe, as is shown by the famous fragment found by the late Mr Drury Fortnum built into the outer walls of S. Cecilia in Pisa, where it was apparently placed in the 12th century.
At a later date a shining black glaze made its appearance, and in the 13th century pale and lapis-lazuli blues, while there is a comparatively modern sage-green glaze found only on pieces bearing patterns modelled in low relief.
Persian Porcelain.—This beautiful and somewhat mysterious ware—often called “Gombroon” ware—apparently made its appearance in the 13th century, though the bulk of the known examples are not earlier than the 17th or 18th century. The ware is quite translucent and is of soft and delicate texture. Unlike Chinese porcelain, it was made from a mixture of pipe-clay and glass, and was glazed with a soft lead glaze; so that a fragment of it would melt to an opaque glass in an ordinary porcelain oven. It is principally met with in the form of dishes, bowls (often mounted on feet) and saucers. The pieces are generally very thin and are either perfectly plain or bear flutings or simple wavy patterns incised in the paste. Most characteristic and beautiful is the decoration by means of delicate perforations either straight or lozenge-shaped. In the finest pieces the perforations are filled with glaze, and then they form a decoration analogous to the well-known “rice-grain” decoration of the Chinese. Occasional pieces are found decorated with colour, either a delicate green, producing an effect like pale bright céladon, or the well-known Persian blue ground; and this is sometimes decorated with lustre patterns. Nowhere can this rare and delicately beautiful ware be so well studied as in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Lustred Ware.—The decoration of pottery with iridescent metallic films is one of the most astonishing and beautiful inventions ever made by the potter. Hitherto we have seen only coloured clays, coloured glazes, or colours fired under the glaze, but we are now brought face to face with a colour effect produced by refiring the finished glazed pieces, at a lower temperature, with pigments painted upon the glaze (fig. 40; see also Plate V. 13th-century Persian lustre). How such a practice originated is probably an idle speculation, but it may have come through repeated attempts to decorate pottery with gold. If gold was painted under the glazes of these ancient vases, it would probably vanish and leave no trace; but gold, alloyed with much silver, applied over the finished glaze and refired, in the attempt to make it adhere, may have given the first films of iridescent colour. We know certainly that before the 13th century the elements of the process had been mastered, and that the potters of the nearer East had learnt that by mixing some compound of silver (doubtless the sulphide) with clay, and painting the mixture on the finished vase, which was refired in such a way that the pieces were only raised to a dull red heat and were then exposed to the vapours of the wood-fuel, glowing lustrous patterns were left on the ware that looked like metal—but metal shot over with all the hues of the rainbow, golden, rosy, purple and green. Numerous fragments of this lustred pottery had been disinterred from the site at Rhagae, and it was therefore assumed that the beautiful process was of Persian origin, particularly as most of the examples then known bore designs of distinctly Persian style. We are now inclined to think that the process really arose in Egypt or in Syria, and was carried eastward to Persia, just as it was afterwards carried westward to Spain. In support of this view there is the written record of the Persian traveller Nasiri Khosrau, who visited Old Cairo in the 11th century (1035–1042). He was apparently familiar with the pottery of his own country, and notes all the novel forms that he found in the bazaars of Old Cairo, which was both a great trading emporium for the traffic of East and West, and a pottery centre of note. He mentions, specially, certain translucent bowls of earthenware decorated with colours resembling a stuff called “bougalemoun,” “the tints changing according to the position which one gives to the vase.” Such a description could only apply to “lustred” pottery, and it would seem as if this process must have been known in Egypt or Syria before it was practised in Persia (see Plate V., 13th-century Syro-Persian). In any case the secret was soon carried to Persia, for we have ample evidence that it was practised at Rhagae in the next century.
|Fig. 40.—Persian Ewer, white ground, with pattern in brown copper lustre; the upper part has a blue ground. The mounting is gilt bronze, Italian 16th-century work. (British Museum.)|
The earliest dated example of Persian lustred ware is a star-shaped tile of the year A.D. 1217 (a.h. 614), decorated with spotted hares, heraldically confronted, in a ground of lustre relieved by dots and curls, and surrounded by an inscribed border. A vase in the Godman collection bears the date A.D. 1231 (a.h. 629), and some of the well-known “star and cross” tiles from Veramin belong to the year A.D. 1262. The early Persian lustre is chiefly known to us through the tiles with which the walls of mosques and public buildings were decorated; the more ephemeral vases, bowls and dishes have survived in smaller numbers and very rarely in perfect condition. Common motives of decoration were animals and birds (sometimes showing Chinese influence), the hare and the deer being favourites; roughly drawn sack-like figures of men and women, mounted or on foot (probably heroes of Persian legend), conventional foliage and arabesques. The designs are usually reserved in a lustred ground, which is relieved by small scrolls, curls and dots etched in the lustre (as though the glazed piece had been covered all over with the lustre mixture and the ornament scratched out of this when it was dry), and showing beneath the ivory-white tin-enamel with which the early wares are generally coated. The lustre itself when viewed directly may look like some golden or deep chocolate-brown colour, but as the piece is turned to catch a side-light this deep colour is seen to bear a thin iridescent film, which glows with golden, green, purple or ruby-red metallic reflets. On the earliest examples the decoration is often entirely in lustre, but later, lustre is often used to eke out a pattern painted with masses of pale cobalt-blue or turquoise under the glaze. Similar tiles with rather more elaborate ornament bear 14th-century dates, and another variety has parts of the decoration, more particularly the large letters of the inscriptions, raised in low relief and heightened with blue. Yet another class, belonging to the 14th century, has a fine dark-blue alkaline glaze, with designs in low relief, picked out with scrolls and arabesques in white enamel or bold floral sprays in leaf-gold. Lustre is frequently found applied to the rich cobalt-blue ground, and there are still existing a few magnificent vases which show the artistic possibilities of this scheme of decoration. It should be noted that when the pieces are in the round, the pattern is usually painted in lustre and not reserved in a lustre ground as on the flat tiles. In the later examples the tin-enamel was replaced entirely by white slip, and the lustre decoration continued in use until the end of the reign of Shah Abbas I. (1587–1629). To the last period belong many charming bowls, narghilis, cups and dishes in a brown lustre, with ruby reflets, on a white or a deep blue ground; this ware is pure white in substance and generally translucent, and the pieces are occasionally signed (see Persian porcelain above).
|Fig. 41.—Lamp from the Mosque of Omar.|
Damascus Ware.—This time-honoured name (for “Damas Ware” was often mentioned in medieval inventories, and appears to have included many varieties of oriental pottery which were highly prized in Italy, France and England in the middle ages) forms rather a puzzle nowadays for the archaeologist, for many diverse wares have been included under this title, some of which were not made at Damascus. Yet Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the world, and has seen unnumbered dynasties come and go around its desert-fringed oasis. An important centre of caravan traffic, a nexus of palpitating life from east and west, north and south, we cannot wonder if it developed a special pottery of its own, tinged with something of a cosmopolitan spirit. Formerly the Damascus wares were treated as a variety of the Persian pottery we have just described, but the best examples of the class now known under this name exhibit a mingling of various influences such as we might expect, and have well-marked affinities both with the Persian wares and those brilliant productions now commonly recognized as Syrian and Turkish, while even far-off echoes of Chinese decorative mannerisms are not wanting. The characteristic Damascus ware of the collector is marked by its quality; the ground is of very clear white, the colours are pure and brilliant, and the vessels, whether dishes or vases, are soundly made. The decoration, which is purely floral or conventional, recalls the more formal Persian style, but the colours recall those of the Turkish pottery with one remarkable substitution. The piled-up red-clay pigment of the latter is absent, but where it would inevitably occur in the design of a Turkish piece its place is taken by a purple made from manganese, which is often thin and rather washy in quality. Fine examples of this famous ware are to be seen in the British Museum and in the Louvre; its characteristic style of pattern is well shown in the 16th-century Damascus piece reproduced in Plate V. Another splendid example is the lamp from the Mosque of Omar at Jerusalem, also in the British Museum (fig. 41); and this has generally been classed with the Damascus wares, though its colouring and its technique belong rather to Lower Syria or to Egypt. This magnificent piece bears a dated inscription, “In the year 956 in the month Jemazi-l-oola. The painter is the poor and humble Mustafa.” This is reckoned as June A.D. 1549. It may be remarked that our difficulties of identification are increased by the fact that, under Arab rule, Syrian and Persian potters were at work in Damascus, in Old Cairo and elsewhere. Among the Fostat fragments classified by Dr Fouquet are many bearing the signatures of Syrian workmen. In the 15th and 16th centuries, too, imitations of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain became common throughout the nearer East, and quantities of fragments have been found at Fostat, Ephesus and elsewhere.
|Fig. 42.—Rhodian Jug.|
Turkish Pottery.—This beautiful and striking ware, formerly called Persian, and till lately Rhodian because Rhodes was a known centre of manufacture, seems to have been fabricated in all the countries overrun by the Ottoman Turks in the 13th century, so that the name “Turkish,” in spite of some opposition, is now generally applied to it. (See fig. 42; and the 16th-century Rhodian or Turkish pieces, Plate V.) It has a fine white body of the usual sandy texture, covered, as a rule, with a wash of pure white slip; it is painted in strong brilliant colours, chiefly blue, turquoise, green, and a peculiar red pigment which is heaped up in palpable relief—the whole of the ornament being outlined with black or dark green. The ware was glazed with an alkaline glaze of great depth, so that the colours soften and sometimes run, producing one of the most brilliant and attractive of all the oriental wares. In certain districts the white ground was not used, but over it a slip of the red colour (Armenian bole), varying in strength from bright red to pale salmon, was laid over the piece, reserving the pattern only in the white slip, which consequently lies lower than the red ground. Other examples are known where the ground has been covered with lavender, blue, sage, apple and turquoise greens, chocolate or coffee-brown, and the sumptuous effect of the whole was often increased by the application of gold-leaf over the fired glaze. The decorative motives are distinguished from those of the Persian wares by a breadth and boldness which are in keeping with the brilliant, and not always harmonious, colouring. They include, it is true, the Persian arabesque, the floral scroll with feathery leaf, the thistle-bloom and the cypress tree, but the naturalistic treatment which permits immediate recognition of the favourite Turkish flowers such as the tulip, hyacinth, carnation, fritillary, cornflower and lily (some of which were imported into Europe by the Turks), is as original and distinctive as the arrangement of the different elements of the design is artistic and charming. Other styles of design include formal patterns and diapers, rarely human and animal figures, and occasionally armorial devices and ships. Tiles of this ware were extensively used for lining the walls of public buildings, replacing the carpets and textile hangings which their designs so freely imitated. Of domestic articles, dishes are the most numerous, though vases, ewers, sprinklers, jugs, tankard-shaped flower-holders, covered bowls and mosque lamps are also plentiful. The tiles are found in all parts of the Turkish empire, though they were probably made at certain centres, such as Nicaea (which gave its name to the ware in the 16th century and no doubt supplied many of the mosques in Constantinople), Kutaia, Demitoka, Lindus and other centres in Rhodes and Damascus. Individual wares cannot be distinguished, except in some measure those of Damascus and Kutaia. A small jug in the Godman Collection has an Armenian inscription stating that it was made by “Abraham of Kutaia” in the 16th century. A few fine bowls and vases, painted in a beautiful blue with Persian arabesques and rosette scrolls, recalling Chinese porcelains of the Ming dynasty, but of very characteristic appearance, are also attributed to this place; and later, in the 18th and up to the end of the 19th century, an inferior ware was largely manufactured here. This late ware usually takes the form of small objects—plates, cups, jugs, egg-shaped ornaments, &c.—with a thin, well-potted, white body and slight patterns of radiating leaves, scale diapers, &c., in blue, black and yellow. Turkish pottery was at its best in the 16th and the early part of the 17th century, and though good tile work of later date exists, the general pottery deteriorated before the 18th century. An inferior ware of poor colour is still produced in Turkey, Persia and Syria, and some attempt has been made of late to revive the old lustre decoration, but the results are not likely to be mistaken for those of old times.
Collections.—The Victoria and Albert Museum contains the finest collection of the medieval pottery of the nearer East—the British Museum collection, though much smaller, has some magnificent examples. The Cluny Museum in Paris has a never-to-be-forgotten collection of Turkish pottery, especially plates and dishes. The museums of the Louvre and of Sèvres have also many beautiful examples. Berlin, Frankfort and other German towns have collections, but much smaller in extent. Private collectors in England and France own many fine specimens, and mention may be made particularly of those owned by Mr Ducane Godman and Mr George Salting.
Literature.—Fortnum, Majolica (1896) (also in South Kensington Museum Handbook); Falke, Majolica (Berlin, 1896); Fouquet, Contributions a l’étude de la céramique orientale (Cairo, 1900); Karabacek, “Zur muslimischen Keramik,” in Monatsschrift fur den Orient (1884); Lane-Poole, Art of the Saracens in Egypt (1886); Migeon, Manuel de l’art musulman, vol. ii. (1907); Sarre, Persische Keramik; and Jahrbuch der koniglichen preussichen Kunstsammlung (1905), part ii.; H. Wallis, The Godman Collection (1) Lustred Vases (London, 1891); (2) The Tenth Century Lustred Wall-tiles (1894); Notes on some Early Persian Lustre Vases (1885); Egyptian Ceramic Art (1898).
With the doings of the Moslem potters of the countries round the eastern Mediterranean fresh in our minds, it is interesting to follow the westward trend of the Moslem conquests, and see how in their wake there also sprung up in Spain a ware of high distinction and beauty. The Iberian peninsula had been the scene of pottery-making from prehistoric times—a red unglazed ware was made before the dawn of civilization as finely finished as that found in the Nile valley by Flinders Petrie (see Egypt: Art and Archaeology), and the Romans had one of their great provincial pottery centres at Saguntum; but it was only when a great part of Spain lay under Mussulman rule that artistic and distinctive pottery was produced. What is by no means clear is how it came to pass that when the traditional methods, learnt by the Arabs in Egypt and Syria, were carried westward they should have undergone such a radical change. Oxide of tin, the opacifying and whitening material in glazes par excellence, was certainly known and used in the East from at least the 6th century B.C.; the ancient wares are coated with a covering of white tin-enamel to hide the buff or reddish-coloured clay, and it was similarly used elsewhere; but its use was sporadic and not general in those countries, where we find instead a consistent development of the pottery made with a white slip-coating and a clear alkaline glaze. Perhaps it was that at this period tin was almost as costly as gold, and it was only when potters with an oriental training brought their skill to Spain, where tin abounded, that the relative cheapness of the material led them to employ it, so far as is known, exclusively. (There is a wide distinction between the tin-enamelled and the slip-faced wares, glazed with an alkaline glaze. In the latter, the more oriental type, the slip-coating is of fine white clay and sand, and this is finished with a transparent alkaline glaze containing little or no lead: in the former there is no need of a coating of slip, for the addition of oxide of tin to a glaze rich in lead gives a dense coating of white enamel, opaque enough to disguise the color of the clay beneath.) Such colours as were used for painted patterns were painted over this enamel coating before it was fired, so that they became perfectly incorporated with it, and then this ground furnished a splendid medium for the development of those thin iridescent metallic films that we call “lustres.” The knowledge of this lustre process had been brought from the East also, where it was used on another ground, and with the growing use of lustre pigments containing copper as well as silver—until the red, strongly metallic copper lustre almost ousted the quieter silver lustres—we get the simple technique of one of the most distinctive kinds of pottery known.
|Fig. 43.—Hispano-Moorish Plate, painted in blue and copper lustre.|
Briefly, the wares were “thrown” upon the wheel or “pressed” on modelled forms—handles, ribs and dots of clay, or strongly incised patterns were often added by hand—and they were then fired a first time. A coating of the tin-enamel (rich in lead as well as tin) was applied, and on this coating designs were painted in cobalt and manganese; sometimes these colours were only used as masses to break up the background. Then the second firing took place and the piece came from the firing all shining and white, except where the blue or brownish purple had been painted (see fig. 43). The lustre pigments, a mixture of sulphide of copper or sulphide of silver, or both with red ochre or other earth, was then painted over the glazed surface with vinegar as a medium. The repainted piece was fired a third time to a dull red heat, and smoked with the smoke from the wood used in firing, and when cold the loosely adherent ochre and metallic ash left were washed off, leaving the iridescent films in all their beauty.
The technical practices of the Spanish potters and the composition of the lustre pigments are given in Cocks’s account of the processes followed at Muel (Aragon) in 1585. The Manises receipt of 1785 gives:—copper 3 oz., red ochre 12 oz., silver 1 peseta piece, sulphur 3 oz., vinegar 1 qt. and the ashes scraped off the pots after lustring 36 oz. Interesting documents have recently been published concerning the works executed by the “Saracen,” John of Valencia, at Poitiers in 1384, and it is certain, from the list of materials supplied to him, that he made there tiles that were enamelled and lustred.
The earliest record of lustred pottery in Spain is the geographer Edrisi’s mention of the manufacture of “golden ware” then carried on at Calatayud in Aragon in 1154. Ibn Sa‛id (1214–1286) speaks of the glass and the golden pottery made at Murcia (city), Almeria and Malaga. From the 4th century the notices which have come down to us divide themselves into two main groups relating to the industry (a) at Malaga; (b) at various localities, but especially Manises in Valencia.
Malaga—Malaga was situated within the Moorish kingdom of Granada, which formed, from 1235 until the late 15th century, the last remnant of Moorish dominion in Spain. Here under the art-loving Nasride dynasty, Mussulman arts and learning flourished to an unprecedented degree. In 1337 Ahmed ben-Yahya al-Omarí enumerates, among the craft productions of Malaga, its golden pottery, the like of which he declares is not to be met with elsewhere. The Moroccan traveller Ibn Batuta mentions (1350) the Malagan golden pottery, as does Ibn al-Hatib (1313–1374) of Granada, in his description of Malaga. The principal monument of the period is the royal palace of Granada, begun in 1273, and finished during the 14th century, from which period most of its ornamentation dates. Two vases were discovered there, of which the existing one, known as the “Alhambra vase,” is admittedly the most imposing product of Hispano-Moresque ceramic art extant. Its amphora-shaped body (4 ft. 5 in. high) is encircled by a band of Arabic inscription, above which are depicted gazelles reserved in cream and golden lustre upon a blue field; the rest of the body and the prominent handles are covered with compartments of arabesques and inscriptions in the same colours; and panels on the neck, divided by mouldings and decorated with strap-work and arabesques. Vases similar in shape and technique, with ornament of Cufic characters and arabesques in horizontal rows, are to be found in the museums at St Petersburg, Palermo and Stockholm. As to the exact date of these, experts are not agreed. Though presenting all the characteristics of the 14th-century Hispano-Moresque ornament, it seems probable that they were produced at the same period as the large lustred wall-tile formerly in the Fortuny (now in the Osma) collection, an inscription upon which is by some held to refer to Yusuf III. of Granada (1409–1418), not to Yusuf I. (1333–1354). Another remarkable example is a dish (Sarre collection, Berlin), which, it is claimed, bears upon its back, in Arabic, the word Malaga; it is ornamented with eight segmental compartments filled alternately with strap-work designs and arabesques in lustre. Malaga was reconquered by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1487, and after this its industry probably decayed, as it is not mentioned by Lucio Marineo in 1539 among the localities where ceramics then flourished.
Valencia.—The emirate of Valencia was reconquered by Aragon in 1238. The history of its lustred ware is known from 1383, when Eximenes (whose evidence has been erroneously held to date from 1499) mentions the golden ware (Obra dorada) of Manises. Valencian pottery of this kind was an offshoot of the Malagan industry, as in documents lately published (ranging from 1405 to 1517) it is repeatedly designated Malaga ware (Obra de Malaga). Its decorative qualities became famous throughout the whole of Europe and North Africa. The ware was chiefly manufactured at Manises by the Moorish retainers of the Buyl or Boil family, lords of Manises, who levied dues upon the output of the kilns, and occasionally arranged for its sale. It is distinguished as regards its ornamentation from the pottery of Malaga by the adoption of a more natural rendering of plant form motives and by the use of armory. The ware consists of drug pots, deep dishes, large and small plates, aquamaniles, vases, &c. Some dozen varieties of ornament were employed during the 15th and early 16th centuries, including mock arabic inscriptions, various flower or foliage patterns taken from the vine, bryony, &c., and gadroons. The centres of dishes frequently bear the arms of a king or queen of Aragon, of the Buyls of Manises, or other Valencian or Italian families for whom they were made. Great dexterity is shown in the execution of minute and complicated schemes of ornament and in the richness of the colour schemes; golden lustre of various hues, with blue and manganese, form the simple combinations, but the ruby, violet or opalescent lustre combine to produce with the colours a wonderful decorative effect. From 1500 the use of blue and manganese was gradually discontinued and the ornament quickly became nondescript, but the brilliancy of the lustre pigment nevertheless obtained a wide popularity for the ware, as is attested by Marineo (1539), Viciana (1564) and Escolano (1610). After the expulsion of the Moriscoes (1609) the industry was carried on by those who had escaped deportation or by Spaniards who had learnt the craft; generally speaking their productions can be summed up in the word “decadence.” In the course of the 15th century the manufacture of lustred pottery was carried on at various other small towns near Valencia; in 1484 it was produced at Mislata, Paterna and Gesarte. It is known to have flourished at Calatayud in 1507, and at Muel, also in Aragon, in 1589. In the Valencia district much pottery for ordinary use, ornamented with blue on white, was also produced.
Majorca.—Scaliger, in 1557, states that Chinese porcelain was imitated in the Balearic Isles, and that the Italians called these imitations “majolica,” changing the letter in the name of the islands (then called Majorica) where they originated. The truth would appear to be that Valencian wares, being exported in Balearic vessels that called at Majorca on the voyage to Italy, acquired a reputed Mallorcan origin. There is extant a potter’s petition praying for permission to establish himself in Majorca (1560), in which he states that “Manises ware,” &c., had to be imported, as it was not made there.
Collections.—In England, the Victoria and Albert and the British Museums have fine collections of this ware. At Paris the Cluny Museum collection, and the Louvre; the museum at Sevres contains many fine typical pieces. Another good collection is that of the archaeological museum at Madrid. The Berlin and the Hamburg museums, the Metropolitan Art Museum at New York and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts also contain good specimens. The private collections of England, France and Italy are rich in these wares, among the finest being those of Mr F. D. Godman (Horsham), and of Don G. J. de Osma (Madrid).
Literature.—A. Van de Put, Hispano-Moresque Ware of the 15th Century (1904); F. Sarre, “Die spanisch-maurischen Lusterfayencen des Mittelalters,” &c. (in Jahrbuch der kgl. preuss. Kunstsammlungen, xxiv. (1903); G. J. de Osma, “Apuntes sobre cerámica morisca: textos y documentos valencianos,” No. 1, 1906, and “Los Letreros ornamentales en la ceramica morisca del siglo xv.” (in the review Cultura Española, No. ii, 1906; J. Font y Gumá, Rajolas valencianas y catalanas (1905); J. Tramoyeres Blasco, “Cerámica valenciana del siglo xvii.” (in the Almanaque, para 1908, del periodico Las Provincias de Valencia; J. Gestoso y Pérez, Historia de los barros vidriados sevillanos (1904); also J. C. Davillier, Histoire des faiences hispano-moresques à reflets metalliques (1861).
Medieval And Later Italian Pottery
Little is known of the potter’s art in Italy after the fall of the Roman empire till the 13th century. The traditions of the Roman potters appear to have been gradually lost, leaving behind only sufficient skill to make rude crocks for domestic use and to coat them, if required, with a crude yellowish lead glaze sometimes stained to a vivid green with copper oxide. Applied ornament of roughly modelled clay and scratched designs were the chief embellishments of such wares, which were of the same class as the medieval pottery of Great Britain and the north of Europe. In the 12th and 13th centuries, however, contact with Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt and Spain, where ceramic skill had been highly developed in fresh directions, as we have seen, introduced into Italy as well as the rest of Europe those superior wares characterized by a white surface decorated with bright colours under a brilliant transparent glaze, and glorified by metallic lustres. The Italian potters did not long remain unaffected by these influences, but though Persian, Syrian and Egyptian pottery must have been fairly plentiful in the households of the wealthy, it was the distinctively Hispano-Moresque wares from which the potters of Italy drew the inspiration for a new ware of their own. The technique of a siliceous slip-coating with colour painted on that and covered with a transparent alkaline glaze, was only sparingly used, and then not very successfully; it is only the introduction of the tin-enamel that was turned to fruitful account and led to the production of the magnificent Italian majolica of the 15th and 16th centuries. In the same way the practice of lustre decoration might have been learnt from the Orient, but its late appearance on Italian wares (16th century) and its evident relationship to the lustres of Spain, rather than to the earlier lustres of Egypt, Syria and Persia, are further evidence that though oriental decorative motives gave the Italians certain early types of design, it is the Hispano-Moresque potters from whom the Italians learnt the art they were afterwards to develop so splendidly in a new direction.
All the Italian pottery above the level of common crocks may be conveniently grouped into four classes.
|Fig. 44.—Italian Graffiato Plate, 16th century. (South Kensington Museum.)|
1. The native wares, made of coarse and often dark-red clay, coated with a white clay slip (a kind of pipe-clay) and covered with a crude lead glaze, either yellow or green. The idea of rendering this ware ornamental, and fitting it for more than vulgar use, led to a great development of the graffiato process; where, while the vessel, with its white clay coating was firm yet soft enough, patterns were scratched or engraved through the white slip to the red body beneath. This decorative method has been already mentioned several times, for it was practised during the early middle ages in all the countries from India to Italy, and the Byzantine potters were adepts in its use. Nor has its practice ever ceased in Italy, for through all the times when painted majolica was the ware of the wealthy, this earlier and humbler pottery was used by those who could not afford the former; and the gaily-coloured later wares of this kind have a fine decorative quality of their own. From the depth beneath the present soil at which fragments of this ware have been disinterred, it is obvious that the method was widely practised in early times, and no simpler glazed wares are known except those covered all over with green, yellow or brown glazes. Early examples have been found all over northern Italy—in Faenza, Florence, Pisa, &c., and particularly in Padua, where it seems to have been extensively made. Pavia was another centre of its manufacture, even to the end of the 17th century, and Citta di Castello must have been noted for it in the 16th century, for Piccolpasso describes this ware as “alla Castellana” (see fig. 44). Apparently in the latter half of the 15th century a sudden advance takes place in the colouring of this graffiato ware. Instead of the simple glazes, of uniform colour, of the earlier productions, underglaze colours—green, purple, blue and a brown of the tint of burnt sienna which passes into a glossy black where it is thick—were applied in bold splashes under the straw-coloured glaze, producing a rich and decorative effect by very simple means. As fine examples of this kind we may mention the dish with the mandoline players, and one with cupids disporting themselves in a tree, in the Victoria and Albert Museum; the tazza, supported by three modelled lions, in the Louvre; and the dish, with figures of the Virgin and two saints, in the museum at Padua. The ware has often been called, quite erroneously, mezza-majolica. It had nothing to do with majolica, being the natural development of a much older process; and its manufacture was carried on all through the period of majolica manufacture and has never ceased.
2. Mezza-Majolica—This name is accurately applied to certain Italian wares that made their appearance in the 12th century or even earlier, when rude patterns—a clumsy star, a rude crossing of strokes or some equally elementary work—are found painted on a thin white ground covering a drab body. The pieces, generally pitchers of ungainly forms, are uncouth in the extreme; the body has been shaped in local clay and then thinly coated by dipping it into a white slip, which seems at first to have been of white clay only, though oxide of tin and lead were added to it even in the 12th century. The colours used for the rude painting were oxide of copper and oxide of manganese, and the final glaze, which is generally thin and often imperfectly fused, seems to have been based on the alkaline glazes of the nearer East. The specimens so assiduously recovered by Professor Aragnani, some of which, or similar wares, are to be found in the Louvre, the British and the Victoria and Albert museums, are typical of the rude work out of which, by a fuller knowledge of Spanish methods, the painted majolica grew.
3. Majolica—For the last three centuries the word majolica has been used to signify an Italian ware with a fine but comparatively soft buff body, coated with an opaque tin-enamel of varying degrees of whiteness and purity, on which a painted decoration was laid and fired. In the later pictorial wares, a fine coating of transparent alkaline glaze was fired over the painting to soften the colours—really to varnish them. The word itself appears to have been derived from the name of the island Majorca, and was originally applied by the Italians to the lustred wares of Spain which were largely imported into Italy, probably arriving in ships that called at or hailed from Majorca, as we do not believe that the ware was actually made in that island. That the secret of the tin-glaze, which is the essential feature of Italian majolica, was known in Italy in the 13th century is practically proved; and there is both literary and archaeological proof of its use there in the 14th. Mention of it is made in the Margarita Preciosa published at Pola by Pierre Le Bon in 1336, and the well-known jug, bearing the arms of Astorgio I., discovered under the Manfredi palace at Faenza, must have been made shortly after 1393. Its development marched side by side with that of the mezza-majolica, until it practically superseded the latter for painted wares in the 15th century; but the earliest examples have little more than an archaeological interest, and it was only after the last decade of the quattrocento or the first of the cinquecento that it blossomed into an artistic creation. In its prime the production of majolica was confined to a very small part of Italy. Bologna on the north, Perugia to the south, Siena on the west, and the Adriatic to the east, roughly enclose the district in which lie Faenza, Forli, Rimini, Pesaro, Cafaggiolo, Urbino, Castel Durante, Gubbio, Perugia and Siena. Towards the middle of the 16th century Venice on the one hand, and in the 17th and 18th centuries the Ligurian factories at Genoa, Albissola and Savona, made majolica of the later decadent styles, while, at the end of the 17th and in the early part of the 18th centuries, the southern town of Castelli, near Naples, produced a ware which closes the period of artistic majolica.4. Lustred Majolica—This brilliant species of Italian pottery (to which alone Piccolpasso applied the name majolica) seems to have been mainly produced at Deruta and Gubbio, though experiments were made at Cafaggiolo and probably at Faenza and Siena. Considering how much the Italian majolist owed to the Spanish-Moorish potter, it is remarkable that this beautiful method of decoration should have made so tardy an appearance, for the earliest specimens do not appear to be much earlier than
|Fig. 52.—CORINTHIAN JAR.||Fig. 53.—FRANÇOIS VASE.|
(From Furtwängler and Reichhold, Griechische Vasenmalerei,
by permission of F. Bruckmann.)
|Fig. 54.—BLACK-FIGURED AMPHORA
|Fig. 55.—VASE FROM SOUTHERN ITALY.|
Signed by Python.
|Fig. 61.—MOULD FOR ARRETINE BOWL.||Fig. 62.—JAR OF ARRETINE WARE FROM CAPUA.|
|Fig. 63.—EARLY ETRUSCAN JAR.
|Fig. 64.—STAMP FOR ORNAMENTING
|Fig. 65.—ETRUSCAN “CANOPIC”|
JAR PLACED IN BRONZE CHAIR.
|Fig. 45.—Early Faenza plate, with|
peacock-feather design, in blues, yellow
and orange-red. (Victoria and Albert Museum.)
The history of the development of these noble wares is by no means clear, nor is it always certain what part was played by each town in the successive inventions of technical methods, decoration and colouring, so that it is better, in such a general sketch as this, to treat the subject in its broadest features only. In the earlier painted wares the only colours used were manganese-purple and a transparent copper-green as on the mezza-majolica, but early in the 15th century cobalt-blue was added to the palette, and, later on, the strong yellow antimoniate of lead, mixed with iron. The decorations at this period were largely influenced by the wares imported from Persia, Syria, Egypt and Spain, specimens of which were so prized as to be used for the decoration of church fronts and the façades of public buildings. The lustre of the Saracenic wares was not yet understood, but its place was taken first by manganese and afterwards by yellow. The designs were chiefly conventional flower-patterns in the Persian or Moorish style, arabesques, and floral scrolls, the ground being filled at times with those tiny spirals, scrolls and dots to which the Eastern potters were so partial. Figures, human and animal, were introduced either among the formal ornament or only sundered from it by panels, of which the outlines often followed the contours of the central design (see the early 15th-century Faenza piece, Plate VI.). The figures were, in fact, drawn to conform to the outline of the vessel, and not the vessel made to display the figure-subject as in the majolica of the succeeding century. The earliest dated example of this period is the pavement laid down in the Caracciolo chapel in the church of San Giovanni a Carbonara, in Naples, about 1440. Specimens of these tiles may be seen in the British Museum, and from their style it has been suggested that they were made by some Spanish potters brought over to Naples by Queen Joanna, who was of the royal house of Aragon. To this period also have been referred the large ovoid jars made to contain drugs or confections, and decorated with bold scrolls of formal oak leaves enclosing spirited figures of men or animals, or heraldic devices. These are characterized by a rich blue colour generally piled up in palpable relief and sometimes verging on black; the outlines are usually in manganese, and transparent green is used for details and occasionally even as a ground colour. This ware has been definitely assigned to Florence on what seem very inadequate grounds, and it is better to speak of it simply as Tuscan. Then, essentially Italian ornament began to assert itself, and it redounds to the credit of the Italian majolist that he soon freed himself from repeating the styles of the wares from which he obtained his methods, and produced a distinctive type of ornament of his own. He revelled in patterns with bold floral scrolls, or those based on peacocks’ feathers (see fig. 45), and then he advanced to concentric bands of painted ornament, borrowed from classic art yet breathing the true spirit of the Renaissance; while cable borders, chequer and scale patterns, bands of stiff radiating leaves, festoons of fruit and flowers, zigzags and pyramidal scrolls occupied nearly the whole surface or framed an armorial or emblematic central subject. Figure-subjects occur with increasing frequency as the century advanced; Madonnas and other sacred subjects, portraits, and, occasionally, groups of figures after the early Italian masters, or scenes borrowed from the first illustrated editions of the classics, gradually encroach on the conventional borders and occupy more and more of the surface of the piece. The provenance of these 15th-century pieces still remains uncertain—Faenza, Forli, Florence, Siena and other places offering rival claims,—but there is no doubt that from the earliest times Faenza was the most fertile centre of their manufacture, and almost all the motives of the quattrocento wares are found on fragments discovered there or on examples that can be traced to Faventine factories.
It is customary to treat the enamelled terra-cottas of Luca della Robbia, the great Florentine sculptor (1399–1482), and his followers, Andrea and Giovanni della Robbia and other members of the family, as belonging rather to the domain of sculpture than of pottery, and this is right, for there is nothing certainly known of the work of this great sculptor which connects it with painted majolica. The old theory that Luca invented the tin-glaze is long since exploded; what he did was to use coloured glazes made with a basis of tin-enamel on his boldly modelled terra-cottas—a very different thing,—and it is by no means certain that he was the first to do even that. The Victoria and Albert Museum is extraordinarily rich in della Robbia ware of every kind; and one may see there these beautifully modelled figures in high relief covered with pure white tin-enamel, set in a background of slatey blue or rich manganese purple and framed in wreaths of flowers and fruit which are coloured with blue, green, purple and sometimes yellow. There are altar vases too, of classic shape with low relief ornament, covered with the same peculiar blue glaze; these are sometimes furnished with modelled fruit and flowers; and finally there is the rare set of roundels painted on the flat with figure-subjects typifying the months; but the attribution of these remains doubtful, and their method is not that of painted majolica.
A remarkable development took place at the beginning of the 16th century, and in the forty succeeding years the highest perfection of manipulative skill, both in potting and painting, was attained. Artistically regarded, the elaborate and detailed methods of painting then adopted are too much allied to fresco-painting to be considered as fit treatment for enamelled clay; but this view was certainly not accepted at the time, nor is it subscribed to by many modern collectors; yet, regarded as decorated pottery, the 15th-century majolica, simpler and more conventional in design and treatment, is eminently preferable. The ruling families of northern Italy, who now took the industry under their personal patronage, clearly inclined to the opposite view and spared no expense to provide subjects for their pot-painters. During the first two decades the influence of Faenza was paramount, and though the encroachments of purely pictorial motives are clearly indicated on the wares, room was still found for ornamental patterns. The broad rims of the dishes were covered with beautiful arabesque designs, frequently including grotesque figures, masks, dolphins and cherubs (see the Faenza Casa Pirota piece, 1525, Plate VI.). Sometimes reserved in the white on a dark blue ground and shaded with light blue and yellow, sometimes traced in dark blue on a paler grey-blue glaze (called berettino) or painted in darker tints on a ground of orange or full yellow, the Faventine arabesques form a conspicuous feature of the early wares of this century. Honeysuckle patterns and interlaced lines drawn in pure white on a toned tin-enamel (white on white or sopra-bianco decoration) commonly appear on the sides of the deep wells of the dishes, while in the centre is a single figure, a coat of arms, or a small figure-subject. A similar treatment, without the sopra-bianco, was accorded to the fruit-dishes, shallow bowls on low feet, &c., with moulded gadroons or scalloped sides, which are generally attributed to Faenza or Castel Durante. The workshops of Siena were also noted for delicately painted grotesques and arabesques, with a rich brownish-yellow or deep black ground. At Gubbio, too, the “grotesque” decoration was practised with marked success. Other developments of this style are the “a candelieri” designs, in which grotesques were symmetrically arranged round some central subject, such as a candelabrum or vase, and “a trofei” in which trophies of arms, musical instruments, and other objects were symmetrically disposed, or arranged in studied disarray throughout the design; these patterns are generally associated with the wares of Castel Durante and Deruta. Lovers’ gifts, dishes in which the whole space is occupied by a portrait bust of a girl or man, with the name and a complimentary adjective inscribed on a ribbon in the background, were common to Faenza, Castel Durante and many other factories. Elaborate figure-subjects also were attempted early in the century at Faenza and with no little success, as may be seen from a dish in the British Museum, which is entirely occupied by the scene of the death of the Virgin, after a print by Martin Schöngauer, delicately painted in shades of blue, and dated about 1500.
In the early Faventine school the outlines of the figures are almost always traced in blue, even when they are laid on the grey-blue berettino ground, and blue was the prevailing colour of the shading and details. In the third decade of the century the style affected at Urbino superseded that of Faenza. The majolica painter’s palette was now complete; in addition to the primitive blue, manganese-purple, transparent green and yellow, we find black, white, orange, greens of varying shades, brown, and a great number of intermediate tints obtained by mixing the standard colours. All the colours of the majolica of the best periods were painted on the tin-enamel before the final glazing, and were capable of standing the full heat of the fire. Such a thing as painting in enamels on the finished ware and refiring them at a lower heat was unknown before the end of the 17th or beginning of the 18th century. A true red colour seems to have been beyond the power of most of the Italian majolists, and was only attained at Faenza, and with less complete success at Cafaggiolo; the famous red of the Turkish pottery behaves very indifferently on tin-enamel.
|Urbino Potter’s mark.|
In the Urbino style, which now became general, the ware was given over entirely to pictorial subjects, scenes from history or romance, scriptural and mythological, copied from the compositions of the Italian painters and usually set in a background of Italian landscape. Guidobaldo II., duke of Urbino, spared no pains to develop this phase of the art; the cartoons of Raphael, engraved by Marc Antonio and others, were placed at the disposal of the pot-painters, as well as the paintings of Michelangelo, Giulio Romano, Battista Franco, Rosso Rossi, Perugino, Parmeggiano and many more, and these, together with engravings by Agostino Venetiano, Marco Dente, Enea Vico and others, were copied, with more or less fidelity, on the majolica. Some of the painters, as, for instance, Xanto Avelli, were eclectic in their tastes and made up their subjects by taking a figure here or there from various pictures. Thus of three figures on a plate in the British Museum, painted with the Dream of Astyages, one is borrowed from Raphael and another from Mantegna. These “istoriati” wares reached their zenith at Urbino between the years 1530 and 1560, when the workshops of the Fontana family were in full activity; but their popularity was very general, and skilful painters at many other towns produced specimens that it is hard to distinguish from those of Urbino. Baldasara Manara was a prolific painter in this style at Faenza; Pesaro and Castel Durante were little behind Urbino in the skill of their artists, the Lanfranchi family in the former town having a well-deserved reputation, while the founders of the Fontana factories learnt their art in the latter; and a few pieces of considerable merit bear the name of Rimini as their place of origin.
There will always remain a large number of specimens of majolica which cannot be assigned with certainty to any particular factory, partly because the same style of painting was in vogue at many places at the same time, and partly because of the itinerant propensities of many of the painters, whose signed works prove that they moved from place to place to practise their art. There are, however, a few prominent artists whose touch is sufficiently well known from the examples that bear their signatures to enable us to classify a considerable proportion of the finest pieces. First of these is Niccola Pellipario, the founder of the Fontana family, who moved from Castel Durante to Urbino in 1519, and worked at the latter place in the factory of his son, Guido Fontana. There is little doubt that he was the painter of the famous service in the Correr Museum at Venice, which marks the transition from the style of Faenza to that of Urbino, and his free figure-drawing, the oval faces with strongly marked classical features, the peculiarly drawn knees, the careful landscapes and the characteristic balls of cloud are easily recognized in quite a number of pieces in the British Museum (see the Gonzago Este piece, Plate VI.). His pupil, who frequently signed his name in full, Xanto Avelli da Rovigo, was one of the foremost Urbino painters, and his work is characterized by bold colouring and fine figure-drawing, with a marked fondness for yellowish flesh tints. But Niccola’s grandson, Orazio Fontana (see example, Plate VI.), was perhaps the most celebrated exponent of the pure Urbino style, and his free drawing and soft harmonious colouring, in which a brilliant blue is usually conspicuous, are unequalled by any other majolica painter of the period.
Certain characteristic wares of Faenza have already been noted. Those with the grey-blue (berettino) glaze were principally made at the factory called Casa Pirota, though inferior imitations were also produced at Padua, and a blue glaze of paler tint was largely used at Venice. Dolphins are a frequent motive in the arabesque ornaments of the same Faventine workshop, and many of the wares are marked with a circle divided by a cross and containing a dot in one of the quarters. A capital P crossed with a line or paraph is another Faventine mark, and a somewhat similar monogram, with an S added to the upper part, is found in the wares of Cafaggiolo. It has already been stated that a red colour is peculiar to Faenza and in an inferior and browner tint to Cafaggiolo; it was used, according to Piccolpasso, at the factory of Vergiliotto in the former place. At Cafaggiolo, the factory of the Medici family, many fine pieces were painted, mostly in the Faventine style; a deep blue, heavily applied and showing the marks of the brush, was freely used in backgrounds, and delicate running leaf scrolls in paler blue and reminiscent of Persian style often appear on the Cafaggiolo wares (see example, Plate VI). Not a little can be learnt from the ornament on the reverse sides of the dishes and plates; those of Faenza and Siena are richly decorated with scale patterns and concentric bands; those of Cafaggiolo and Venice are either left blank or have one or two rings of yellow. A few pre-eminently beautiful dishes, with central figure subjects of miniature-like finish in delicate landscapes with poplar trees in a peculiar mannered style, are probably the work of M. Benedetto of Siena. Borders of arabesques with black or deep orange ground belong to the same factory and were perhaps decorated by the same hand. The dishes covered, except for a few small medallions, with interlaced oak branches (“a cerquate” decoration), are no doubt the productions of Castel Durante; and a certain class of large dishes with figure subjects in blue on a toned blue glaze, and sometimes with formal ornaments in relief, are of undisputed Venetian origin.
Another phase of majolica decoration began about the middle of the 16th century and synchronized with the decline of the pictorial style. The figure subjects were relegated to central panels or entirely replaced by small medallions, and the rest of the surface covered with fantastic figures among floral scrolls, inspired by Raphael’s grotesques painted on the walls of the Loggie in the Vatican. The prevailing tone of this ornament was yellow or orange, and the tin-enamel ground, which is always more or less impure in colour on Italian pottery, was washed over with a pure milk-white, known as bianco di Ferrara or bianco allatato, said to have been invented by Alphonso I., duke of Ferrara, who took an active interest in his private factory founded at Ferrara, and managed by potters from Faenza and Urbino.
|Savona Potter’s marks.|
The new style flourished at Urbino, Pesaro and Ferrara; at the first-named particularly in the workshops of the Patanazzi family, and lasted far into the 17th century. But the majolica was now in full decline, partly through the falling off of princely patronage, and partly, perhaps, owing to a reaction in favour of Chinese porcelain, which was becoming more plentiful and better known in Europe. The manufacture, however, never entirely ceased, and revivals of the old style were attempted at the end of the 17th century by Ferdinando Maria Campori of Siena, who copied Raphael’s and Michelangelo’s compositions, and by the families of Gentile and Grue at Naples and Castelli. The majolica of Castelli is distinguished by the lightness of the ware, good technique, and harmonious but pale and rather weak colouring; it continued into the 18th century. A coarse and inferior ware was made at Padua and Monte Lupo; and the factories of Faenza were still active, producing, among other kinds, a pure white ware with moulded scallops and gadroons. The industry continued to flourish in Venice and the north. Black ware with gilt decoration was a Venetian product of the 17th century, and at Savona and Genoa blue painted ware in imitation of Chinese blue and white porcelain made its appearance. In the 18th century a new departure was made in the introduction of enamel painting over the glaze, a method borrowed from porcelain; but this process was common to all the faience factories of Europe at the time, and though it was widely practised in Italy no special distinction was attained in any particular factory. In our own days imitations of the 16th century wares continue to be made in the factories of Ginori, Cantigalli and others, not excepting the lustred majolica of Gubbio and Deruta; but, compared with the old pieces, the modern copies are heavy to handle, stiff in drawing, suspiciously wanting in the quality of the colours and the purity of the final glaze which distinguish the work of the best period.
|Fig. 46—Early majolica plate, in blue and yellow lustre only,|
made at Pesaro or Deruta, c. 1500. The motto on the scroll may
be Englished as follows: “He who steers well his ship will enter
the harbour.” (Louvre.)
Lustred Wares.—The lustred wares of Deruta have marked characteristics, and, though differing in actual treatment from the Hispano-Moresque, their appearance is eloquent in favour of such a derivation. The most characteristic examples are large dishes and plateaux, thickly made and with the enamel on the upper face only, the back having a lead glaze. They are often decorated (see fig. 46) with a single figure or bust in the centre (with or without an inscribed ribbon), which is usually set against a dark blue background which covers only half the field, while in the other half is a formal flower, and in the borders are radiating panels with palmettes alternating with scale pattern, or some other formal design. The whole style is archaic, the designs being heavily outlined in blue and washed over with a greenish yellow lustre, with beautiful opalescent reflets recalling mother of pearl. The lustre varies from this madreperla tint to a brassy metallic yellow, and parts of the ornament are sometimes modelled in low relief. In spite of its archaic appearance, the Deruta lustred wares are scarcely older than the 16th century, and the style was continued as late as the second half of that century. Deruta pottery was not always lustred, and some of the pieces signed by the painter El Frate, who flourished between 1541 and 1554, are without the lustre pigment, though showing the heavy blue outlines of the lustred wares. The lustred majolica of Gubbio owes its celebrity almost entirely to the work of one man, Maestro Giorgio Andreoli, who came thither from Pavia, with his brothers Salimbene and Giovanni, and obtained citizenship in 1498. His earliest efforts were in the direction of sculpture, and some of his reliefs in the style of della Robbia are still in existence; indeed the earliest dated piece of lustred majolica attributed to him is a plaque of 1501, with the figure of St Sebastian in relief, in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is not known whence he learnt the secret of the beautiful transparent ruby lustre peculiar to Gubbio. A red or rosy lustre is found in both Persian and Hispano-Moresque wares, and no doubt the process was learnt from some Moslem potter and developed by Giorgio to unusual perfection. Golden, yellow, brown and opalescent lustres were also freely used at Gubbio, the ruby being only sparingly applied. Finished painted pieces were sent from other factories to receive the addition of lustre at Gubbio, but these can almost always be distinguished from the true Gubbio wares, in which the lustre is an integral part of the decoration. Apart from the lustred enrichment, the majolica of Gubbio has few distinctive qualities, for its styles were various and almost all borrowed (see fig. 47). The archaic taste of Deruta, the arabesques and grotesques of Faenza and Castel Durante, and in a lesser degree the "istoriato" style of Urbino, reigned in turn. Perhaps the most characteristic paintings of Maestro Giorgio are the central medallions of cups and deep dishes enclosing a single figure of a child or a cupid in grisaille. Giorgio’s larger figure compositions, if indeed his signature in lustre may be taken to imply that he painted the designs as well as lustred them, show great inequality, some rising to a very high standard—as the dish with "the Three Graces" in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the "Bath of Nymphs" in the Wallace collection—while in others the figure drawing is quite inferior. The arabesques and grotesques on the Gubbio wares are usually of great merit. There are a few known pieces of unlustred Gubbio wares with figure subjects, painted chiefly in blue and in the style of the early Faventine artists. After 1517, when we may assume that the lustre process was thoroughly mastered, the Gubbio wares were usually signed with the initials or full name of Maestro Giorgio, and a few rapidly executed scrolls in lustre completed the decorations of the reverse of the plates and dishes. The master’s latest signed work is dated 1541, and he died in 1552. It is probable that his brother Salimbene assisted him, and Piccolpasso names his son Vincentio as possessor of the lustre secret. Possibly the latter was the painter who signed his wares with the initial N, but this conjecture rests solely on the ingenious, but unsupported notion that N is a monogram of the first three letters of the name Vincentio. Other initials, M, D, R, also occur on Gubbio plates, and the latest dated example of the ware is signed by one "Mastro Prestino" in 1557, but it has little to recommend it save that it is enriched with the Gubbio lustres, which after this time entirely disappear.
|Fig. 47.—Gubbio plate, with portrait in ruby lustre and blue outline.|
(Victoria and Albert Museum.)
|Gubbio Potters’ marks.|
The old majolica shapes are briefly as follows:—among the earliest are small bowls (scodette), often with flattened sides; jugs (boccali) with large lip-spouts, and mouths pinched into trefoil form; large dishes with gradually shelving sides (bacili), or with flat broad rims and deep centres; akin to these are the plateaux with a raised flat disk in the centre; small dishes with broad flat rims and deep though narrow central walls (tondini), suitable for handing a wine-glass or sweetmeats; flat trencher-shaped plates (piatti or taglieri); saucer-shaped dishes on low feet and sometimes with moulded sides (tazze or fruttieri) suitable for holding fruit. Among the vase forms ovoid shapes with short necks and a pair of flat handles are common in the Tuscan wares of the 15th century; the jars for confectionery, drugs, or syrups were often of the cylindrical form with graceful concave sides known as the “albarello,” in shape of Eastern origin, and in name perhaps derived from the Persian el barani (a vase for drugs, &c.); other vase forms with spouts and handles were used for the same purpose; ornamental vases after classical designs (vasi a bronzi antichi); and in the best Urbino period a great variety of fanciful forms—ewers, vases, cisterns, shells, salt-cellars, ink-pots, &c., with applied masks and serpentine handles, were made in the exuberant taste of the time. A complex piece of furniture for the bedside of ladies in childbirth (vaso puerperale) consisted of a bowl with a foot surmounted by a flat trencher on which fitted an inverted drinking-bowl (ongaresca); and above this again a salt-cellar with cover. Many of these shapes were suited to daily use, but the richly decorated majolica was designed to adorn the walls, the credenze, table-centres and cabinets of the rich. This alone could have been the destination of the large dishes (piatti di pompa) with rim pieces for suspension, and the smaller dishes (coppe amatorii) with portraits of young men and girls and lovers’ symbols; and it is inconceivable that the costly lustred wares of Gubbio or the fine madreperla dishes of Deruta were designed for anything but decorative use. The ware was in fact an article produced for the wealthy in the century of Italy’s glory, and under no other conditions could such magnificent and expensive pieces have been made.
Technical Methods.—This is a convenient place to give an account of the methods used by the early medieval potters—(1) because they represent what had been learnt from Roman times to the 16th century, and indeed to the introduction of modern methods, (2) because, besides all that a potter could derive from an examination of the wares, we have ample written accounts of the methods and processes followed by the Italian majolist. Mr Solon has recently published an epitome of the account given in Biringuccio’s La Pyrotechnica (Venice, 1540), and there is the memorable MS. of Piccolpasso, a potter of Castel Durante, now in the library of the Victoria and Albert Museum, which, besides giving an account of the processes, contains illustrations of kilns, mills, decorative motives, &c.
1. The potter’s clay was prepared from mixtures of various kinds prepared by (a) beating and picking out coarse particles, (b) mixing with water, (c) passing through a sieve, (d) drying again into plastic clay ready for the working potter. The essential point about the potter’s clay of the best tin-enamelled wares, whether Spanish, Italian, French or Dutch, is that the clays are those known geologically as “marls,” which contain a large percentage of carbonate of lime. Such clays always fire to a pinky red or buff colour, and give a ware that is strong and yet light in substance, and on no other kind of clay does the tin-enamel display its full perfection (see Deck’s La Faience). The analyses of certain tin-enamelled wares are useful as showing the essential constitution of the best pottery bodies for such purposes.
|Oxide of iron||3.70||3.75||2.82||4.33|
|Carbonic Acid, water, &c.||8.58||9.46||13.09||10.27|
2. Shaping.—The vessels were either “thrown” on the potter’s wheel (which had remained practically unaltered from Egyptian times), or they were formed by “pressing” thin cakes of clay into moulds, made of a composition of plaster (gesso), bone-ash and marble dust. In the latter way all shapes that were not circular were made, as well as those with heavy bosses or gadroons imitated from embossed metal forms. It is interesting, though not surprising, to note that for the fine later wares, the roughly thrown vases, when sufficiently dry, were recentred on the wheel or were placed in a joiner’s lathe and smoothed to a clean and accurate surface. The Greek potters did the same, and this practice must always be followed where fine painting or gilding is afterwards to be applied. In the later florid vases of the Urbino style the piece was built up of thrown parts and moulded parts (handles, masks, spouts, &c.), luted together with slip when they were dry enough to be safely handled, and then retouched by the modeller or vase-maker, a method followed to this day for elaborate pieces of pottery or porcelain.3. The Glaze.—The white enamel which formed at first both the glaze and the ground for painting upon—bianco, as it was called—was prepared in a complicated way. A clear potash glass (marzacotto) was made by melting together clean siliceous sand (rena) and the potash salt left as the lees of wine (feccia). This corresponds to the alkaline glaze of the Egyptians with the substitution of potash for soda. Such a glaze alone would have been useless to the Italian potter, and accordingly the bianco was made by melting together
|Rhodian or Turkish: 16th century.||Syro-Persian: 13th century.|
|Rhodian or Turkish: 16th century.||Rhodian or Turkish: 16th century.|
|Damascus: 16th century.||Persian, lustre and underglaze colour: 13th century.|
4. Pigments (colori) were compounded from metallic oxides or earths; the yellow, from antimoniate of lead, which was mixed with oxide of iron to give orange; the green, from oxide of copper (the turquoise tint given to the Egyptian and Syrian glazes by oxide of copper is impossible with a glaze of lead and tin); and the greens were made by mixing oxide of copper with oxide of antimony or oxide of iron; blue, from oxide of cobalt, used in the form of a blue glass (smalto, or zaffara); brownish-purple, from manganese; black, from mixtures of the other colours; and the rare red, or reddish brown, of Faenza and Cafaggiolo was probably the same Armenian bole that was used so magnificently by the makers of the Turkish pottery, but on the white enamel ground this colour was most treacherous and uncertain. It must be remembered that many of these colours owe their tint to the lead used in their composition, or to the grounds containing oxides of lead and tin on which they were painted. Piccolpasso describes the preparation and composition of the various colours used in his day.
5. Coperta, or transparent glaze. In the later majolica a thin coating of soft rich glaze was applied over the fired painting to give a smooth bright surface. This coperta was a soft lead glass consisting of silica (sand), 20 parts; oxide of lead, 17 parts; potash, 12 parts; and common salt, 8 parts; fused together and then finely ground in water.
6. Methods of Glazing and Decorating.—In the mezza-majolica and the early majolica it is probable that the clay vessel was dipped in the white bath to give it an envelope (invetriatura) before it was fired at all; but it must soon have become apparent that it was much better to fire first the shaped vessel until it was about as hard and brittle as a clay tobacco-pipe, and then coat it with the white enamel, by dipping it into a bath or pouring the fluid material upon it. This was the practice described by Piccolpasso. A coating of white enamel, the thickness of glove leather, having been obtained, the piece was carefully taken by the painter, who first etched in the outline on the absorbent powdery ground, and then shaded the figures, landscapes, &c., in blue or in a mixture of blue and yellow, adding the other colours as gradated washes. The vase was then fired a second time to a heat greater than the first, so that the enamel was melted on the vessel and the colours sunk into the enamel at one and the same operation. This method of painting on the unbaked enamel demanded a bold direct treatment—for alteration or retouching was impossible—and much of the vigour of the earlier designs is due to this fact. As the ware became more refined in its treatment it was felt that this method did not yield a sufficiently brilliant surface, and so the painted and fired piece was coated with a film of coperta and fired again at a slightly lower temperature to make it smoother and more glossy. Still pursued by the idea of rivalling the triumphs of pictorial art, the majolist carried his methods a step farther. The white enamel coating was fired before painting, giving a glossy surface on which the painter could draw or wipe out, and so could execute outlining, tinting, or shading of the utmost delicacy. A film of coperta was then washed over the painting, and the piece was fired a third time in the cooler parts of the kiln. In some instances it is not easy even for an experienced potter to decide which method has been pursued, owing to the softening of the colours. Generally we should expect that the later and more pictorial pieces had been painted on a ground of fired white enamel, and we may be absolutely certain when delicate white patterns have been “picked out” in a coloured ground.
Where lustre decoration has been added to a piece of majolica it indicates, as elsewhere, the use of a special process, and a final firing at a lower heat. The lustre pigments were the same as those used on the earlier lustred wares, and these were painted over an otherwise finished piece. To obtain the lustre effect these were placed in a special kiln, so contrived that when the pots were just visibly red the smoke of the burning fuel (rosemary or gorse) was allowed to play upon them long enough to drive the metallic films (silver or copper) into the already-fired glaze.
Collections.—The Victoria and Albert Museum contains perhaps the most widely representative collection in the world, especially as at the present time the pieces of the Salting and Pierpont Morgan collections are on exhibition there. The British Museum collection is valuable, being rich in “signed” pieces of the first quality. The Wallace collection and the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford (Fortnum collection, &c.) are also valuable and contain some remarkable examples. The Cluny Museum, the Louvre and the museum at Sèvres have fine collections; while noteworthy pieces are to be found in the Ceramic Museum at Limoges. In Germany the museum at Brunswick contains one of the largest collections known, but many inferior and doubtful examples. Berlin, Munich, Vienna and St Petersburg have noteworthy collections. In Italy, the Bargello at Florence and the museums of Venice, Milan, Turin, Faenza, Pesaro, Urbino, Rome and Naples all have collections, whilst interesting examples of local manufactures are to be found in many of the smaller Italian towns. The American museums, especially those in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, have some fine examples.
Literature.—F. Argnani, La Ceramiche et maioliche faentine (Faenza, 1889 and 1903); D. Bonghi, Intorno alle Majoliche di Castelli (Naples, 1856); Professor Douglas, “Siena,” in the Nineteenth Century, September 1900; Hensel, Essai sur la majolique (Paris, 1836); G. I. Montanari, Majoliche dipinte nella collezione del N. S. C. Domenico Mazza (Pesaro, 1836); L. Frati, Di un insigna raccolta di majoliche (Bologna, 1844); also Di un pavimento in majolica (Bologna, 1853); J. C. Robinson, Italian Sculpture of the Middle Ages (London, 1862); E. Darcel, Musée du Louvre: Notice des faïences peintes; Drury E. Fortnum, Contribution to the History of Pottery (London, 1868); Delange, Recueil de faïences italiennes du XVe au XVIIe siècle (Paris, 1869); M. Meurer, Italienische Maiolika Fliesen (Berlin); E. Molinier, Les Majoliques italiennes en Italie (Paris, 1883), also La Céramique italienne au XVe siècle (Paris, 1888); C. Piccolpasso, I tre libri dell’ arte del Vasajo, Castel Durante 1548 (original MS.) and translations by C. Popelyn, Paris, 1841 and 1860, also Italian editions of Rome and Milan; V. Lazari, Notizia della raccolta Correr (Venice, 1859); Drury E. Fortnum, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Majolica in the South Kensington Museum (London, 1873); Beckwith, Majolica and Faience (New York, 1877); G. Corona, La Ceramica (Milan, 1878); G. Vanzolini, Istoria delle fabbriche di majoliche metaurensi (Pesaro, 1879); A. Genolini, Majoliche italiane (Milan, 1881); Mely, La Céramique italienne (Paris, 1884); J. E. Jacobsthal, Süd-italienische Fliesen (Berlin, 1886); Bertolotti, Figulini, fonditori, e scultori (Milan, 1890); H. Wallis, Italian Ceramic Art (1897), The Oriental Influence on the Ceramic Art of the Italian Renaissance (1900), The Art of the Precursors (1901), The Majolica Pavements of the Fifteenth Century (1902), Oak-leaf Jars: A Fifteenth Century Italian Ware (1903), The Albarello (1904), also Seventeen Plates by Nicola Fontana (1905), and Italian Ceramic Art: Figure Designs (1905); Tesorone, L’Antico Pavimento delle Logge di Raffaello in Vaticano (Naples, 1891); Columba, Il “Quos Ego” di Raffaello (Palermo, 1895); Drury E. Fortnum, Majolica (London, 1896); also Fortnum Collection in the Oxford Museum (London, 1896); O. von Falke, Majolika (Berlin, 1896); also Sammlung R. Zschille: Katalog der italienischen Majoliken (Leipzig, 1899); Antaldi Santinelli, Museo di Pesaro (Pesaro, 1897); De Mauri, L’Amatore di Majolica (Milan, 1898); E. Hannover, De Spanske-Mauriske, og de forste Italienske Fayence (Copenhagen, 1906). (R. L. H.; W. B.*)
French Pottery from the 15th to the 19th Century
The pottery of medieval France needs little attention here, for it was, in the main, similar to that which was made generally in Europe—rudely shaped vessels of ordinary clay often decorated with modelled ornament and glazed with yellow or brown lead glaze, or, if coated with white slip, decorated with bright green glazes, and towards the end of the 15th century with greyish blue. The later specimens of this simple ware—pronouncedly Gothic in feeling—were often extremely decorative. Avignon, Beauvais and Savigny are the best-known centres of this truly national manufacture, and, as we might expect in French work, the reliefs are often sharp and well designed. Evidence accumulates that from time to time the princes and great nobles imported Spanish or Italian workmen to make special tiles for the decoration of their palaces or chapels. The duke of Burgundy brought Jehan de Moustiers and Jehan-le-Voleur, “ouvriers en quarrieaux peints et jolis,” in 1391, to paint tiles for his palaces at Hesdin and Arras in the north, and we have already referred to the tile-work in the Spanish fashion made at Poitiers by John of Valencia, the “Saracen,” in 1384 for Duke Jean de Berry. Other instances might be multiplied but that this foreign work left little or no traces on contemporary French pottery. Even at a later date, when Francis I. brought Girolamo della Robbia from Italy to decorate his “Petit Château de Madrid” in 1529, or when Masseot Abaquesne, about 1542, manufactured at Rouen the painted tile pavements for the château of Ecouen, the cathedral of Langres, and other places, nothing came of the imported methods; the works were executed and left no traces on the general pottery of the country. During the 16th century, however, two remarkable kinds of pottery were made in France of distinctive quality, and both eminently French—the Henri-Deux ware and the pottery of Bernard Palissy and his imitators.
Henri-Deux, Oiron or St Porchaire ware, for all these names have in turn been applied to the enigmatic and wonderful pottery, specimens of which are now valued at more than their weight in gold, was once believed to have been made by the librarian Bernard, and his assistant Charpentier, for their patroness Helène de Hangest about 1529 at her château at Oiron, near Thouars.
Fig. 48.—Tazza of Oiron pottery. (Louvre.)
Oiron Potter’s mark.
A few years ago this theory was discarded in favour of one which assigned them to some unknown potter of St Porchaire in the same region; but even of this theory there is insufficient proof, and we are left in doubt both as to the maker and the place of origin. All we know is that the ware dates from the reign of Henry II., and that it was probably made somewhere near Oiron, as most of the specimens have been found in that district. The work is sui generis, for it had no direct ancestry, neither did it leave any mark on contemporary French pottery. Sixty-five pieces of the ware (see fig. 48) are known to be in museums and private collections; the Louvre and the Victoria and Albert Museum have the best collections of their kinds, but the Rothschilds still hold the greater number of examples. The ware is fashioned in a simple whitish pipeclay, and ornamented with interlacing strap-work patterns, typical of the period, inlaid in yellow, buff or dark-brown clay. The forms are generally graceful, but some examples are over-elaborate and overloaded with modelled ornament. The pieces were designed to serve as candlesticks, salt-cellars, tazzas, ewers, holy-water pots and dishes. After the vessels had been “thrown” and “turned” to a perfect shape, metal tools, such as were used by the bookbinders and casemakers of that day, were pressed into the clay, so as to form sunk cells of ornamental tooling. These cells were carefully filled with finely-prepared slips of other clays, that would burn yellow, buff or dark-brown; and when the whole was dry the piece was carefully smoothed again, and moulded reliefs were attached, or touches of colour were applied. After being fired the ware was glazed, apparently with the ordinary lead glaze of the time carefully prepared and fired again. At a later period the ornament was not inlaid in this elaborate manner, but was simply painted, as indeed it might all have been so far as decorative effect is concerned.
Palissy Ware.—Bernard Palissy was a genius of original talent, but, at the hands of his literary admirers, he has gained a legendary rank as one of the great potters of the world which his pottery does not warrant. He is supposed to have spent sixteen years in the search for the white enamel which was being used all the time in Italy and Spain—probably he was searching for the mystery of Chinese porcelain—and when he settled down to make the “Palissy ware,” he did nothing more than carry to perfection the methods of the village pot-makers of his own district. On a hard-fired red clay he disposed groups of moulded plants, shells, fish and reptiles, painted them with crude green, brown and yellow colours, and glazed the whole with a well-prepared lead glaze. His style soon had numerous imitators, like A. Cléricy and B. de Blémont, who executed works quite as good as those of their master; but their works also vanished and left no permanent impression on the general trend of French pottery.
Meantime Italian, and, it may be, Spanish potters strayed over the French border and attempted to introduce the manufacture of their tin-enamelled wares; for we know of the works of Gambin and Tardessir of Faenza, established at Lyons about 1556; of Sigalon at Nîmes in 1548; of Jehan Ferro at Nantes about 1580, and other sporadic efforts. The needed impetus came, however, when the Mantuan duke, Louis de Gonzague, became duke of Nevers in 1565; and we find Italian majolists, working under princely patronage, planting their decadent art in the centre of France. The first efforts met with little success until, with the appearance of the Conrades from Savona, who were domiciled in Nevers in 1602, we get the genuine ware of Nevers. Naturally the first productions, whether of the Conrades or their predecessors, were in the style of the debased majolica of Savona, but the body and glaze of the ware is harder, the colours are not so rich, and the execution is less spirited. The first departure from Italian traditions is seen in the ware of the so-called “Persian style” of Nevers—probably adopted from contemporary work in Limoges enamels on metal—where conventional and fanciful designs of flowers and foliage, birds, animals or figures were thickly raised in white enamel on a ground of bright, intense cobalt-blue glaze. After the middle of the 17th century the Italian style of design appears to have been entirely replaced by pseudo-oriental patterns painted in blue or in polychrome, but really imitated from the “Delft” copies of Chinese and Japanese porcelain. When Rouen and Moustiers became famous for their distinctive wares Nevers copied their designs also, and on a gradually descending scale the manufacture continued to the end of the 18th century, when France was flooded with the rude Faiences patriotiques from this centre.
Fig. 49.—Dish of Rouen enamelled pottery, painted in blues and deep red.
The genuine French tin-enamelled ware, freed from the traces of Italian influence, first developed itself at Rouen under the famous Poterats in the later part of the 17th century. A new scheme of ornamentation was gradually evolved in the daintily-designed scalloped and radiating patterns adapted from oriental fabrics, lace and needlework, and from the ornamental devices of contemporary printers. These designs, having been skilfully drawn on the pieces, were filled in with bright blue, strong yellow, light green, or a bright bricky-red in palpable relief, applied as flat washes or in fine lines; and the result was a gay and sparkling ware much superior in decorative value to the later Italian majolicas (see fig. 49). So successful was this Rouen ware that rival factories were quickly started at Saint Cloud, Sinceny, Quimper, Lille, and other places in the north. Saint Cloud and Lille made fine pottery of this class at the end of the 17th and in the early 18th century. It was imitated at Nevers, the potters’ marks shown being those of J. Bourdu and H. Borne. In the south of France, Pierre Clérissy established the industry at Moustiers in 1686, and, though the early Moustiers ware bears a strong resemblance to the debased Italian majolica of the time, the Moustiers painters soon left that behind, and on a glaze of inimitable whiteness and softness they deftly pencilled blue patterns based on the engravings of designs after Berain, Marot and Toro. At a later date Olerys, who had been to Alcora to introduce the French faience into Spain, returned to Moustiers and introduced a pale polychrome style very inferior to that of Rouen. These pieces are covered with patterns outlined in blue and filled in with yellow, pale green and light purple. Olerys is also said to have introduced the grotesque style of Moustiers, founded on the caricatures of Callot. Other factories were started from Moustiers, such as those at Apt, Ardus and Montauban, and even at Narbonne, Bordeaux and Clermont-Ferrand; just as the northern factories had sprung from Rouen.
|Nevers Potters’ marks.|
We have already seen at Nevers the introduction of patterns in the Chinese style, and the same course was increasingly followed at all the French factories during the 18th century. At Strassburg a fresh impetus was given in this direction when, about 1721, Charles Hannong introduced the practice of painting his white tin-enamelled ware with the on-glaze colours used by the porcelain painters. This process enabled the French potter to produce many colours unobtainable by his older process, and moreover helped him to make his wares look more like the coveted porcelain, then becoming the rage all over Europe. This new departure marks the end of the best period of French faience, but so successfully did it meet the demands of the time that it gradually displaced the old method of decoration where the colours were painted on the raw glaze and fired along with it. Factories sprang up for the manufacture of this new ware in the first half of the 18th century at Niederviller, Lunéville and Sceaux, and it was quickly adopted by the older factories at Rouen, Sinceny, Marseilles, &c. With its general adoption the old French faience, developed from the Italian stock, departed, to make way for a tin-enamelled imitation of famille-rose porcelain. But this last style was not of long life. The wealthy classes were no longer patrons of pottery but of porcelain, and when, after 1786, the newly perfected English earthenware was thrown upon the French market, the French faience-makers had to give up their works, or adopt the manufacture of this neater and, for domestic purposes, more suitable form of pottery. This change, together with the disturbances of revolutionary times, brought artistic pottery in France to a standstill, and we shall treat of its revival during the last forty or fifty years in a subsequent section.
Collections.—The Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum contain typical examples; but not such collections as are to be seen in the Cluny Museum, the Louvre, the museum at Sèvres, or the French provincial museums at Rouen, Limoges, Marseilles, Lille, St Omer, &c.
Literature.—Deck, La Faience (Paris, 1887); Gasnault and Garnier, French Pottery (Victoria and Albert Museum Handbooks, 1884); Le Breton, Le Musée céramique de Rouen (Rouen, 1883); Milet, (?) Historique de la faience et de la porcelaine de Rouen (Rouen, 1898); Pottier, Histoire de la faience de Rouen (Amiens, 1870); L’Abbé H. Requin, Histoire de la faience artistique de Moustiers, tome Ier (Paris, 1903); M. L. Solon, The Old French Faience (London, 1903)—the best survey of the whole subject, with a very full bibliography. The various volumes of the Gazette des beaux-arts contain many valuable original articles. (W. B.*)
German, Dutch and Scandinavian Pottery
In northern Europe until the time of the Renaissance the making of tiles is the only branch of the potter’s craft of artistic rank. The pavement tiles of Germany of the Gothic period, examples of which have been found in the valley of the Rhine from Constance to Cologne, often bear designs of foliage or grotesque animals full of character and spirit. Their decoration is effected either by impression with a stamp of wood or clay, or by “pressing” the tile in a mould to produce a design in relief. The surface is sometimes protected by a lead glaze—green, brown or yellow—but is generally left unglazed.
Glazed tiles with relief ornament were also made as early as the 14th century for the construction of stoves, such as have continued in use in Germany to the present day. About 1500 a development took place in the combination of glazes of different colours on a single tile. In the middle of the 16th century Renaissance ornament appears in place of Gothic canopies and tracery, and blue and white enamels begin to be used in combination with lead glazes of other colours. Figures in the costume of the period, or shields of arms, in round-arched niches are a favourite motive alike in the stove tiles and in the wares of similar technique known as Hafnergefässe, which have been wrongly attributed to Hirsvogel of Nuremberg. These were made not only in that city but also in Silesia and at Salzburg, Steyr, and elsewhere in Upper Austria; their manufacture continued into the 18th century.
Imitations of Italian majolica with polychrome painting on a white enamelled ground were first made in southern Germany about 1525, and it is with these wares that the name of Hirsvogel should really be associated. The same style survived for more than a century and a half in the stoves and pottery made by the Pfau family at Winterthur in Switzerland, from the end of the 16th century onwards. An interesting development is exhibited by certain rare productions, of Silesian origin, dating from about 1550, with decorations in coloured enamels which are prevented from flowing together by a strong outline incised in the clay.
Stoneware.—The most important feature of the history of German pottery is the development of stoneware along the valley of the Rhine. This ware is of a highly refractory white or grey body of intense hardness, glazed by the introduction of salt into the kiln when the highest temperature was reached. It was exported in large quantities through the markets of Cologne and Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) to England, France and other parts of northern Europe. The frequent occurrence in its decoration of the arms of foreign cities and princes shows that the German potters were alive to the requirements of foreign customers.
The oldest centre of this manufacture seems to have been at Siegburg near Coblenz, where the white stoneware peculiar to the neighbourhood, made from local clay, must have been made and exported in considerable quantities at least as early as the 15th century; plain beer-jugs of that date with cylindrical neck and slightly swelling body have been unearthed in London and the eastern counties of England. In the 16th century an artistic development took place, and the potters were formed into an exclusive gild under stringent regulations. The manufacture lasted till the sack of the town by the Swedes in 1632, subsequent attempts to re-establish it being unsuccessful. This ware, of a creamy white colour, generally thinly glazed and only rarely coloured by staining with cobalt blue, is decorated by impression with small stamps or by the application of reliefs pressed from separate moulds. The motives include sacred and classical figure subjects, portraits of contemporary sovereigns, and armorial bearings, with accessory foliage in which a survival of Gothic feeling is often perceptible. Characteristic forms are the high tankard (Schnelle) and the ewer with long spout (Schnabelkrug), but the fancy of the potter also found expression in various quaint or extravagant forms.
At Raeren in the duchy of Limburg this industry attained importance about 1550, and was continued for over seventy years; 1539 is the earliest date known to occur on this ware. The pieces were of two kinds, brown-glazed and grey; the latter usually decorated with blue. The favourite form is a baluster-shaped jug with heraldic designs or a frieze of figures round the middle. The subjects are from Scripture history or contemporary peasant life as interpreted by Hans Sebald Beham and the German and French “Little Masters.” Examples are known bearing dates and names or initials of mould-cutters, among them Ian Emens and Baldem Mennicken; but it must not always be inferred that a piece is as old as the date introduced in its decoration, for the same set of moulds might be used for many years.
Another important centre in the 16th century was at Frechen near Cologne. Round-bellied jugs known as Bartmänner, from the bearded mask applied in front of the neck, covered with a brown glaze, which in later examples is often coagulated into thick spots, were first made here towards the end of the 15th century, and continued to be the staple product well into the 17th. The jugs of this type, known as Greybeards or Bellarmines, which were exported in profusion to England, Scandinavia and the Low Countries, were mostly made here. At Cologne itself there were also factories, probably before the 16th century, the later productions of which resemble those of Frechen.
During the 17th and 18th centuries the busiest stoneware centre was the district surrounding Höhr-Grenzhausen in Nassau known as the Kannebäckerländchen, where artistic ware was being made before 1600. Soon after that date manganese purple was first used in the decoration in addition to cobalt blue, and henceforward colour in combination with impressed and incised ornament tended more and more to supersede decoration in relief. Figure subjects gave place to rosettes, foliage on wavy stems, and geometrical patterns. Vessels of large size and fantastic shape appear beside the standard forms of the earlier factories. In the 18th century the forms of beer-vessels became stereotyped in the globular jug with cylindrical neck and the cylindrical tankard, while tea and coffee pots, inkstands and other vessels, hitherto unknown, began to be made. A stoneware manufacture dating back to the middle ages existed at Creussen in Bavaria. The productions of this district during the 17th and 18th centuries consist of tankards of squat shape, jugs and jars, of a dark red body, covered with a lustrous dark brown glaze, frequently painted after the first firing in brilliant enamel colours with figures of the Apostles, the electors of the Empire, or other oft-repeated motives. Imitations of the wares of Raeren and Grenzhausen were made at Bouffioulx near Charleroi; other minor centres of the manufacture were at Meckenheim near Cologne and Bunzlau in Silesia.
As in England, so in Holland (by Ary de Milde and certain Delft potters) and in Germany, attempts were made with some success, early in the 18th century, to imitate the Chinese red stoneware, known as boccaros. The early efforts of Böttger, the discoverer of the secret of true porcelain, at Meissen, belong to this category. His red ware is of such hardness that it was cut and polished on the lapidary’s wheel. For some time after the manufacture of red ware at Meissen had ceased, a glazed brown ware of less hard body with gilt or silver decoration was made at Bayreuth. The products of other minor factories of this class cannot now be identified.
Mention may be made of the lead-glazed peasant pottery, such as the bowls produced at Marburg with quaint symbolical devices modelled in relief and applied. Slip-covered wares with graffiato decoration, apparently of indigenous growth and not inspired by foreign examples, were made well on into the 19th century near Crefeld and elsewhere in Germany, at Langnau in Switzerland, and by German emigrants in Pennsylvania. In Holland a peculiar green-glazed ware was made in the 18th century with pierced geometrical decoration recalling the Dutch carved woodwork of the period.
Delft.—One of the most remarkable phenomena in the history of pottery is the appearance about 1600, in a highly developed state, of the manufacture of a tin-enamelled earthenware at Delft. It was introduced in that town by Herman Pietersz of Haarlem, but whence he learned his art is unknown. The faience-makers (plateelbackers) were one of the eight crafts of Delft which formed the Gild of St Luke founded in 1611. About 1650 a great development took place, and till the latter years of the 18th century, when its faience was ousted by the more serviceable wares of the English potteries, Delft remained the most important centre of ceramic industry in northern Europe. The ware is of fine buff-coloured clay, dipped after the first firing in a white tin-enamel, which formed the ground for painted decoration; after painting, this was covered with a transparent lead glaze and fired a second time, so that in its technique it belongs to the same class as the painted Italian majolica and the old French faience. At its best it is rightly ranked among the greatest achievements of the potter’s art.
Characteristic of the first period are dishes and plaques in blue monochrome with somewhat overcrowded scenes of popular life in the style of the engravings of Goltzius. Imitations of the oriental porcelain imported by the Dutch East India Company were introduced about 1650 by Aelbregt de Keizer and continued for some time among the finest productions. At the same time the earlier tradition was developed in the finely painted landscapes and portraits of Abraham de Kooge and Frederick van Frytom. Other potters of the best period were Lambartus van Eenhorn and Louwys Fictoor, makers of the large reeded vases with Chinese floral designs in polychrome, Augestyn Reygens, Adriaen Pynacker, and Lucas van Dale; to the last are attributed the pieces with yellow decoration on an olive-green enamel ground. The rare examples with polychrome decoration on a black ground in imitation of Chinese lacquer are the work of Fictoor and Pynacker. With the 18th century came a largely increased demand and a consequent deterioration in artistic quality. The rise of the German porcelain factories had its effect in the introduction of overglaze painting fired in a muffle kiln, typified by the work of the Dextras, father and son. This innovation, by which the Delft potters attempted to compete with European porcelain, contributed to the ruin of their art by eliminating the skilled touch required for painting on the unfired enamel. The ware frequently, but not invariably, bears a mark derived from the sign of the factory (the rose, the peacock, the three bells, &c.), or the name or initials of its proprietor.
A small faience factory was started by Jan van Kerkhoff about 1755 at Arnhem; its productions were of good quality, chiefly in the rococo style, marked with a cock.
The exportation of the Delft ware to Germany occasioned the rise of numerous factories in that country for making faience in imitation of the Dutch. Among these may be named Hanau (founded about 1670), Frankfort and Cassel. Others, such as Kiel and Stralsund, drew their inspiration from the productions of Marseilles and Strassburg (q.v.). At Nuremberg a factory was founded in 1712, which was but little affected by extraneous influences; among its characteristic productions are dishes with sunk decoration in the form of a star, and jugs with long necks and pear-shaped bodies, often spirally fluted. Similar wares were made at Bayreuth. The Dutch and French styles were carried by German potters into Scandinavia; factories were established at Copenhagen in 1722, at Rörstrand and Marieberg near Stockholm in 1728 and 1758, and at Herrebøe in Norway about 1759.
At the close of the 18th century the influence of imported English earthenware was strongly felt. In Holland workshops were established for painting the English cream-coloured ware with subjects suited to the Dutch taste; and in Germany cream-coloured wares and steingut in imitation of Wedgwood’s productions were manufactured at Cassel, Proskau and elsewhere. The “Delft” ware of Holland during the 17th century was a beautiful decorative ware, in which the Dutch painters caught successfully the spirit, and often the very colour value, of Chinese blue and white porcelain. Its fame spread over the whole of Europe, and its styles were readily imitated by the potters of all other countries who made a similar ware. Even the polychrome Delft, though not nearly so beautiful as the “blue and white,” is strongly decorative, and one sees in the polychrome faience of northern France and of Germany more than a trace of its influence. When this ware was supplanted by English earthenware it was a clear instance of a ware that was technically superior displacing a more artistic product.
|Calaggiolo: 16th century.||Faenza. Casa Pirota, 1525.|
|Urbino. Decorated by Orario Fontana.|
|Urbino. 1525 (?).
A plate of the famous Gonzaga Este service.
|Faenza: early 15th century.|
Collections.—For German wares the German museums are naturally best. The museums at Munich and Nuremberg contain splendid collections of the tin-enamelled and peasant wares of South Germany. Cologne has a wonderful collection of the Rhenish stoneware, and Berlin and Hamburg have good general collections. Copenhagen and Stockholm are especially good for Scandinavian wares, and Zürich for Swiss. There are also good collections of German stoneware in the Victoria and Albert and the British museums, and in the Cluny Museum, the Louvre, and the museum at Sèvres; but there are no notable collections of the German tin-enamelled wares out of Germany. The wares of Delft may be best studied in the museums at the Hague and Amsterdam. There is an interesting collection at the factory of Thooft and Labouchère in Delft. The principal museums in England, France and Germany all have fair to good collections of this renowned ware.
Literature.—For tiles and peasant pottery, see Forrer, Geschichte der europäischen Fliesen-Keramik (Strassburg, 1900; chapters on the Netherlands and Germany); Walcher von Molthein, Bunte Hafnerkeramik der Renaissance in Österreich ob der Enns und Salzburg (Vienna, 1906); Hafner, Das Hafnerhandwerk und die alten Öfen in Winterthur (Winterthur, 1876–1877); Barber, Tulip-ware of the Pennsylvania German Potters (Philadelphia, 1903). For stoneware, see Solon, The Ancient Art Stoneware of the Low Countries and Germany (London, 1892); Van Bastelaer, Les Grès wallons (Mons, 1885). For Böttger’s red ware, see Berling, Das Meissner Porzellan (Leipzig, 1900), chap. iii. For Dutch faience, see Havard, Histoire de la faïence de Delft (Paris, 1878), and article by same author on “La Faïence d’Arnhem” in Gazette des beaux-arts, 2nd series, vol. xx. (1879). For German faience, see von Falke, Majolika (Berlin, 1896), and articles by Stieda, “Deutsche Fayencefabriken des 18. Jahrhunderts,” in Keramische Monatshefte, vols. ii. and iii. For Scandinavian pottery, see Nyrop, Danske Fajence og Porcellainsmaerker (Copenhagen, 1881); Stråle, Rörstrand et Marieberg (Stockholm, 1872); Grosch, Herrebøe-Fayencer (Christiania, 1901). Excellent accounts of most branches of the subjects are given by Brinckmann, Das hamburgische Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe (Hamburg, 1894).
Later Wares of Spain and Portugal
We shall only deal at length here with those important kinds of pottery that have exerted real influence on the historical development of the art. Offshoots from the main stem that have developed little or no individuality can only be briefly mentioned. When the characteristic Spanish-Moorish lustre wares ceased to be desired by the wealthy they rapidly sank into insignificance, though as a decorative peasant pottery their manufacture never really ceased and has been revived again in our day. The course of pottery importation was changed and the now fashionable Italian majolica was brought into Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries, as Hispano-Moresque wares had followed the opposite course two centuries earlier. Besides the influence which these imported wares had on the Spanish potters, a number of wandering Italian majolists found their way into Spain, so that we find the use of painted colour, particularly blue, yellow, orange, green and purple, making its appearance at various centres, around Valencia, at Triana near Seville, &c., but the most important manufacture was at Talavera in the centre of the peninsula. The best of this ware recalls the late Italian majolica of Savona, and the influence of Chinese porcelain designs, probably filtered through to the Spanish potters by the then popular enamelled Delft wares, is very apparent. The potteries of Talavera are mentioned as early as 1560, and they continued at work, with varying fortunes, down to the end of the 18th century. Many and varied wares were produced, including tiles as well as pottery; the most common pottery pieces are dishes, bowls, vases, tinajas, holy-water vessels, drug-pots, and hanging flower vases, together with moulded and painted snails, owls, dogs, oranges, almonds, walnuts, and every kind of fruit. Apart from the poorer colour the baroque style of ornament also rendered the ware much inferior to that of Italy or of France. The popular Talavera wares were imitated elsewhere in Spain, and a number of factories existed at Toledo in the 17th century, but their wares are very inferior. In the 18th century, besides debased imitations of this ware, some coarse but striking pottery was made at Puente del Arzobispo near Toledo.
An interesting offshoot from the Talavera potteries is to be found in the tin-enamelled wares made at Puebla, Mexico, from the early 17th century. It is said that Spanish potters were settled at this place by the Dominicans soon after 1600; and the making of a debased form of Spanish majolica continued there for nearly two centuries. See Barber’s “Tin-Enamelled Pottery,” Bulletin of the Philadelphia Museum, 1907. During the 18th century determined efforts were made by King Charles III. and by the famous Count Aranda to improve the Spanish pottery wares, as well as to introduce the manufacture of porcelain. The efforts of the king led to the foundation of the porcelain works at Buen Retiro near Madrid, which will be mentioned later, and considerable success also attended the revival of strong copper lustre, like that of the late Hispano-Moresque wares; but the finest tin-enamelled wares were those made at Alcora in the important factory founded by Count Aranda in 1726, which continued in operation down to the French wars. For his purposes the count brought from Moustiers, then one of the famous French pottery centres (see above), Joseph Olerys, a well-known pot-painter. He went to Alcora as chief draughtsman and designer, having charge of a number of Spanish potters and painters. Olerys introduced the Moustiers style of decoration, and the glaze and body of the Alcora wares of the best period recall the fine quality of Moustiers faience. It is only fair to add that Olerys in his turn learnt the use of various delicate yellow and green colours from the Spaniards, and when he returned to France in 1737, having acquitted himself most honourably, he introduced this new style of delicate polychrome decoration at Moustiers. The mixture of motives and ideas that animated the duke and his potters may be seen by the following list of wares produced about 1750. Vases of different shapes; small teapots; teapots and covers, Chinese fashion; teapots and covers, Dutch fashion; cruets, Chinese style; entrée dishes; salt-cellars, Chinese style; escudillas (bowls) of Constantinople; barquillos (sauce-bowls), Chinese style; cups, plates, and saucers of different kinds with good painted borders in imitation of lace-work, and finally fruit-stands, salad-bowls and dishes, trays and refrigerators. Later in the century the manufacture of porcelain was introduced here, as well as white earthenware made in imitation of the productions of Wedgwood, and the tin-enamelled wares flickered out in Spain as they did elsewhere.
The manufacture of a kind of debased majolica was also practised in Portugal from the 16th century down to our own times; but the ware never attained to any distinction and is little known outside that country. The best-known specimens were made at Rato, near Lisbon, where a factory was founded in 1767 under the patronage of the court.
Mention must be made of the unglazed native pottery of Spain and Portugal, for wine-jars, water-jars and bottles, cooking pots, and other domestic utensils are still made in these countries for ordinary domestic use, in traditional forms and by methods of the most primitive kind. Many of these vessels, especially the tinajas (wine-jars) and water-coolers, are based on ancient, classical or Arab forms, and in every country market-place it is still common to see groups of vessels, in unglazed pottery of fine shape and finish, exposed for sale—a very different state of things from what obtains in France, Germany, and particularly in England, where the primitive methods of the peasant are being imitated by those who ought to know better. From the 16th to the 18th century a special kind of unglazed pottery vessels known as buccaros was extensively made both in Spain and Portugal. The body of the ware is unglazed, whitish, black or red, according to the special kind of clay. The curious point about this ware is that, if we may believe contemporary documents, the vessels were delicately scented, like a ware imported from Mexico; and the soft vessels are said to have been eaten—a custom common enough in certain parts of Central and Southern America. (See M. L. Solon, The Noble Buccaros, 1896.) (W. B.*)
English Pottery from the 16th to the 19th Century
The course of pottery manufacture in England followed, generally rather in the rear, that of France, Germany and other northern countries. Before the coming of the Romans much pottery of the late Stone age and the Bronze age was made in Britain. The Romans introduced their more advanced technique, and, besides importing Italian and Gaulish pottery, they founded numerous centres of pottery manufacture, as at Upchurch, Castor, Uriconium, &c. With the departure of the Roman legions their simple, yet comparatively advanced, pottery vanished, and Saxon and early Norman times have left us little but wares resembling those of the Germanic and Frankish productions (fig. 50). The early middle ages passed without much improvement, and, though rare specimens—like the ewer in the form of a mounted knight in Salisbury Museum—proved that glazed wares were made in this country, the general run of our medieval pottery vessels never soared above the skill of the travelling brick or tile maker. The monastic tile-makers, with their strong, Gothic tile pavements, produced artistic work of a very high order; but the patrons of the common potter remained content with his rudely made and simply glazed pitchers, flagons, dishes and mugs (see fig. 51). Even in the 16th century the excellence of English pewter probably acted as a barrier to the introduction of finer pottery, and it was only the importation of foreign wares—Italian, German, Dutch and French—that stirred up our native clay-workers to the possibilities of their art. In early Tudor times there was some importation of Italian majolica as well as of the Hispano-Moresque pieces, and the religious wars as well as the constant intercourse with the Low Countries brought over to the eastern counties not only the stonewares of the Rhineland and the “Delft” wares of Holland, but also emigrant potters from those countries who tried to practise their native crafts amongst us. The Civil War appears to have been unable to check this new spirit, for we have the evidence of dated examples to show that various immigrants went on quietly practising their trade along the Thames side, in what were then the outskirts of London, and probably in the eastern counties and Kent as well. It seems probable that the earliest influence was an Italian one, but before this was firmly domiciled it was supplanted by that of the Dutch and Germans. The first wares of an improved kind that were made in England are so closely related to the German stonewares and the “Delft” wares that it is often difficult to determine whether actual specimens are of English or foreign origin. The first, and in some senses the greatest, of English potters was John Dwight, an educated man, who had held the office of secretary to three successive bishops of Chester, and who obtained a patent in 1671 for the manufacture of certain improved kinds of pottery. We have no knowledge where Dwight acquired his skill in the potter’s art, for when he obtained his patent he was residing at Wigan (Lancashire), far removed from the districts where foreign potters had settled. About 1672–1673 Dwight set up a factory at Fulham, where he resided till his death in 1703. He was always an eager experimenter, and from his diaries it seems certain that he was searching after the, then, mysterious Chinese porcelain. We have no grounds for believing that he ever attained success in this search, for his known productions may be grouped into two main classes: (1) Hard-fired red stoneware—mostly small vessels, teapots, mugs, &c., in imitation of the Chinese buccaros. (2) Whitish, grey, or drab salt-glazed stoneware made in imitation of, and often not to be distinguished from, the wares of the Rhineland. But Dwight produced a considerable number of modelled portrait-busts, statuettes, &c., all in stoneware of various tints, which entitle him to a place in the very first rank of potters. The portrait-bust of Prince Rupert (British Museum), the statuettes of Meleager (British Museum), of Jupiter (Liverpool), &c., are worthy of a sculptor of the Italian Renaissance, while the recumbent effigy of Lydia Dwight (Victoria and Albert Museum) is one of the most beautiful works ever executed by an English potter.
|Fig. 50.—Saxon cinerary urns; the stamped patterns are shown.|
|Fig. 51.—Common forms of medieval pottery; the upper part of the slender jug is covered with a green vitreous lead glaze; the other is unglazed with stripes of red ochre.|
Meantime the manufacture of tin-enamelled pottery, in the style of “Delft,” was prosecuted with increasing industry in London on the south side of the river, and particularly at Lambeth. By the end of the 17th century the same imitation “Delft” wares were made at Bristol and Liverpool, continuing until, in the closing years of the 18th century, tin-enamelled earthenware was abandoned in favour of the perfected English cream-colour. There is a strong family likeness in all this English “Delft,” whether made at Lambeth, Bristol or Liverpool. The body of the ware is harder and denser than in the tin-enamelled wares of the continent, and is not so suitable for its special purpose, as it is generally deficient in lime. The decoration is usually painted in cobalt blue of good tone, though inferior in softness and richness of tint to that of the best Delft pieces; polychrome painting was not so common, and it differs from that of the Dutchmen in the greater prevalence of a pale yellow colour and the general absence of any good red like that found on the polychrome wares of Delft, Rouen, Sic.
German stoneware also received a well-merited share of attention long before the time of Dwight, and it is often impossible to distinguish the grey and brown ale-jugs, greybeards, &c., presumably of English manufacture in the 17th and early 18th centuries, from their German prototypes. Fulham remained an important centre of this manufacture, and a fine brown stoneware was largely made at Nottingham as early as 1700; in each case the manufacture continues in neighbouring districts to this day.
The development of a native English pottery took place in North Staffordshire. A growing community of peasant potters, who manufactured some strongly decorative English wares by very simple means, was established here from the middle of the 17th century. Rudely fashioned dishes, jugs, bottles, &c., were shaped in the local red-burning brick clays, and, while the pieces were still soft, simple but effective decorative patterns were drawn upon them in diluted white clay (slip), trailed on through a quill or from a narrow-spouted vessel. This ancient and world-wide process (for it was used by the Ptolemaic Egyptian, the Roman and the Byzantine potters) has furnished the peasant potters of every European country with characteristic wares, but nowhere was it used with greater skill than in England. The English slip-decorated wares are often spoken of as “Toft ware,” because Thomas Toft, living in what is now Hanley (Staffordshire) boldly signed and dated many of his pieces (1670, &c.); but similar wares were made at Wrotham in Kent, in Derbyshire, Wales and elsewhere. The repute of the Staffordshire district must have spread by the time of the Revolution, for soon after 1690 John Philip Elers, a Dutchman of good family, settled there and began to make a superior pottery to any previously made in the district. Elers is generally described as a great inventor who brought all kinds of knowledge into the district, but the only wares he is known to have made were singularly like those of Dwight, and, quite recently, records of a lawsuit in which Dwight charged Elers and some other Staffordshire potters with suborning his workmen and infringing his patents have been brought to light. It is certain that, from the time of Elers, the Staffordshire potters made great advances in the fabrication of their wares, and during the 18th century they evolved two distinctively English kinds of pottery, (1) the white and drab salt-glaze, (2) English earthenware.
Staffordshire Salt-glaze.—It is uncertain when and how the Staffordshire potters learnt that a highly siliceous pottery could be glazed by throwing common salt into the kiln at the height of the firing, for the practice had originated in the Rhineland more than a century before. Many writers have maintained that the practice was introduced by Elers, but this is uncertain. Early in the 18th century a fine, white, thin, salt-glazed ware was made in Staffordshire, in many quaint and fanciful forms largely influenced by Chinese porcelain—still an object of wonder and mystery. Teapots, coffee-pots, tea-caddies, plates, dishes, bowls, candlesticks, mugs and bottles were made in great variety, and at its best the ware is a dainty and elegant one, so that a brisk trade was developed in the district, and, for the first time, a distinctively English pottery was exported to the continent and to the American colonies.
English Earthenware.—The manufacture of tin-enamelled pottery scarcely obtained a foothold in Staffordshire, but the invention of the white salt-glazed ware paved the way for one of the greatest revolutions in the potter’s art that the world has ever seen. This was nothing less than the abandonment of the ordinary red or buff clays with a coating of white slip or of tin-enamel, and the substitution of a ware white throughout its substance, prepared by mixing selected white-burning clays and finely-ground flint (silica). The change has generally been associated with Wedgwood, most famous of English potters, but he really only perfected, along with his contemporaries, the Warburtons, Turners and others, the work of half a century’s experiment and discovery. The ware compared most favourably, from the point of view of serviceableness, neatness and mechanical finish, with all that had gone before it, and as the tin-enamelled wares had almost everywhere in Europe sunk to the position of domestic crockery—for the Chinese, German, French and English porcelains had displaced it with the wealthy—this better-fashioned and more durable English ware gave it its final death-blow. English earthenware in its various forms was to be met with all over Europe, from London to Moscow, and from Cadiz to Stockholm; and, aided by emigrant English potters, the continental nations soon began a similar manufacture for themselves. Everywhere this great change was encouraged by the growing fondness for mechanical perfection, and it is not without a sigh that a lover of pottery can witness the gradual disappearance of the painted tin-enamelled wares—degenerate survivals though they were of Italian majolica, French faience and Dutch “Delft”—before the unconquerable advance of another form of pottery which in its inception was based on technical rather than artistic qualities, especially as nearly a century passed before the new material was turned to artistic account.
By general consent the name of Josiah Wedgwood has been pre-eminently associated with this great change, and with good reason, for though he had many contemporaries who equalled or even excelled him in certain kinds of pottery, no other potter ever approached him in the range of his products and the varied applications to which he turned the exercise of his remarkable talents. True, he soon abandoned the simple Staffordshire wares, coloured with mottled glazes or clay-slips, to which the names of Astbury or Whieldon are commonly attached, but the varied productions of his factory united the best work of a district fruitful in new kinds of pottery, with something especial to Wedgwood himself. Thus he adopted and improved the green and yellow glazes which had come down from medieval times (see the cauliflower ware piece, Plate X.), and gave a new direction to their use in his green-glazed dessert services, candlesticks, &c. He carried on the manufacture of hard-fired red-clay teapots, mugs, coffee-pots, cream-jugs, &c., introduced by Elers; and, along with his fellow-potters, he invented drab, grey, brown and other colours in similarly hard-fired unglazed bodies. He neither invented nor alone perfected the Staffordshire cream-coloured earthenware, but he made it so well that his “Queen’s ware” was the best of its class. He undoubtedly invented the Jasper ware, in which on grounds of unglazed blue, green, black, &c., white figures and ornamental motives, adapted from the antique by Flaxman, Webber and other sculptors, were applied; and he even attempted to reproduce the painted vases of the Greek decadence in dry colours painted over a hard black body.
Wedgwood’s “Jasper ware,” his most original production (see Plate X.), differed both in nature and composition from all the species of pottery that had preceded it. In an attempt to obtain the qualities of the finest porcelain biscuit, Wedgwood discovered, after years of experiment, that by mixing together a plastic white clay and “cawk” or barytes he could obtain a “body” which might be “thrown” on the wheel or “pressed” in moulds, and which, while it fired to a white and sub-translucent pottery, was capable of being coloured, by the usual metallic oxides, to various shades of blue, green, yellow, lilac and black. The ware resembled “biscuit” porcelain in that it needed no glaze to render it impervious to water, and it thus marked the culmination of those “dry” or unglazed wares that had been so largely made in China, Japan and Europe, where the quality resides in the fired clay material without any adventitious aid from a glaze. The general practice was to make the body of the vessel of a coloured material and to ornament this with applied figures or ornamental reliefs, in “white” of the same kind, “pressed” from intaglio moulds and then applied by wetting the surface and squeezing—leaving the fire to unite the vessel and its applied ornament into one piece. Sometimes the ornament was in a coloured clay applied on a white body, and we get in the same way black on red, buff on red or black, and red or black on buff and drab bodies. The variety of bodies produced by Wedgwood and his followers in this way is exceedingly great, and is only to be equalled by the diversity of their application, for the pieces made include plaques, vases, plates, dishes, jardinières, bulb-pots, teapots, cups and saucers, inkstands, scent-bottles, buttons, buckles, and, in a word, every kind of thing that could be made in clay. Many of the applied designs, whether of figures or ornament, were very beautiful in a way, being copied or adapted from Greek and Roman gems, vases, &c. At their best they are marvellous for the precision and delicacy of their execution, and it is impossible to imagine that anything better could have been done in this style. So perfectly did they represent the taste of their period that attempts were made at Sèvres, Meissen, Berlin and Buen Retiro to produce something of the same kind in porcelain; but none of these can be compared with the works of Wedgwood, or his great contemporary Turner (see Plate X.), in beauty of colour or perfection of workmanship.
It is obvious nowadays that much of this work was inspired by mistaken motives; that it was founded on an imperfect view of ancient art; and that it was marred by its mechanical ideals; but it must be remembered that it was in perfect harmony with the spirit of the times, and that while it emphasizes for us the pseudo-classic taste of the late 18th century, it marks an advance in the technical skill of the potter, which is simply astounding. The co-ordination of labour, which had gone further with the Greek and the Italian potter than is generally supposed, was now brought to a climax. Mechanical appliances were introduced for the performance of many portions of the potter’s work that had hitherto been indifferently performed by rude and exhausting manual toil; and while the application of mechanism was pushed too far—so that in the first half of the 19th century we find the most inartistic pottery the world has ever seen—we must regard this even more as a cyclic movement of human feeling than as the work of any individual, or group of men. The late 18th century marks the period when pottery was no longer produced, as Italian majolica, the Henri-Deux ware, the Palissy wares, the best faience of Nevers, Rouen, Moustiers, Delft or Nuremberg had been, for the noble or the wealthy, but when it was largely in demand by the poorer classes, anxious in their turn to have a useful ware which should imitate the more costly porcelain used by the great. France, Germany, Sweden, Russia, and later the United States, all followed in the wake of the English potters, and the printing-press was applied in all countries to produce elaborate engraved patterns in blue, brown, green, &c., in order to get an effective-looking ware in harmony with the spirit of the times, and at the same time cheaper in price than the simple painted patterns of the vanquished tin-enamel.
Collections.—The British and the Victoria and Albert Museums naturally contain the most representative collections of English pottery. The museums at Liverpool, Bristol, Burslem, Hanley and Nottingham, also have good collections, while Birmingham, Manchester and Stoke-upon-Trent may be mentioned. The Guildhall Museum, London, is rich in early wares found or made in London and its vicinity. Continental collections of English pottery are meagre in the extreme and badly described, even in the ceramic museums at Sèvres and Limoges. The collection at Dresden is interesting, as it was purchased from the collection made by Enoch Wood, a Staffordshire potter. In America, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts at Philadelphia, contain interesting examples of wares exported to America in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Literature.—The earliest compilations, such as Jewitt’s Ceramic Art in Great Britain (1878), and Life of Josiah Wedgwood (1865); Chaffers, Marks and Monograms (1863; 9th edition revised, 1900); Meteyard’s Life of Wedgwood (1865–1866), and Shaw’s History of the Staffordshire Potteries (1829; reissued London, 1900), must always be of interest as original sources of information; but the later works, such as Church, English Earthenware (1884; new edition, 1906); Josiah Wedgwood (1894, reissue 1903 and 1907); Solon, Art of the Old English Potter (1883; 2nd ed., 1885); Hobson, Catalogue of English Pottery in the British Museum (1903); Burton, English Earthenware and Stoneware (1904), are the best authorities.
Chinese Pottery and Porcelain 
In China, as in every other country where pottery-making has been practised for centuries, we find a natural progression from primitive pottery akin in shape, decoration and manufacture to the pottery of other primitive races the world over. We find too the early use of bricks, tiles, &c., as in Egypt and Assyria; and then the usual succession of domestic utensils, funeral vases, and vessels for religious ceremonials. There is nothing to show that the potter’s wheel made its appearance in China earlier than elsewhere, and the Chinese potters have used the simple methods of carving and “pressing” from moulds which preceded the use of the potter’s wheel, even more than other nations. In books of the Chow dynasty (1122–249 B.C.) the difference between the processes of “throwing” and of “pressing” from moulds is clearly described, and it is instructive to note that many early as well as late forms of Chinese pottery are remarkably like their works in bronze. In the same way there is no definite date to which we can refer the introduction of glazed pottery. The earliest specimens of glazed ware known are referred by the Chinese to the times of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 220), a date much later than that of the earliest glazed wares of Egypt and Assyria. Remembering the intercourse between China and the West, at times historically remote, it is not impossible that the idea of coating a vessel of clay with a glaze was carried into China from Chaldaea or Assyria. In any case the Chinese developed the potter’s art on their own lines, for we have ample evidence that from very early times they fired their pottery to a much higher temperature than was common in the west of Asia, and so discovered types of glaze and of pottery that remained for centuries a mystery elsewhere. The glazed wares of the Han dynasty already mentioned are quite unlike any contemporary pottery produced in Syria, Egypt or Europe, for the body of the ware is so hard that it can scarcely be scratched by a knife, and the dark-greenish glaze has become iridescent by age as though it contained oxide of lead. The easily-fired friable wares of Assyria, Egypt and Greece seem to have had no attraction for the Chinese, and the glazes on their hard-fired wares were naturally different from those already described. The Chinese appear to have been the first potters in the world to discover that at a sufficiently high temperature pottery can be glazed with powdered felspathic rock mixed with lime. At first these glazes were used on any ordinary refractory clay which might burn red, drab or buff; but in this technique lay the germ of Chinese porcelain, the most advanced form of pottery the world has yet seen. It is necessary to consider the pottery that preceded porcelain, for not only was it the matrix out of which porcelain grew, but in certain districts of China, where the necessary materials for porcelain are not found, similar wares have been manufactured without intermission to the present time. Naturally, in progress of time, the technique of this pottery has been greatly improved, both by developments in the preparation and mixture of the clays, the shaping and modelling of the wares, the introduction of coloured enamels or glazes, and the like. Dr Bushell, who is our great authority on the Chinese arts and handicrafts, rightly seizes on two outstanding types of Chinese pottery other than porcelain which have exercised considerable influence on the doings of European potters.
1: Yi-Hsing-Yao.—This is the pottery, generally of unglazed fawn, red or brown stoneware, made at Yi-hsing-hsien in the province of Kiang-su. Articles of every kind are made in these fine-coloured clays, but the general forms are dainty and skilfully finished pieces, such as small teapots, cups, saucers, dishes, trays, water-bottles and wine cups. This ware was largely manufactured under the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368–1643) and later. It was imported into Europe by the Portuguese, who applied to it the name boccaro, formerly given only to a scented terra-cotta brought from Mexico and Peru. This pottery and Chinese porcelain were wide asunder as the poles in nature as well as origin, but the potters of northern Europe regarded every kind of pottery coming from the Far East as a species of porcelain, and the manufacture of red teapots, mugs, bowls, cups, &c., in imitation of the Yi-Hsing-Yao was widespread during the late 17th and early 18th centuries under the name of red porcelain. Dwight, Elers and Böttger are notable names in this connexion.2. Kuang-Yao.—The name given by the Chinese to the pottery made in the province of Kwang-tung. There are several centres of manufacture in this extensive province, but for the purposes of this article it is sufficient to state that the best-known of these wares are dense, hard-fired and glazed stonewares, which are always dark-coloured grey, red, brown or blackish. They are usually glazed with thick, variegated or opalescent glazes, grey, blue, green, yellow or red, but flecked, veined and streaked with other tints. The wares are so like the productions of the Sung dynasty (A.D. 960–1279) that modern pieces are often confounded with the more precious productions of that epoch. One of the first lessons to be learnt by the student of Chinese pottery is that, with great reverence for their own antiquities, the Chinese of every period have endeavoured to reproduce the famous wares of their ancestors, and often with such skill as to deceive the most expert. Even when the manufacture of porcelain was at its highest in King-tê-chên, the potters in other parts of China carried on the production of glazed or unglazed pottery in coloured clays, and, further, the directors of the imperial factory from time to time strove to reproduce the most archaic wares that could be found in the Empire.
|Chinese. Sang de Bœuf.||Chinese. Turquoise glaze “crackled.”||Chinese. Flambé.|
|Purple Soufflé.||Coral red.||Peach blow.
|Lemon yellow.||Apple green.|
Under the Sung dynasty China enjoyed great material prosperity, and all the arts were cultivated assiduously. Pottery of distinguished merit was made in many districts, and much of it has been classified as porcelain because the body is whitish and vitrified, though it is much inferior in finish and in translucence to the perfect white porcelain of later times. It is necessary to realize, too, that we have no record of any pottery with painted decoration until perhaps the very end of the 13th century; such ornament as was used consists entirely of designs incised or modelled in the clay. But the principal decoration is to be found in the varied coloured glazes with which the wares, whether stoneware or porcelain, were covered. The glaze is never clear and white as at later times; it is generally uneven, imperfectly fused and presents all the marks of an imperfect technique. The nearest approach to white is found in an opalescent grey which shades off to greenish and bluish tints. The glazes of this period which are most highly valued are the céladons, a family of cool bluish or yellowish greens of indescribable depth and softness. Besides the céladons which are the most uniform in tints of the Sung glazes, we get many shades of palish lavender, brownish yellow and brownish black, but these are all subtly or boldly mottled, splashed, clouded or veined with strange tones of red, blue, purple, opalescent grey and black. The most famous of these now very rare Sung wares were the stonewares of Chunchow, remarkable for their rich and varied glazes, the black variegated glazed wares of Fu-kien province, “hare’s fur cups” and “partridge cups” of collectors, and the four principal wares that may be called porcelain, viz.—the Ju-Yao, made at Ju-chow in Honan; the Kuan-Yao (Kuan = “official” or “imperial”), made first at Pien-chow and afterwards at Hang-chow; the Ko-Yao, made at Liu-t’ien; and the Ting-Yao, made at Tung-chow in Chih-li.
This was the period when Chinese porcelain became known beyond its native country, for the first mention of porcelain outside China appears in the writings of a Mahommedan traveller, Sulaiman, who visited China in the 9th century and wrote: “They have in China a very fine clay with which they make vases which are as transparent as glass; water is seen through them”; and its first appearance in the west is always given as A.D. 1171 (or 1188), when Saladin sent a present of forty pieces to the sultan of Damascus. From this time onwards an export trade was developed, particularly in the céladon wares of Lung-chüan, a city in the south-west of the province of Chehkiang. This famous ware, the “green porcelain” of the Chinese, probably made as an imitation of jade, exists mostly in the form of thick heavy dishes, bowls and jars, bearing incised or fluted patterns, and coated with a remarkable thick green glaze of indescribable softness of tone. Though the body of the ware is white when it is broken through, any parts not covered by the glaze have a reddish-brown colour due to the unrefined paste, and when the ware was reproduced in later times this reddish-brown tint had to be imitated artificially. The ware was highly prized both in China and Japan, in the islands of the East Indies, and in all Mahommedan countries. In Persia it was largely used, and specimens of it have been recovered during the last century from the east coast of Africa and as far west as Morocco. “Archbishop Warham’s cup” at New College, Oxford, which is the first specimen of Chinese porcelain to reach England that we can now produce, is a céladon bowl with a silver-gilt mount of the time of Henry VIII.
The Sung dynasty was overthrown by the Tatars under Kublai Khan (grandson of Jenghiz Khan), and the power remained in Tatar hands until 1368, when the great native dynasty of the Mings was established. During this period (Yuan dynasty), roughly a century, one can say little of ceramic progress, for the wares of the period are singularly like those of Sung times. But two important changes took place which had a marked influence on the subsequent development of Chinese porcelain—(1) the concentration of the industry at King-tê-chên, which was consummated in the early years of the Ming dynasty; (2) the introduction of painted decoration under a white transparent glaze, the idea of which (and perhaps the necessary cobalt mineral) was brought from Persia.
King-tê-chên was already a pottery centre when its factories were rebuilt in 1369 by Hung-Wu, the founder of the Ming dynasty, who made it the imperial factory, so that the best porcelain workers were attracted thither, and in the other old centres the industry was abandoned or some earlier manufacture was continued, as in the southern province of Kiang-su. In the province of Fu-kien a distinct kind of porcelain manufacture has also continued. We have already mentioned the black glazed cups, “hare’s fur,” &c., made in this province in Sung times, and, while King-tê-chên was to be the scene of the developments of the coloured and painted porcelains, Te-hwa in Fu-kien perfected the manufacture of the famous and beautiful white porcelain in bowls, dishes, cups and statuettes, best known under its French title of blanc de Chine.
The earliest painted Chinese porcelains, which are referred to the beginning of the Ming period, though some of them may be older, speak strongly of ideas imported from the west of Asia. The pieces are massive both in form and substance, and the ornament, consisting of figures mounted or on foot, animals, bands of diaper or foliage, or pendant necklaces, is strongly silhouetted by a raised outline recalling the decorative methods of the Assyrian brickwork. The technical methods also recall the methods of western Asia, for the ware was fired before it was glazed, and then yellow, turquoise, green or purple glazes, similar in nature to the glazes of Egypt, Syria and Persia, and quite unlike the Chinese Sung glazes, were filled into the outlined spaces and melted at a lower temperature. The Grandidier collection in the Louvre, the Franks collection at the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as all the great private collections of Chinese porcelain, contain samples of this primitive and archaic-looking ware.
The great stream of porcelain decoration was, however, to take an entirely different direction. The Persian pottery with its brilliant painted decorations in blue, green and purple on a pure white ground, exercised its natural fascination over men as keen in colour-sense as the Chinese potters. With the concentration of the industry at King-tê-chên, and the rapid improvement in technical skill and knowledge that followed, the production of a fine porcelain with a transparent white glaze was perfected. Of all the colours used by the Persian pot-painter the only one that would endure the fierce fire of the Chinese porcelain was the blue obtained by using the ores of cobalt, and with this colour, and a wonderful blood-red obtained from copper, the foundation of Chinese painted porcelain was laid. It would be idle to try and fix any specific date for this important development, which took more than a generation to perfect, but it is reasonably accurate to say that the blue and white painted porcelains were unknown in the 13th century and were fully developed at the beginning of the 15th century. Chinese collectors prize most highly the blue and white of the reign of Suen-tê (A.D. 1426–1435), of Chêng-hwa (1465–1487), and next of Yung-lo (1403–1424). It is interesting to note that the colour used during these reigns is spoken of as “Mahommedan” blue, so that it was evidently brought from some country to the west. This 15th-century blue and white porcelain is admittedly the finest of its class, and though the Chinese never abandon an old method and have continued to make blue and white porcelain, often of very good quality, the later wares, fine as they may be, rarely equal these.
The under-glaze red, an invention of the Chinese, has already been mentioned, and this most difficult of all ceramic colours was largely used during the same period. At first it appears as a general ground colour for the outside of bowls and cups, then vessels were made in special forms (persimmon fruit, &c.) to display its qualities, finally it was used either alone or in conjunction with blue in painted designs under a white glaze of exceptional quality. A Chinese connoisseur of the 15th century describes one of his pieces as being decorated with “three red fishes on a white ground, pure as driven snow; the fish boldly outlined and red as fresh blood, all with colour so brilliant as to dazzle the eye.”
Other characteristic wares which made their appearance in Ming times are the marvellous “eggshell” porcelains, called by the Chinese “bodyless” from their extreme thinness. As early as the reign of Yung-lo (1403–1424) these delicate wares were in high repute, and their manufacture has been continued ever since with varying skill and success. In spite of their extreme thinness the specimens have designs of dragons in the midst of clouds and waves, inscriptions, &c., engraved in the paste before firing. In the fine white specimens the design is so delicate that it is barely visible until the vessel is filled with liquid or held to the light. Others were covered with a coloured glaze which serves to accentuate the design, and the most prized of these are the yellow pieces made during the reign of Hung-Chi (1488–1505) and Chêng-tê (1506–1521).
Another wonderful variety of Chinese porcelains which made its appearance at this period is the well-known perforated ware, commonly spoken of, from the shape of the perforations, as “grain of rice” porcelain, though the Chinese have exhibited consummate skill in the manufacture of perforated pieces of all kinds. Sometimes the perforations are left clear, but in the rice-grain pattern the incisions are generally filled up with the melted glaze so that they become like so many windows in the walls of the piece. We have already seen that the Persian potters used a similar method of decoration in the 16th century, but we are unable to say at present whether the device originated in China or in Persia. Its use in both countries is only an additional proof of the intercourse between eastern and western Asia.
It is only toward the end of the 16th century that we find the first examples of porcelain decorated with colours fired over the glaze. It seems probable that the practice grew out of the use of enamels on metal, which had spread from Byzantium to China, and which the Chinese developed with remarkable skill. It is important to remember that the very nature of the glaze of Chinese porcelain, necessitating such a high temperature to melt it, severely restricted the under-glaze palette to cobalt-blue and the glorious but uncertain copper-red. To obtain the rich polychromatic schemes of the potters of the West some other means must be found, and so the device was adopted of taking a finished piece of blue and white and decorating it further by very fusible colours painted over the fired glaze and then attached to it by refiring at a lower temperature equal only to that used by the enameller on metals. At first the on-glaze or enamel colours were applied as thin washes, as in the Ming (San ts’ ai) three-colour decoration of green, purple, and yellow. Then we get the Ming (Wan-li Wu ts’ ai) five-colour scheme, in which the same three colours are combined with an over-glaze red and all are painted over a skeleton pattern in under-glaze blue. This development, as its name implies, only took place in the reign of Wan-li (1573–1620).
At this time King-tê-chên must have produced a very large quantity of porcelain. The requirements of the court were enormous, for in 1583 one of the supervising censors, remonstrating with the emperor, declared that one year’s demands comprised over 96,000 pieces; and Dr Bushell writes: “The colossal production of the reign of Wan-li is shown by the abundance of porcelain of this time to be found in Pekin at the present day, where a garden of any pretensions must have a large collection of bowls or cisterns for goldfish, and street-hawkers may be seen with sweetmeats upheld by dishes a yard in diameter, or ladling syrup out of large bowls, and there is hardly a butcher’s shop without a cracked Wan-li jar standing on the counter to hold scraps of meat.”
Such profuse orders may be accountable for the fact that the wares of this reign are inferior both in material and workmanship to the wares of the preceding and also of later periods, but the influence of the growing export trade doubtless told in the same direction. For several centuries the native Chinese porcelain had been exported to all the neighbouring countries, and through Persia and Cairo to the West. No long time elapsed before the Chinese adopted forms, colours and decorations for these export wares, not in accordance with Chinese usage, but presumably more suited to the tastes of the foreigner. Hence the Persian and Syrian style of the painted blue decoration of the 15th and 16th century wares found in other Asiatic countries. Now, for the first time, there came a direct European demand, and cargoes of ware were brought to Europe by the Portuguese and afterwards by the Dutch, which were increasingly decorated in fashions foreign to Chinese taste. The production of these export wares slowly modified the taste of the Chinese themselves and paved the way for the new styles of the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
The political troubles which marked the downfall of the Ming dynasty definitely separated the first great period of Chinese porcelain from its second and culminating period. The works at King-tê-chên were destroyed more than once in the 17th century, but in spite of these difficulties the potters must have remained, for the reigns of K’ang-hi (1662–1722), Yung-chêng (1722–1735), and K’ien-lung (1736–1795) covered a century and a half, within which the high-water mark of artistic production was reached and passed. It is only possible here to sketch in broadest outline the course of this Renaissance, which has formed the subject of many learned works.
It is characteristic of the Chinese mind that during this period, when a spirit of eager experiment was abroad, the productions of their ancient kilns should receive no less attention than the new methods of decoration in on-glaze colours, while at the same time many of the discoveries of the later Ming days were carried on to perfection. The first remarkable productions of the reign of K’ang-hi, the famous green and blood-red Lang-yao glazes, were made in the attempt to produce glazes like those of old times. With the more carefully prepared body and glaze the results are strikingly different and, as we think, superior, for it is difficult to believe that any example of the “sacrificial” red of the reign of Suen-tê can have been as glorious as the red Lang-Yao, the crown of all that group of glazes known from their general colour as sang de boeuf (see example, Plate VII.). In the same way the traditional blue and white of the Ming period was continued with the greatest skill, and, if the blue pigment be not so pure as that of the 15th century, the decorative effect of the blue and white of the reign of K’ang-hi (see example, Plate VIII.) has never been equalled in Europe. The subjects of the blue and white pieces of this period are very varied, including religious, ceremonial, battle and hunting subjects, homely scenes such as ladies and children amusing themselves in gardens, or animals, birds, dragons and other fabulous monsters disporting themselves in clouds or waves. The so-called “hawthorn ginger jars” form a class by themselves in the opinion of modern collectors (see the plum-blossom jar, Plate VIII.), a specimen being sold at the Louis Huth sale (1906) for £5900. The fertility of the painters was remarkable, and a collection of the blue and white of this reign offers a fine feast of ceramic colour from the harmonious relation between the tones of the white and the blue, especially when it is seen en masse, as in the famous Dresden collection.
The practice of painting the ground of a piece in blue so that the pattern was reserved in white (even artfully heightened by the use of slip) dates from Ming times, but the grounds of powder-blue appear to have originated at this time. The cobalt-pigment was not applied by a brush, but was blown on through a tube, one end of which was covered with fine muslin, in a rain of minute drops. This ground was either carried over the whole piece so as to give the effect of a vibrating blue glaze—in which case it was generally covered with conventional designs pencilled in ground-up gold-leaf over the glaze—or panels were reserved in white on which floral designs were afterwards painted in on-glaze colours.
In the same way the decoration in underglaze red was revived or re-introduced, and probably the finest pieces of this ware, as of so many others in our great European collections, date only from the beginning of the 18th century. Eggshell wares and pierced or reticulated pieces were made to great perfection, and the coloured glazes in light green, turquoise, purple and black (see Plate VII.) reached their height. The early glazes of this type appeared in Sung times (see above), but on the finely prepared K’ang-hi wares much more striking and brilliant colour effects were obtained. As in old times, for the production of some of these glazes a departure was made from the general Chinese methods. The vessels were first fired to the “biscuit” state, and then soft alkaline glazes coloured with copper or manganese were fired over them at a much lower temperature so as to give the “peacock-blue,” “kingfisher-green” and “aubergine-purple” glazes. Many varieties of single-coloured glazes were made by covering a white glazed piece with on-glaze colour, and in this way new shades of coloured glaze, such as the coral-reds (Plate VII.), were obtained. The various brown or bronze-coloured grounds, so well known in the so-called “Batavian” porcelain, were obtained by coating the piece with a slip of some ochreous clay under the usual white glaze. Even these methods do not exhaust the fertile resources of the potters of this period, for they carried on concurrently the style of decoration in overglaze colours, first in the schemes characterized by the predominance of a vivid green enamel (famille verte; see Plate VIII.), and finally, in the 18th century, in the schemes in which rose, pink and purple colours predominate (famille rose; see Plate VIII.). It is probable that these latter colours, which owe their tint to gold, were introduced into China from Europe, but the Chinese employed them whole-heartedly, until in fact they largely ousted all the earlier types of colour decoration.
During the reign of Yung-Chêng (1723–1735) the diverse styles seem to have been finally struggling for mastery. Yung-Cheng was an ardent collector of ancient Chinese porcelains, and he sent to King-tê-chên specimens of the most ancient wares, whether of pottery or porcelain, to be reproduced, while at the same time he and his court patronized the wares in foreign styles and colours (Japanese and European.)
The struggle continued practically to the end of the 18th century, but in spite of certain brilliant inventions, such as the “iron-rust” and “tea-dust” glazes of the reign of K’ien-lung in harmony with old Chinese effects, what we must regard as the inferior decorative style triumphed, and we see the gradual disappearance of the ancient methods in favour of (1) wares of a beautiful white body decorated only with on-glaze colours, principally those of the famille rose, and (2) a very large production of inferior wares, made in European shapes and decorated with on-glaze painting and gilding to suit the European taste of the 18th century.
This “armorial” china, so much of which was once foolishly ascribed to Lowestoft, has little to commend it. The material is seldom of the best quality, and the Chinese rendering of European arms and crests, or stiff copies of European engravings surrounded by quasi-oriental borders of diaper, &c., does nothing to recommend it. A great deal of this ware, though manufactured at King-tê-chên, was decorated at Canton, and the school of pottery decorators founded there by reason of this export trade also produced a certain number of pieces in pure Chinese taste, especially some of the ruby-backed plates and dishes and the small cups and saucers decorated with deftly-painted designs of cocks, peonies, &c.
It must be pointed out that the great change implied in the replacement of patterns painted in blue under the glaze by those painted in colours over the glaze profoundly influenced the style of painting. In the earlier wares the treatment is bold and vigorous as becomes true pottery colour, and the softening of the colour by the melting glaze adds to the artistic charm of the result. Painting on a fired glaze is like painting on glass—fine lines, delicate drawing, and skilful stippling or cross-hatching are just as natural in this method as they are impossible or uncertain in the other. Naturalism of rendering takes the place of conventional decorative treatment, and elaborate minuteness of finish supplants the broad freedom of direct brushwork. During the 18th century the same leaven was at work on the porcelains of China and of Europe, the East influenced the West, and the West in its turn bore down the East. If Chinese porcelain remained superior to its European counterfeits, it was because the Chinaman was still the better potter and had a longer tradition of decorative art behind him.
There is little to be said of Chinese porcelain during the 19th century. The European demand was practically killed by the growth of porcelain works at home, and the imperial patronage, so great a factor in the production of artistic wares, was fitful and uncertain. Tao-Kwang (1821–1850) gave some attention to porcelain, and the pieces made for him and marked “Shen-te-t’ang” are valued by collectors. The so-called Peking bowls of his reign (made of course at King-tê-chên) are also of repute. But the political difficulties of China left little leisure for the cultivation of the arts; the successive wars with France and England served only to scatter the splendid wares of the past (see the Musée Chinoise at Fontainebleau), and during the reign of the next emperor Hien-fêng (1851–1861) the T’aipings overran the province of Kiang-si and destroyed King-tê-chên and its factories. Since then the town has been rebuilt and is once again producing Chinese porcelain. Tempted doubtless by the high prices now paid in Europe and America for examples of the Chinese porcelains of the 18th century, modern copies of the single-coloured, sang de boeuf, flambé and other glazes are being made, while the highly prized “hawthorn” jars and black-ground vases are receiving the same undesirable attention.
Materials and, Manufacture of Chinese Porcelain.—For many centuries after its first appearance Chinese porcelain differed from every other known species of pottery both in its material and its manufacture. While the pottery of all other countries was generally made of coloured clays mixed only with sand or broken “shards” and fired at a comparatively low temperature, Chinese porcelain was compounded from the purest white clays, sand and fusible rock; it was glazed with fusible rock, and it was so hard fired that the entire mass became vitrified and translucent. The germ of the manufacture lay in the discovery of large masses of primary clay (kaolin) mixed with finely-ground felspathic rock (petuntse), both of which were carefully washed, levigated and purified. The body of Chinese porcelain varied from time to time within wide limits, but, broadly speaking, it always consists of purified kaolin, petuntse and quartz (sand), mixed in various proportions, sometimes with additional ingredients, according to the quality of ware desired. For the glaze the purest and cleanest portions of the felspathic rock (petuntse) were selected and mixed with lime—all being ground to fine powder. The lime causes the glaze to melt at a lower temperature than would be necessary for petuntse alone. The lime also gives the Chinese glazes their luscious softness of aspect and the faint greenish or bluish tone, while it enabled them to receive the later decorations in piled-up enamels, impossible on the harder European porcelain glazes of the 18th century. The finely-prepared glaze was applied to the clay vessels, before they had been fired, either by dipping, by painting, or by insufflation; and then glaze and body were fired together at a very high temperature. For certain glazes—turquoise, purple, &c.—which were not of the felspathic type, the vessels were first fired to the “biscuit” state, and the glazes were then applied and fired at a much lower temperature—the usual practice of the potters of other countries. When painted wares in blue and red were first introduced, the necessary pigments were painted on the pieces before firing, the glaze was applied over them, and then all was finished at one and the same firing. With the later enamel colours the piece was first fired as above described, and the fusible colours were then painted on the glaze, which was of course like glass. A second firing at a lower temperature fused these on-glaze colours to the ware. For information on Chinese materials and methods the reader is referred to the letters of Père d’Entrecolles in the collection of Jesuit letters known as Lettres édifiantes et curieuses. The English reader will find reliable translations of the essential parts in Bushell’s Oriental Ceramic Art, Dillon’s Porcelain, and Burton’s History of Porcelain. Later information will be found in Brongniart’s Traité des arts céramiques, especially in the 3rd edition, 1877; and in an article by G. Vogt, Bulletin de la Société d’encouragement pour l’industrie nationale, April 1900, pp. 530-612.
Collections.—The Franks collection in the British Museum; the Victoria and Albert Museum, where the famous collection of Mr George Salting has for years been displayed, together with the collections belonging to the museum. Paris, the Grandidier collection at the Louvre; the collection at the Musée Guimet; the Sèvres Museum. Fontainebleau, the Musée Chinoise. Dresden, the Porcelain Collection—the oldest in Europe. Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts. New York, the Metropolitan Museum containing the Garland and other collections. Washington, the Hippisley collection; as well as magnificent private collections, at the head of which is that of the late W. T. Walters of Baltimore.
Literature.—The older European works on Chinese porcelain have been superseded by the later books. The following list contains the best recent books:—S. W. Bushell, Oriental Ceramic Art (New York, 1897; text separately 1899); Chinese Porcelain before the present Dynasty (Pekin, 1886); Chinese Art, vol. ii., Victoria and Albert Museum Handbooks (1906); Brongniart, Traité des arts céramiques (3rd edition, with valuable supplements by Salvétat, 1877); Dillon, Porcelain (1900); Sir A. W. Franks, Catalogue of Oriental Pottery and Porcelain (1878); Grandidier, La Céramique chinoise (1894); Griggs, Examples of Armorial China (1887); Hippisley, Ceramic Arts in China (Smithsonian Institute, Washington, 1890); Hirth, Ancient Chinese Porcelain (Leipzig, 1888); Julien, Histoire et fabrication de la porcelaine chinoise (Paris, 1856); Meyer, Lung-chuan Yao, oder alter Seladon Porzellan (Berlin, 1889); Monkhouse, History of Chinese Porcelain (1901); O. du Sartel, La Porcelaine de Chine (Paris, 1881); Burton, Porcelain (1906); Bushell and Laffan, The Garland Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of New York (1907). (W. B.*)
European Porcelain to the end of the 18th Century
Europe can claim no share in the discovery of porcelain, the white and translucent pottery par excellence, for when the first specimens of Chinese porcelain were brought to Europe, perhaps as early as the 11th or 12th century, they excited the greatest wonder and admiration. Cairo was at this time the great mart for the exchange of the products of East and West, and from this centre porcelains were sent into Europe. Nasir i Khosrau, the Persian traveller, who visited Old Cairo in A.D. 1035–1042, was evidently acquainted with Chinese porcelain, and he also speaks of a translucent ware made at Fostat (Old Cairo) which may well have been the progenitor of the glassy porcelains of Persia, as well as of those made in Italy during the 15th and 16th centuries. In A.D. 1171 the famous Saladin sent from Cairo a present of forty pieces of Chinese porcelain to the sultan of Babylon; and from that time onwards we have frequent records of pieces of this exotic pottery finding their way into the treasuries of European princes. With the renewed attention paid to the potter’s art in Europe after the 14th century, it was but natural that efforts should be made to imitate a material so mysterious and beautiful. But knowledge of Chinese materials and methods was nil, and for a further two centuries all that Europe manufactured in the shape of translucent pottery was the artificial porcelain made with glass, which can only be looked upon as a substitute for true porcelain. In Italy during the 16th century, and in France during the century from 1670 to 1770 roughly, this artificial porcelain was made and developed. At Meissen in Saxony the famous Böttger made a true porcelain from materials analogous to the Chinese about 1710–1712, and this manufacture was pursued in Germany, Austria and elsewhere in Europe (even in France, the home of the artificial glassy porcelain, after 1770), so that by the end of the 18th century, when Chinese porcelain had reached and passed its zenith, the manufacture of a similar material was well established in Europe, and the glassy porcelains had been generally abandoned. The only country which offered any departure from this general rule was England. The earliest English porcelains were derived from the French, and, like them, owed their translucence to the use of glass. Efforts were made at Plymouth and at Bristol (1758–1781) to introduce the manufacture of porcelain, like the Chinese and its German counterparts, but these failed and the English potters finally invented a third kind of porcelain, in which calcined ox-bones were added to the clay and ground rock to give a white translucent porcelain capable of receiving any form of decoration. This distinctively English porcelain, perfected about 1800, is not only the principal kind made in England in our own times, but its manufacture has been adopted, to some extent in France, Germany and Sweden, as well as in the United States.
It is impossible to describe these various efforts of European potters without a certain amount of overlapping, for during the 18th century all the three kinds of European porcelain were struggling for supremacy. It is advisable, therefore, to keep clearly in mind which kind of porcelain is in question, for many problems of manufacture and decoration are absolutely determined by the nature of the materials.
|Florentine Potter’s mark.|
If we could trust to documentary evidence alone, the earliest European porcelains were made at Venice in 1470, and again in 1519; while we also read of its manufacture at Ferrara in 1561. Unfortunately, documentary evidence alone is not conclusive, and the first European porcelain, known from actual specimens as well as by documentary evidence, was that made at Florence in the laboratory of Francesco de’ Medici, between 1575 and 1585. Specimens of this rare porcelain are to be found only in great museums and private collections, where they rank among our chief ceramic treasures. They show clearly that the Florentine potters never fully mastered their difficult material, for the ware is always imperfect and compares indifferently in whiteness and translucence with fine porcelain, while the glaze is neither smoothly melted nor free from defects. Obviously the effect of Chinese blue and white porcelain was aimed at, the decorations, reminiscent of the style of the Persian pot-painters, being executed in cobalt blue alone. These rare and interesting pieces bear distinctive marks; for at their period the use of painters’ marks or monograms had become fairly general on artistic pottery in Europe. One of the best known marks is the “palle” or balls of the arms of the Medici family, bearing the letters “F M M E D II.” for “Franciscus Medici Magnus Etruriae Dux II.”; while other pieces have a rude representation of the Great Dome of Florence and the letter “F.”Fortunately, too, besides the few specimens of Florentine porcelain that have survived to our day a manuscript has been
|Chinese. K’ang-hsi period.
||Chinese. Black ground.
|Chinese (Famille Verte).|
|Chinese (Famille Rose). Ch’ien-lung period.||Chinese. Plum-blossom jar. K’ang-hsi period.|
|Paris Potters’ marks.|
With the death of Francesco de’ Medici in 1587 it seems probable that this wonderful innovation came to an untimely end, and we hear no more of porcelain in Italy for more than a century. During this century (1587–1687) there can be no doubt that efforts were made all over Europe to discover the secret of porcelain manufacture; but the first reliable date we can point to is 1673, when Louis Poterat, a faience maker of Rouen, obtained a privilege from the French king for the manufacture of porcelain in that town. The Rouen porcelain in turn ceased with the death of Poterat in 1696. Authentic specimens are extant in the shape of salt-cellars, mustard pots and some few vases, the latter of considerable size. The pieces are usually decorated in blue with patterns in the Rouen style and were evidently painted by an expert faience painter. In composition, the porcelain of Rouen, like that of Florence, was of the artificial or glassy type, and shortly afterwards a similar ware made its appearance at the faience works of St Cloud near Paris, and at various works in the city of Paris. Well-known pieces, bearing the marks here shown, formerly supposed to be the earliest specimens of French porcelain and the work of Poterat at Rouen, are probably experimental pieces made in Paris after the date of Poterat’s discovery, as they differ in important particulars from his ware.
Once firmly established in France, this manufacture, under the patronage of the French court or of some great French noble, rapidly assumed a position of importance. The works at St Cloud received letters-patent from Louis XIV. in 1696, and the manufacture was continued there down to 1773. The appearance of the St Cloud porcelain is very characteristic, for though the paste has a yellowish tinge it is of fine quality with a clear and brilliant glaze. The first efforts appear to have consisted in frank imitations of the much-prized Oriental wares, and white pieces decorated only with branches of flowering plum in relief, or pieces modelled with imbricated or scale pattern or with delicate flutings, were made. The earliest colour decoration was naturally in under-glaze blue, and while quasi-oriental designs were largely used, the commonest feature is the prevalence of painted borders like those used on the faience of Rouen and St Cloud. At a later date decoration in over-glaze colours and gilding was also employed, and though the ware never reached to such a pitch of excellence as that of the Royal Manufactory at Sèvres, the St Cloud porcelain is one of the most distinctive French porcelains of the 18th century.
German Porcelains.—While the glassy porcelains of France were being developed at St Cloud, success of a more permanent order was reached in Germany. Augustus the Strong, elector of Saxony (1670–1733), had formed an extensive collection of Chinese and Japanese porcelains, still to be seen in the Dresden Museum, and he had established experimental pottery works, bringing skilled potters from Holland and elsewhere. His chief investigators appear to have been Tschirnhaus and Böttger, both alchemists, and it was the glory of the latter to be the first European to produce a porcelain like the Chinese, both in the nature of its materials, and in the appearance of its paste and glaze. It may be surmised that Böttger was guided toward this momentous discovery by information brought from China, though such an idea is always stoutly denied by German authorities, who, with pardonable pride, claim that Böttger at the age of twenty-four succeeded where all other European experimenters had failed. He was certainly working at the problems offered by the exotic wares of China, for his first production was an extremely hard redstone-ware—often erroneously called “Böttger’s red porcelain”—resembling the Chinese “boccaros” or red teapots of the Yi-hsing potteries. He had been anticipated in this direction by Dwight of Fulham, but the red pottery of Böttger was so intensely fired that it became dense enough to be cut and polished by the lapidary as if it were a piece of jasper or carnelian. It was first offered for sale at the Leipzig fair of 1710, and for many years it enjoyed great popularity, as well as the undesirable honour of wide imitation. At the same time (1710) Böttger exhibited a few crude specimens of greyish-white porcelain. Imperfect pieces were on sale in 1713, and by 1716 its manufacture was definitely established, though the pieces were still far from perfect. Böttger died in 1719, having had the rare fortune, in his short and eventful life, to establish in Europe the manufacture of true porcelain.
The life of Böttger reads like a page of romance, and the story of the subsequent development of porcelain manufacture throughout the German empire is hardly less romantic. When the importance of Böttger’s discovery was recognized, he and his workmen were removed from Dresden to the Albrechtsburg, a fortress situated at Meissen some 16 m. away, so that the manufacture could be conducted with the greatest secrecy. All concerned were practically state prisoners, and this extreme rigour doubtless defeated the end in view, for workmen escaped from time to time, and professing, more or less truthfully, a knowledge of the manufacture, found patrons among the German princes all eager to gain reputation as experimenters in the new art of porcelain. Some of these wandering “Arcanists,” like Ringler and Hunger, and the men who learnt from them, travelled all over the empire, and the following list of dates will show how porcelain factories sprang up from the parent factory at Meissen:—
Meissen.—Although the factory which was founded at Meissen as a result of Böttger’s discovery remained on its old site until 1863, the porcelain made there has been commonly known as Dresden porcelain; probably because Dresden was the seat of the Saxon court, and the enterprise was conducted at the expense of the electors of Saxony. So jealously were the secrets of this factory guarded that when Napoleon, the master of Europe, sent Brongniart to investigate the methods in use at Meissen in 1812, the elector of Saxony had to release Steinauer, the director, from his oath of secrecy before he would explain the processes. Meissen porcelain, therefore, affords us the best example by which we may follow the changes of fashion and taste that governed the styles of porcelain decoration in Europe during the 18th century. The early Meissen porcelain was made from the kaolin found at Aue, near Schneeberg, and while there is no mention of any other material, we may be sure that clay and felspathic rock, analogous to the Chinese kaolin and petuntse, were obtained from the same quarries, and were used together. Until after the death of Böttger in 1719 it cannot be said that the venture was more than a succès d’estime. The specimens preserved in the Dresden Museum show that the pieces were generally thick in substance and clumsy in shape, being often made from the moulds that had been designed for Böttger’s red-stoneware. Naturally enough these early examples were inspired by Chinese models, both in shape and decoration. As at St Cloud, white pieces with modelled decoration were common. Unlike the contemporary French glassy porcelains, the decorations in under-glaze blue were very imperfect, the blue colour being much run and blistered; and when attempts were made at decoration in enamel colours (i.e. colours fired on the finished glaze) the result was unsatisfactory, as, owing to the refractory nature of the hard felspathic material, these colours frequently scaled off. The later success of the Meissen factory must be attributed to Herold or Höroldt (who joined the staff in 1720 as a colour maker and painter), and to Kandler, a sculptor, who came to the works in 1731. In the hands of these two men the forms and decorations, still largely based on Chinese and Japanese models, assumed a definitely European style, while the composition of the body and the glaze, and the application of colours and gold, were brought to perfection. Herold was appointed director of the works a few years after 1720, and retained that post until 1765, while Kandler was chief modeller from 1731 to 1775. The years from 1730 (when the work definitely emerged from its experimental stage) to 1775 (when Kandler died) mark the most distinctive period of the Meissen porcelain. In the estimation of collectors also the Meissen porcelain of this period is the most valuable, and genuine examples of Alt-Meissen command high prices in the sale rooms, especially in Germany. This appreciation was quite as apparent in the 18th century, for by 1740 Meissen porcelain had won the greatest renown in Europe, and was actually exported by way of Constantinople over the Mahommedan countries of the Nearer East. It is frequently described by contemporary writers as being far superior to the porcelain of China, and so great was its vogue between 1740 and 1750 that as many as 700 workmen—a large number for those days—were employed, and the industry brought large profits as well as great reputation to the Saxon court. Each year saw some fresh departure from the original inspiration of the work, some fresh innovation of European style in design. After 1730 the rude reproductions of Chinese forms and decorations in white or blue and white were replaced by imitations of the Imari porcelains, especially those decorated in the style of Kakiemon. Here Meissen was running a race with Chantilly in setting the fashion for the dainty decorations in red and green and gold which spread in time to all the porcelain factories of Europe. Gradually European motifs became predominant. The simple oriental forms were replaced by distinctively European shapes with architectural mouldings, handles and feet. Instead of the dainty Japanese patterns, we perceive the gradual introduction of “Rococo” scroll-work (as interpreted by the Germans) to form a framework or border for miniature-like paintings of landscapes, ruins, figure-subjects, hunting scenes, &c., executed in the limited palette of on-glaze colours then available. Further evidence of the departure from oriental influence is to be found in the numerous “armorial” services produced between 1730 and 1740; and at the same period we find the first appearance of a style of decoration that has persisted to our own times, as a means of passing off pieces with small flaws in body or glaze, by hiding them among sprays of naturalistic flowers, with an occasional fly or some other winged creature thrown with seeming artlessness over the surface of the piece. This idea, though it seems to have been first used at Meissen, was so useful to the potter that it became general, and a device originally adopted to cover faults of manufacture was elevated into a distinct style of decoration by later European factories (e.g. Strassburg, Niederviller, &c.).
The talents of Kandler were applied in ambitious but unsatisfactory attempts to produce life-sized figures of the twelve apostles, an equestrian statue of Augustus the Strong of heroic proportions, and many models of animals intended for the decoration of the Japanese palace at Dresden. Many of these latter are to be seen in the Dresden Museum, and create an unfavourable impression of the taste of their period. The fame of Kandler is better perpetuated (see example, Plate IX.) by the little statuettes and groups of figures and animals that flowed in a steady stream from his facile hand; for though these figures have prettiness rather than grace, and flair rather than style, they are instinct with the spirit of the middle 18th century, and were eagerly imitated or boldly copied at every factory in Europe. Only in the biscuit porcelain figures of Sèvres, and in some few of the portrait figures of Derby, do we find anything artistically superior. These Meissen statuettes look their best when they are simply in white; many are grotesque and ugly, and the colour decorations are usually in very poor taste, the harsh, shining colours contrasting unpleasantly with the pronounced white of the porcelain.
Mention must be made of the use of modelled flowers at Meissen. Originating in the simple application of modelled branches of prunus, &c. in imitation of the white porcelains of Fu-kien, the method developed until we get not only the characteristic “May-flower” decoration (see example, Plate IX.), but also independent sprays and bouquets modelled in porcelain and coloured with the utmost mechanical precision. It is not quite clear whether this production of porcelain flowers was first perfected at Meissen or at Vincennes,<a name="fa35b" id="fa35b" href="#ft35b">35</a> but it was largely practised at both places.
Toward the end of this period, vases, candelabra, mirror-frames and clock cases were modelled in the most outré rococo forms with applied scrolls, shells and flowers. These pieces had their modelled details picked out in gold and colours, while the success of the French styles of decoration is still further shown by the copies of Watteau figures and groups on the more important vases, dishes and plates. Frederick the Great made sad havoc with the prosperity of Meissen during the Seven Years’ War. He looted the factory both in 1759 and 1761, and is said on the latter occasion to have carried away to Berlin both models, working moulds and many workmen. This misfortune marks the end of the most distinctive Meissen porcelain, for after this time Sèvres became the most important porcelain factory in Europe, and the later productions of Meissen were, for the most part, German versions of the styles initiated at the French royal factory. From 1764 to 1774 Dietrich, a painter, was at the head of affairs, while a Frenchman named Acier succeeded Kandler. They introduced the neo-classical style, which was spreading like a blight all over Europe, and this departure was perfected under the directorship of Count Marcolini (1774–1814), when Meissen, fallen from its high estate, was content to follow the lead of Sèvres.
After the Marcolini period there is nothing to be said of Meissen. The old productions of the factory had become valuable, and the custom of reproducing them, marks included, was adopted. Such a practice was not likely to lead to further progress, and, though the factory was removed from its old site in the Albrechtsburg in 1863, it cannot be said to have added anything to the progress of European porcelain during the 19th century.
|“Dresden” Potter’s mark.|
During the initiatory period the “Dresden” pieces bore the monogram “A.R.” interlaced (Augustus Rex), and between 1712 and 1716 pieces intended for sale and not for the use of the court were marked with the sign of Aesculapius (a snake twining round a staff). From about 1720 two crossed swords, painted in blue under the glaze, with or without accompanying stars, crosses, &c., formed the general mark, but the mark has been so often used on other porcelains that, in itself, it is of slight value as a means of identification.
Vienna.—The first mention of the manufacture of porcelain in Vienna occurs in 1718, when a Dutchman, Claude du Paquier, was granted a patent. He had secured two runaways from Meissen, Stölzel and Hunger, yet little progress was made until after 1744, when the factory was bought by the empress Maria Theresa. At first the traditional styles of Meissen were continued, but the characteristic Viennese porcelain was produced after 1785. In this ware figure-painting, rich ground colours and elaborate gilding are associated in an unmistakeable manner. Leithner, who was chemist and colour maker at this period, succeeded in producing a more extensive and brilliant palette of colours than was in use at any other European porcelain factory in the last quarter of the 18th century; and the gilding was rich and elaborate. Apart from its technical merits the ware has nothing to recommend it, for the styles of decoration showed pronounced neo-classical influence, and lacked the saving merits of the French work in the same style. The works was closed in 1864, on account of the heavy expenses, and collectors should be reminded that many spurious imitations, the product of small Viennese factories, are to be found on the market.
Berlin.—The first Berlin porcelain was made by W. Casper Wegeli, aided by workmen from other German factories, as early as 1750. This business was unsuccessful and came to an end in 1757, but its productions are highly prized on account of their rarity. Success only came when Frederick the Great brought workmen, moulds and materials from Meissen in 1761, and, becoming proprietor of the works in 1763, founded the Royal Berlin Porcelain Manufactory. Though Meissen workmen and methods had been imported, and the Meissen style governed the earliest productions, Frederick’s well-known penchant for French art was doubtless responsible for the fact that the rococo style of decoration was more determinedly followed here than elsewhere in Germany. The colour schemes of this ware are unusually simple, pieces being seldom decorated in more than three colours, while a rose-coloured enamel, a favourite colour with the great Frederick, is quite characteristic. The Royal Berlin Factory passed under a cloud in the troubled condition of the Prussian monarchy during the early years of the 19th century, and down to 1870 it was content to follow in the wake of Sèvres like most of the other European factories. Since about the year 1880, however, it has developed into the most scientific of European porcelain works, and it was here that Seger manufactured his special porcelain, made to reproduce the qualities of the finest Japanese wares. In spite of this scientific success it must be remarked that the late Berlin porcelain is artistically disappointing, being too exuberant for our taste and recalling anything rather than porcelain in its treatment.
Minor German Factories.—It is unnecessary to describe the productions of all the German porcelain works of the 18th century, for not only is there a strong family likeness, but all the works aimed at producing pieces comparable with those of Meissen, Vienna or Berlin. In every case the industry was established under the patronage or at the direct charge of princes or great nobles, anxious to emulate the success of the elector of Saxony or the king of Prussia, and generally the enterprise came to an end with the death of a patron or from his unwillingness to sustain the continued drains upon his purse.
The factory at Höchst was started about 1720 by wanderers from Meissen, but it was only carried to a successful issue through the patronage of the archbishop-elector of Mainz after 1746. The general style of Höchst is a palpable imitation of the contemporary wares of Meissen, but this factory was noted for its excellent figures and groups, especially those modelled by Melchior (1770–1780). He modelled, at Höchst, more than three hundred figures, as well as many portrait medallions. The works came to an untimely end during the French invasion of 1794.
Frankenthal had a porcelain factory (founded by the Hannongs of Strassburg) in 1756, and patronized by Karl Theodor, elector palatine from 1762 to 1795, when the French invasion put an end to its activities. Melchior, the sculptor, came here from Höchst after 1780, and elaborate pieces in the current styles of Sèvres and Dresden were made.
Nymphenburg, near Munich, had a factory which was made a royal factory in 1758 by Max Joseph III. of Bavaria. The ware was of fine quality, but without special distinction. Melchior came on here about 1800, remaining till his death in 1825; his Nymphenburg figures are as highly esteemed as those he modelled at Höchst and Frankenthal. In the early years of the 19th century elaborate painting became the rule here, as at the other royal factories, and copies were made on porcelain of some of the famous paintings in the Munich galleries. The works is still in existence, in the hands of a private company, who unfortunately sell many reproductions of the 18th-century wares.
Ludwigsburg, some 9 m. from Stuttgart, had a porcelain factory from 1758 to 1824, liberally subsidized by the dukes of Württemberg. Highly-finished painting was the rule at this factory, and because the ware bore a crown as one of its marks, it has rather foolishly been called “Kronenberg” porcelain.
Fürstenberg was the factory patronized by the dukes of Brunswick. Experiments were made as early as 1746, but little ware was produced before 1770. Fürstenberg set itself to imitate all the best-known styles of the day, and its only distinctive productions are its “biscuit” statuettes and medallions. The factory remained in operation until 1888, but as the moulds were then sold by auction, imitations of the old pieces are now common.
Other 18th-century German factories were those of Fulda, Bayreuth, Cassel, Ansbach, Kloster-Veilsdorf, Wallendorf and Limbach.
Mention must also be made of the work of certain famous decorators, like Bottengruber and Preussler, who decorated both German and oriental pieces; while Busch, the canon of Hildesheim, produced effects like fine engraving by etching the glaze with a diamond and rubbing black colour into the lines.
While France and Germany were each developing their own particular type of porcelain, it was only natural that the kings and princes of other countries should strive to emulate them in the manufacture of this still rare and highly esteemed form of pottery. Naturally, perhaps, the countries to the north and east seem to have been influenced most by German methods, whilst those to the south and west followed the French example.
Holland.—The earliest Dutch factories were started as early as 1704, first at Weesp near Amsterdam, and afterwards at Oude Loosdrecht. The mark of this factory occurs as M: O.L., or M.o.L. After 1782 the works was removed to Nieuwe Amstel, but the “Amstel” porcelain came to an end with the French invasion. The ware resembled the German both in material and decoration. The best porcelain made in Holland was produced at a factory at the Hague, founded some time after 1775. There is a choice collection of this ware in the Gemeente Museum at the Hague. No porcelain appears to have been made in Holland after about 1810 until 1890 or later.
Denmark.—It has been stated that porcelain of the German type was made in Copenhagen as early as 1731, but there is no definite record of the production of true porcelain until about 1772, when potters, modellers and painters from some of the German works founded the enterprise which was taken over by King Christian VII. in 1779 and converted into a royal factory. Fostered by the king’s patronage, fine porcelain of pronouncedly German style was largely made down to the end of the 18th century. The collection in the castle of Rosenburg contains many examples of the work of this period. In the early years of the 19th century the Empire style of decoration was adopted, and the artistic influence of Sèvres became paramount. Large sums of money were continually required from the crown to maintain the establishment until, in 1867, it was sold into private hands to get rid of an encumbrance. The subsequent new-birth of the existing royal Copenhagen porcelain works must be noted in the next section.
Sweden.—The history of Swedish porcelain in the 18th century is connected with the factories at Rörstrand and Marieberg, both in the environs of Stockholm. Tentative experiments were made at both these places before 1760, but these came to an end by the close of the 18th century, though the Rörstrand works was reopened some fifty years ago and will be subsequently referred to. The Swedish porcelains were of two kinds, one a true felspathic porcelain like the German, and the other a glassy porcelain resembling that made at Mennecy in France. It is interesting to note that the decorative styles in both cases are distinctly French in character.
Russia.—Peter the Great is said to have projected a porcelain factory at the suggestion of his ally Augustus the Third of Saxony, but the scheme was not carried into execution until the days of the empress Elizabeth. Catherine II. subsidized the work in prodigal fashion, but although she brought over French artists, the Russian porcelain more closely resembles its German than its French prototype. In the early years of the 19th century the imperial Russian factory followed the example of Sèvres in producing costly dinner services and extravagant vases of large dimensions.
Small independent factories were started in the neighbourhood of Moscow: one by an Englishman named Gardner about 1780, and another by A. Popoff. Besides producing ordinary table ware these Moscow factories sent forth a considerable number of statuettes, the most interesting being those representing Russian peasant types.
Hungary.—The one Hungarian porcelain factory of note is that at Herend, which was founded about 1830 by Moritz Fischer. At this factory copies of oriental porcelain were made that have deceived many collectors, though the pieces are usually impressed with the word “Herend” in the paste.
Switzerland.—Little porcelain has been produced in Switzerland, and considering the geographical position of the country it seems natural that porcelain of the German type should have been made at Zurich and of the French type at Nyon on the lake of Geneva, but these productions are of no particular importance.
French Porcelains.—The beginnings of French porcelain at Rouen and St Cloud have already been mentioned, as they preceded Böttger’s discovery of true porcelain; but as nothing was known in France of the methods and materials used by the German porcelain makers, the artificial or glassy porcelain held sway in France through the greater part of the 18th century. The next important factory after St Cloud was that founded at Chantilly about 1725 under the patronage of the Prince de Condé, an enthusiastic collector of Chinese and Japanese porcelains. One distinctive feature of the Chantilly porcelain is its imitation of the Japanese Imari wares of the 17th century, especially those bearing delicate patterns in the Kakiemon style. This imitation was not confined to the decoration alone, but great efforts were made to reproduce the delicious tender whiteness of the original ware, by covering the body of the soft porcelain with a coating of the tin-enamel used by the French faience makers. Similar imitation of the Kakiemon style of decoration became the rage all over Europe, and was largely followed at Meissen and in England as well as in France; but no European imitations equalled those of the famous Chantilly ware.
|Lille and Chantilly Potters’ marks.|
Other porcelain factories were started at Mennecy-Villeroy and at Lille, but the most important French factory was that founded at Vincennes about 1740, not only because of the many beautiful pieces produced there, but also because the works was taken under the direct patronage of the king in 1753 and was transferred to Sèvres in 1756, becoming ultimately the most important porcelain factory in Europe.
Fortunately we have documentary information of the exact composition of the artificial porcelain (pâte tendre) of Sèvres, and a brief account of its manufacture will serve to explain how all the glassy porcelains of Europe were made. The potter commenced by preparing a glass or frit, melting together pure sand, alum, sea-salt, gypsum, soda and nitre. The clear portions of this frit were powdered and washed with boiling water, and the working clay was compounded by adding to such powdered frit a small quantity of chalky clay or marl and sometimes pure chalk as well. This mixture was ground in water until the fluid was as fine as cream, and it was then boiled to a thick paste which was so little plastic in itself that black soap or parchment size was added to it to give it enough plasticity for the workman to be able to shape it. Vases and other pieces were made from this paste by pressing cakes of it in plaster moulds of considerable thickness. After pressing, the pieces were dried and were then either turned on a lathe or rubbed down with sand-paper to reduce them to sufficient thinness; while handles, spouts or other ornaments in relief were applied with a lute of slip, as is customary with every other species of pottery. The fragile objects were then fired into what is known as the “biscuit” condition; the most difficult part of the whole process. During this firing the pieces frequently went out of shape because of the excessive shrinkage of the material and its tendency to soften as it approached the melting point of the frit. Consequently an elaborate system of “propping” the pieces had to be resorted to, and even then a very large proportion became deformed. When the porcelain was drawn from the oven after the first firing, the supports were removed and the pieces were rubbed with sand to clean the surface, and were then coated with glaze by sprinkling with a brush; the glaze being a fusible glass very rich in lead. The glaze coat was melted by refiring the piece at a lower temperature; and it was frequently necessary to repeat this process several times in order to get a perfectly even and brilliant result. The difficulties of such a process were enormous, and it was only by the financial support of wealthy patrons, or of the state, that such a method of manufacture was ever carried on for any length of time. At its best the material is an exceedingly beautiful one, lending itself especially to decoration in on-glaze colours, and the pieces produced at Vincennes and at Sèvres, between 1745 and 1770 or thereabouts, form a distinct class by themselves. Skilful chemists like Hellot and Macquer were employed to direct the operations, and many beautiful ground colours, such as the famous gros-bleu, bleu de roi, rose Pompadour, pea-green and apple-green were invented.
|Fig. 52.—Sèvres vase, pâte tendre; green body and gilt imitation mounting. (Victoria and Albert Museum.)|
Sèvres Porcelains.—The forms of the Sèvres porcelain are exceedingly varied. Many of the older shapes were designed by Duplessis, the king’s silversmith, and, as is perhaps natural, are more proper to metal than to pottery; but the French glassy porcelain is such an artificial material in every respect that such a point should not be strained too far. Owing to the want of plasticity in the paste the pieces were always made in moulds of plaster of Paris, while in many cases they were moulded in separate parts and these united together with metal screws or mounted in bands of chased ormolu. Table services made for actual use were usually painted on a plain white ground with the full palette of on-glaze colours (or enamels) and much rich gilding. The decorative pieces such as vases, candelabra, jardinières, &c., were decorated in a much more sumptuous fashion by covering the greater part of the piece with a ground of one of the rich enamel colours previously mentioned, reserving only panels in white on which delicate miniature-like decorations of the most varied kind were subsequently painted and fired (see fig. 52; and examples of Sèvres, Plate IX.). Such collections as the Wallace at Hertford House, or the Jones Bequest in the Victoria and Albert Museum, show at once the variety and perfection to which the work attained.
This Sèvres porcelain is entirely devoid of the broad decorative treatment and rich full colour of any of the great kinds of fine pottery or porcelain. Artistically considered, it has no place beside the triumphs of the Chinese or Persian potters, or of the Italian majolists. Its shapes are too formal, and are not sufficiently imbued with a sense of the qualities of the material. The ground colours defy every natural tendency of pottery colour for they are even, flawless and mechanical, with none of the palpitating richness that comes so naturally from the potter’s processes. The paintings, whether of flowers, birds or figure-subjects, are extraordinarily skilful regarded as miniatures, but as examples of pottery decoration they cannot be compared to the swift, apparently careless, brushwork of the great masters of earlier times. So pronounced was the demand of the period for smooth even finish that such ground colours as gros-bleu and bleu de roi, where the colour naturally came varied and uneven, were subsequently decorated with small diapers or lines of gold in the form of œil de perdrix or vermicelle, so as to produce a more regular and even effect. The most elaborate and costly of all the varieties of old Sèvres is what is known as “jewelled Sèvres,” which is richly sown with imitation jewels, such as turquoises, pearls and rubies, closely resembling the real stones. These imitation jewels were in every case set in beautifully chased mountings of gold, and in the museum at Sevres are to be found examples of the punches and other tools used in making these mounts. On account of the enormous expense involved in the production of such costly triumphs of skill, examples of jewelled Sèvres are rare even in the best collections, but the English student is fortunate in the fact that the Wallace collection contains a considerable number of them.
|Sèvres Potters’ marks, 1753 and 1772.|
Many reasons—the prestige attaching to a Royal Manufactory, the knowledge that the porcelain was produced regardless of cost, the mechanical perfection of its colours, gilding and decoration, as well as the fact that the glassy porcelain was abandoned as too costly and risky after about 1780—have all conspired to raise the prices which modern collectors are prepared to pay for fine examples of vieux Sèvres. It is doubtful whether even the prices paid for paintings by old masters have advanced so rapidly as those paid for Sèvres porcelain of the best period. In the ’seventies of the 19th century it was deemed worthy of remark that a sum of £10,000 should have been paid at public auction for three old Sèvres vases; thirty years later one such piece would probably fetch the same price. It should be added that the extravagant prices now paid for Sèvres porcelain, which is much more a triumph of technical than of artistic skill, have led to an extensive system of “faking” and even forging specimens which are purchased at high prices by amateurs.
Beautiful as the old Sèvres porcelain was, those who were responsible for its manufacture could not fail to recognize that the porcelain made at Meissen and other German factories was both harder and whiter in substance, more truly resembling the oriental porcelain in every respect. It was also known that these German porcelains were not so difficult, and therefore so costly to manufacture as the French, and all these causes combined to make the directorate of Sèvres unremitting in their efforts to discover in France natural materials analogous to those used by the German and Chinese potters. Père d’Entrecolles, the famous Jesuit missionary, had forwarded to France long before an account of the methods used by the Chinese, as well as samples of the materials they employed; and after many years’ research Millot and Macquer discovered the precious materials at St Yrieix near Limoges (see Auscher, History of French Porcelain, pp. 77-81). The first experimental pieces of this French porcelain, similar in material to the German and Chinese, appear to have been made about 1769; but it was some years after this before the manufacture of the new product was firmly established, and then to the end of the 18th century more and more of the hard porcelain and less of the glassy porcelain was made at Sèvres. Speaking broadly, we might say that after 1780 comparatively little of the original French porcelain was made in France; and from that time to this practically all French porcelain has been of the same type as the German porcelain, viz. made with china clay and felspathic rock. This technical change in the nature of the materials had a profound influence on the artistic qualities of French porcelain, and the change was doubtless accentuated by the neo-classical rage which followed on the discovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii. The influence of antique vase shapes and of modern renderings of Greek motives in design spread over Europe like a plague, and whether in France, Germany or England the last quarter of the 18th and the first quarter of the 19th century mark a definite period in pottery design and decoration. The introduction of hard-paste porcelain rendered the manufacture of large vases and other pieces possible; and after 1780 we find the manufactory at Sèvres engaged in the production of enormous vases 5 or 6 ft. in height, a manufacture which has been continued there to this day. About the same time, too, we find the first production of large plaques or slabs of porcelain on which copies of well-known pictures were painted in enamel colours. The earliest of these slabs were in soft-paste porcelain, but in this material it was only possible to make them of quite modest dimensions; with the introduction of hard-paste porcelain very large slabs were manufactured, and a series of these are to be seen in the museum at Sèvres.
The most artistic of all the productions of Sèvres are undoubtedly the “biscuit” figures and groups. These were modelled with great skill by many of the best French sculptors of the day, such as Pajou, Pigalle, Clodion, La Rue, Caffieri, Falconet, Boizot, Julien, Le Riche, &c. The best of these Sèvres “biscuits” have a real artistic value which places them in a class quite apart from the German porcelain figures made at Meissen, Frankenthal and Höchst.
Paris.—Although during the reign of Louis XV. many privileges and prerogatives had been given to the Sèvres manufactory, such as the exclusive right to gild or paint in colours on porcelain, the breakdown of the monarchical régime, which was rapidly accelerated after the accession of Louis XVI., led to the establishment in Paris and its environs of a number, of factories for the production of hard-paste porcelains more or less in open rivalry with the royal manufactory of Sèvres. In order that the royal edicts might be more easily evaded, most of these factories were placed under the patronage of one of the French princes of the blood or even of Queen Marie Antoinette. There is little need to dwell on the doings of these Parisian factories, but the productions of the best of them, such as those of Clignancourt (patronized by Monsieur, the king’s eldest brother); Rue Thiroux (patronized by Queen Marie Antoinette); Rue de Bondy (patronized by the duc d’Angoulême), compare not unfavourably with those of Sèvres itself.
It is impossible to do more than mention the other important French factories at Mennecy, Sceaux, Bourg-la-Reine, Strassburg, Niederviller, Marseilles, Limoges and Caen. In the disastrous years of the French revolution (between 1789 and 1800), such of these factories as had survived came to an untimely end, even the royal factory at Sèvres passing through a kind of lingering death between 1792 and 1801, and it was not until Napoleon decided to revive the glories of Sèvres that modern French porcelain really came into being.
Just as the manufacture of German porcelain spread into Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, &c., we find the manufacture of a glassy porcelain analogous to the early French arising in Belgium, Italy, Spain and England. The materials and methods were so like those used in France that it would be ridiculous to claim for them an independent origin, even were we unable to prove by documentary evidence that workmen trained in the French factories had migrated into those countries.
marks; 1736, 1759, 1780.
Italy.—In Italy we have the factories at Le Nove near Bassano (1762–1825); Doccia near Florence (founded in 1735 by the marchese Carlo Ginori, and still carried on by the same family); and Capo-di-Monte near Naples (1736–1820); with minor factories like those at Vinovo, Treviso, and the Volpato factory at Rome. The most important of these were the factories at Doccia and Capo-di-Monte. The porcelain made at Doccia was famous for its soft translucent texture, so that it lent itself beautifully to the production of white glazed porcelain figures resembling in quality the white pieces of Fu-kien.
The factory at Capo-di-Monte was under the direct patronage of Charles III., king of Naples. The earliest and best of its productions are in pure white, probably made in imitation of Chinese white pieces, though modelled in the form of natural shells supported by corals and seaweed. Figure-modelling was also largely practised, and besides groups of statuettes and figures in conjunction with vases, we have the typical Capo-di-Monte examples in which vases, cups, saucers, plates, &c., are covered with groups of figures modelled in high relief on a minute scale. This trivial style of work is greatly admired because of the minuteness of its execution. At a later period the works was removed to Portici and ultimately to Naples, but after about 1770 the classic style was adopted for the shapes and decorations. The factory came to an end as late as 1820.
|Buen Retiro Potters’ marks.|
Spain.—Charles III. of Naples ascended the throne of Spain in 1759 and took with him to Madrid many of the workmen from the Capo-di-Monte factory, as well as the best moulds and models. He established a new china factory in the gardens of Buen Retiro, a palace outside Madrid. As long as Charles III. lived immense sums were lavished on this factory, and the ware was not allowed to be sold, but was either used for the decoration of the royal palaces or for presentation to other European sovereigns. Enormous vases were made, following the example of Sèvres, and these were often filled with bouquets of flowers modelled in porcelain. The most famous productions of this factory, however, were the plaques and slabs of porcelain used for lining the walls of certain rooms in the royal palaces. Two of these rooms still remain, and are frightful examples of the Spanish rococo style. The factory was entirely destroyed in 1812 during the French war, and since that date no porcelain of any importance has been made in Spain.
English Porcelains of the 18th century.—There can be no doubt that whatever experimental work may have been conducted by our early English potters, such as the famous John Dwight of Fulham, nothing like an established manufacture of porcelain existed in this country prior to about 1740–1745. There are records of many tentative experiments before this date, but no real history. Between 1745 and 1755 important porcelain works were established at Chelsea, Bow, Worcester and Derby, and when we examine the productions of these factories it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the processes had been imported from France. The early English porcelains, like all the French porcelains of that date, were composed of artificial or glassy mixtures.
We may take the early productions of Bow and Chelsea as typical of the earliest English porcelain of which there is any definite record. The material was a mixture of pipe-clay, sand from Alum Bay in the Isle of Wight, and glass, while the glaze was a fusible English flint-glass rich in lead. It is obvious, therefore, that we are dealing with substances very similar to those used in the glassy French porcelain (see above), and such mixtures were very difficult of fabrication, being subject to great loss in the process of firing. In the other European countries the manufacture of porcelain was almost invariably carried on at the expense of some royal or princely patron; in England, however, the manufacture was not subsidized in this way, and it is probably for this reason that at a very early date we find the English porcelain-makers experimenting with other materials than glass and clay in order to make their processes more certain. In a patent taken out in 1749 by Thomas Frye of the Bow works we find mention of the use of bone-ash—the material that was to make English porcelain a distinct species by itself. From 1750 onwards there can be little doubt that, though a large proportion of glass was still used in the composition of the English porcelains, bone-ash was more and more introduced into the paste in order to obtain a more refractory material; yet it was not until about 1800 that Josiah Spode of Stoke-upon-Trent abandoned entirely the use of glass and composed his porcelain of china clay, bone-ash and felspathic rock for the body, glazing it with a rich lead glaze, and so laid the foundation of distinctively English porcelain. The material has many merits both from the useful and artistic points of view; it is much more easily fabricated than the old glassy porcelains, it endures better for ordinary table use than any other kind of porcelain, and it permits the fullest range of decoration.
Before entering upon a detailed notice of the important English factories of the 18th century, something should be said of the various influences that were at work in determining what the porcelain-maker should do, both in the way of shape and decoration. The eyes of all men were, of course, turned first to the porcelain brought from the far East; and in the early efforts of the English factories, as of those of France and Germany, we notice a predominance of white pieces or of pieces decorated with paintings in under-glaze blue alone, obviously inspired by the current importations from China. Bow and Chelsea produced large quantities of ware of this class, and in the early days of the Worcester factory little else was made there than white, or blue and white pieces closely simulating the Chinese. Another oriental influence was to be found in the Imari patterns of Japan, particularly those in the style of Kakiemon. It has been noted that Meissen, Chantilly and other continental factories had already created a vogue for these reproductions of Japanese decorations, and in our own country Bow, Chelsea and Worcester followed suit. The later Imari patterns, heavily decorated with blue and red and gold for the use of “the foreigner,” furnished another popular style for Worcester and Derby, and the vogue of these English “Japan” patterns, in the last quarter of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century, was so great that they represent a large proportion of the output of our English porcelain works during that period. The productions of the German and French factories also exerted a profound influence on English potters; so that throughout the 18th century English porcelains largely consisted of imitations of the foreign wares brought into the country by the wealthy.
We can only point to one method of porcelain decoration which undoubtedly arose in England. This is the method of transfer-printing, whereby patterns printed on paper from engraved copper plates are transferred to porcelain or pottery and subsequently fired, either under or on the glaze. At the best these printed patterns are in no way superior to the stencilled work of modern oriental porcelain, while, at the worst, European and American printed patterns have been perhaps the most inappropriate decoration ever applied to porcelain in the world. It has been generally urged on behalf of transfer-printing that it enables elaborate effects to be produced at a small cost and so brings decorated pottery within the reach of the humblest. The truer view is, that the simplest brushwork patterns, or even no pattern at all, would be preferable to the tawdry results that the cheapest forms of transfer-printing have rendered possible.
Chelsea.—Between 1750 and 1770 the Chelsea factory was the most important of all the English porcelain works, and fine specimens of this period command high prices in the saleroom to-day. We know little of the origin of this important factory, though it is believed to have been in existence from some time after 1740 to 1784, when it was finally demolished and some of the workmen and part of the plant were removed to the then important works at Derby. The first manager was one Charles Gouyn, who was followed by a Mr Sprimont before 1750. Sprimont retained possession of the works until 1769, and died in 1771. It was during his management, from 1750 to 1770, that the finest and most characteristic pieces of Chelsea porcelain were made.
Although the styles in vogue at Chelsea are extremely varied, little was produced there that was really English in character. The earliest pieces appear to have been either in pure white or in white decorated with paintings in under-glaze blue. The goat-and-bee cream jugs, crawfish salt cellars, the shell and rockwork salt cellars, jugs, sauce boats, small cups and saucers of this type are fairly plentiful. Then came the decorations, mainly in red and gold, of the Kakiemon style, followed by reproductions of the brocade patterns of Imari porcelain. Afterwards we find the appearance of table wares modelled in imitation of leaves, animals, fruits, birds and fishes, apparently adopted from current French and German practice.
In another direction the influence of Meissen was also shown by the production of statuettes (see in Chelsea figure, Plate X.), and of the small modelled trinkets, scent-bottles and toys of which there is such a fine collection in the British Museum. In the latter days of the factory (say after 1758) we find Chelsea following in the wake of Sèvres in the production of large and elaborate rococo vases, with pierced necks and covers, scroll-work bases and interlacing handles such as are to be seen in the Jones Bequest in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Pieces of this elaborate kind are overlaid with rich grounds of Mazarine blue, turquoise, pea-green, or the famous Chelsea claret-colour, while white panels are reserved framed with gilt scrolls and painted in enamel colours with flowers, birds or figure-subjects in absolute rivalry with the pieces manufactured at Sèvres.
|Chelsea Potters’ marks.|
The Chelsea works appears to have come to an end through the ill-health of Sprimont, and it was sold in 1769–1770 to Duesbury, the proprietor of the Derby works. He carried on the establishment from 1770 to 1784, but in this period a great change is noticeable in the product of the factory. The “rococo” forms and decorations of the true Chelsea porcelain were replaced by works in the neo-classical style already rendered popular by the success of Josiah Wedgwood, and the Derby-Chelsea porcelain is quite a distinct production from the early works of Chelsea. The most distinctive mark of the Chelsea porcelain is an anchor—either embossed in the paste or painted in gold or colour. Often the anchors occur in pairs, and it is frequently associated with other marks such as a dagger or a cross. Some of the Derby-Chelsea pieces are marked with a conjoined D and an anchor.
Bow.—The date of the establishment of the factory at Stratford-le-Bow, in what is now the East End of London, is quite uncertain, but in 1744 Edward Heylyn and Thomas Frye, who were connected with this factory, took out a patent for the manufacture of porcelain. The materials mentioned in this patent are not such as would produce porcelain at all, and it appears likely that the specification was made purposely defective. In 1748 a further patent was applied for in which we get the first mention of bone-ash, so that from the technical point of view the wares made at the Bow factory are of the utmost importance as indicating the experimental beginnings of our English porcelain in which bone-ash plays such an important part. In 1750 the works at Bow belonged to Messrs Weatherby & Crowther, and was then known as “New Canton,” and as 300 workpeople were employed, the operations must have been conducted on a large scale; but ultimately, from causes that can only be surmised, the partnership was dissolved and the business failed, so that in 1775 the works was bought for a very small sum by the William Duesbury already mentioned, who transferred part of the plant and moulds to his more prosperous works at Derby. It would appear from what we know of the factory and its productions that the business was conducted on simpler lines than at the Chelsea works. We have, for instance, no elaborate vases in imitation of Sèvres, and no important groups of figures which might challenge rivalry with Meissen. We find, as is common with all the early porcelain factories of Europe, first the production of white pieces with modelled reliefs, or of pieces painted with under-glaze blue in imitation of Chinese porcelain. Then followed the well-known “Quail,” or “Partridge,” and “Wheat-sheaf” patterns in red and green and gold in imitation of the Japanese patterns; and the manufacture of table ware decorated with these simple yet bright and pleasant devices seems to have formed the greater part of the work at the factory. Many figures and statuettes were also produced at Bow, but they are fewer in number and less cleverly made and decorated than the contemporary productions of the Chelsea factory. We may surmise that there was considerable rivalry between these two works situated on the outskirts of the metropolis, for we find the “anchor” mark, which is the best recognized mark of Chelsea porcelain, often occurring on specimens that from internal evidence or from the piece itself we should rather attribute to Bow. The Bow marks are not very certain, but some of the likeliest are here given.
|Bow Potters’ marks.|
Worcester.—The third of the early English factories, and ultimately the most important of all, was that founded at Worcester in 1751 by Dr Wall, a man of unusual attainments, and a number of his friends. How Dr Wall came to learn the secret of porcelain making is absolutely unknown, but even assuming that he acquired some information from wandering workmen it is certain that the Worcester porcelain was soon developed on original lines. The nature of the paste and the glaze of the early Worcester productions, as well as the sobriety of their decorations, stamp this factory as the first where Englishmen really developed a native porcelain. Between 1751 and 1770, the first period of Worcester porcelain, the prevalent influence was that of Chinese blue-and-white, and the pieces of that period are rightly esteemed by collectors for their artistic quality. Probably nowhere in Europe, certainly nowhere in England, was oriental blue-and-white more carefully studied, and a collection of this blue-and-white Worcester is most satisfactory from the aesthetic point of view. The productions at this time were tea and coffee services, bowls, dishes, mugs and plates. The cups were usually made without handles in imitation of the oriental practice, but large, two-handled covered cups for caudle, broth and chocolate were also made during the early period. Many of these larger cups bore an embossed pattern resembling a pine-cone, possibly imitated from a shape produced at St Cloud; while openwork dishes, plates and fruit baskets were also made in imitation of a popular Meissen fashion.
|Early Worcester Potters’ marks.|
The method of decorating porcelain with transfer prints was introduced at Worcester as early as 1756, when Robert Hancock, an engraver, came from York House, Battersea, where the process was first employed for the decoration of the Battersea enamels. The early Worcester prints comprised portraits of celebrities of the time (the Frederick the Great mug), or adaptations of the works of great artists such as Gainsborough and Watteau, or copies of current engravings or sporting prints. The first printing was done in black or purple, and transferred on to the fired glaze, and it was not until about 1770 that the process of printing in blue under the glaze was perfected. It is interesting to note that for many years this process of transfer printing was developed side by side with the older method of porcelain painting, and until the end of the 18th century the processes appear to have been used at Worcester quite independently. The closing of the Chelsea factory in 1770 led to the migration of some of the Chelsea painters to Worcester, and from about that date a considerable amount of Worcester porcelain was decorated on the glaze with enamel colours and gilding after the styles that had been rendered popular at Chelsea and Bow. It is only fair to remark, however, that the Worcester patterns are always distinguished by a certain English character both in the style and the workmanship (see example, Plate X.). The first and most artistic period of Worcester porcelain came to an end before 1783, when, after the death of Dr Wall, the works passed under the control of Thomas Flight and his two sons, who had been jewellers. The Flight influence was soon noticeable from the fact that the new shapes were more and more based on those of Sèvres and Meissen, while the decoration became more mechanical and precise as befitted the work of jewellers rather than potters. King George III. and Queen Charlotte visited the works in 1788 and bestowed upon the firm the privilege of styling themselves “China Manufacturers to Their Majesties,” since when the works has always been known as the Worcester Royal Porcelain Works. In 1793 Martin Barr was taken into partnership; the “Flight & Barr” period, so well known to collectors, lasted until 1807.
Another Worcester porcelain works was in existence after 1784, viz. the Chamberlain factory, which was working in rivalry with the original establishment; but its productions are of no particular artistic merit, and in 1840 the two firms became amalgamated, and so gave rise to the present Worcester Royal Porcelain Co. The most noteworthy feature of the productions of both the Worcester works at the end of the 18th century were the “Armorial” services made for various royal and noble families, and those adaptations of Imari patterns known as “Old Japan.”
Derby.—Experiments in the manufacture of porcelain appear to have been made at Derby as early as 1750 by a French refugee, Andrew Planché; but the business, which was afterwards to attain such a great development, was only founded in 1756 with William Duesbury as its manager. Duesbury was originally a decorator of china figures in London, and his career proves that he was a man of great industry and energy, for within twenty-five years he not only built up a large business at Derby, but he absorbed the decadent works at Bow and Chelsea, so that in the last quarter of the 18th century Derby was the most important china manufactory in England. As is so often the case, a commercial success like this implied the absence of any distinct artistic impulse. The porcelain produced at Derby is for the most part only an echo of the successes of Meissen, Sèvres, or the earlier English factories. It is only fair to remark that a very deep and rich under-glaze blue was attained at the Derby works, and that this was associated with very mechanical painting of birds and flowers and with gilding of exceptional quality. At this factory, too, the old Japan patterns were imitated with exceptional vigour, until “Crown-Derby Japan” became a standard trade name for this clobbered oriental style.
|Derby Potters’ marks.|
Mention has already been made of the “biscuit” porcelain figures made at Derby, which are superior in style to anything else made in-Europe in the 18th century except the “biscuit” porcelains of Sèvres. The Derby “biscuits” of the best type range from 1790 to 1810, and the finest specimens have a “waxy” surface, though there is little or no sheen and every detail remains as crisp as when the figure left the hand of its maker. The most famous of these figures are the portrait medallions and statuettes of British generals and admirals which were modelled by an artist named Stephan. Spengler, a Swiss, modelled numerous groups adapted from the drawings of Angelica Kaufmann, while a workman named Coffee seems to have modelled only rustic figures and animals.
Plymouth and Bristol.—The porcelain factories at Plymouth and Bristol are mainly noteworthy because they were the only English factories in which a true porcelain strictly analogous to the Chinese was ever manufactured. William Cookworthy, a Quaker druggist of Plymouth, was greatly interested in attempting to discover in Cornwall and Devonshire minerals similar to those which were described in the letters of Père d’Entrecolles as forming the basis of Chinese porcelain. After many years of travel and research he ascertained the nature of the Cornish stone and Cornish clay, and in 1768 he founded a works at Plymouth for the production of a porcelain similar to the Chinese from these native materials. Readers interested in this abortive enterprise, from which such great results were afterwards to come, can only be referred to the general histories of English porcelain, for the factory was removed to Bristol in 1770 and was shortly afterwards transferred to Richard Champion, a Bristol merchant, who had already been dabbling in the fashionable pursuit of porcelain making. Champion’s Bristol factory lasted from 1773 to 1781, when the business had to be sold to a number of Staffordshire potters owing to the serious losses it had entailed. The Bristol porcelain, like that of Plymouth, was always a true felspathic porcelain resembling the Chinese, but made from the china clay and china stone of Cornwall. It is, therefore, harder and whiter than the other English porcelains, and its cold, harsh, glittering glaze marks it off at once from the wares of Bow, Chelsea, Worcester or Derby.
The Bristol porcelain resembled that of Meissen quite as much in its style of decoration as in the nature of its materials. One can point to nothing distinctly English about it, and if specimens now command very high prices in the salerooms it is on account of their rarity rather than of any intrinsic quality or beauty that they possess.
Table ware of various kinds formed the greater part of the production of the Bristol works, but a considerable number of figures are known, in many cases obviously copied from those of Meissen, and a few large hexagonal vases similar in style to specimens produced at Chelsea and at Worcester. The most distinctive pieces made at the Bristol factory are certain small plaques or slabs in “biscuit” porcelain, usually bearing in the centre a portrait medallion or armorial bearings surrounded by a wreath of skilfully modelled flowers. Good examples of these choice productions are to be seen in the British Museum.
|Plymouth, Bristol, Champion and|
The Plymouth factory is supposed to have adopted as its general mark the alchemical symbol for tin. This mark was also used to a limited extent at the Bristol factory, though the general Bristol mark was a cross or a copy of the crossed swords of Meissen. The Staffordshire potters who bought the rights of the Bristol porcelain factory from Champion established a works at Shelton, near Stoke-upon-Trent, in Staffordshire, under the name of New Hall Porcelain Co., but they never manufactured anything of artistic account.
Minor English Factories.—A number of other porcelain factories were founded in England in the latter half of the 18th century, but none of these produced ware of any particular merit. The porcelain made at Longton Hall by William Littler (1752–1758), always clumsy and ugly in form, is interesting for a splendid blue colour characteristic of the factory. This small venture was ultimately absorbed by William Duesbury.
The colony of potters established in Liverpool also made a certain amount of porcelain, as well as “Delft” and other earthenwares, and the Liverpool Museum contains some good examples of their productions.
A little factory at work at Lowestoft in the last quarter of the 18th century has attracted much more attention than it deserves, because certain writers foolishly attributed to it large quantities of “Armorial” porcelain which had, undoubtedly, been made in China. Recent excavations have established the fact that this factory was only of minor importance, and was mainly occupied in producing cheap wares in rivalry with, and even in imitation of, those of the more important English factories.
Towards the end of the 18th century the manufacture of English porcelain spread into the Staffordshire potteries, and the firms of Spode, Davenport and Minton became the most important English factories of the early 18th century. For notices of the minor English factories of the late 18th century and early 19th century, such as Caughley, Coalport, Swansea and Nantgarw, the student is referred to the special works dealing with the history of English porcelain.
Collections.—The British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum contain the best general collections of English porcelain. The museums at Bristol and Liverpool contain examples of the local wares; while the museum at the Worcester Royal Porcelain works has an admirable collection of the wares of that factory. Many noteworthy private collections are in existence, of which we may mention those of Mr Dyson Perrins, Mr Cockshutt and Mr Trapnell.
Literature.—Alex. Brongniart, Traitié des arts céramiques (1844); Jacquemart, Histoire de la céramique (Eng. ed. 1873); Jännicke, Grundriss der Keramik (1879); Dr Brinkmann, Handbook of European Porcelains in the Hamburg Museum; Marryat, History of Pottery and Porcelain (1857); Jewitt, Ceramic Art of Great Britain (1878); Auscher, A History and Description of French Porcelain (1905); Burton, A History and Description of English Porcelain (1902); Dillon, Porcelain (1904); Solon, Old English Porcelain (1903); Burton, Porcelain (1906); R. Almstrom, Lervarorna och deras Tillverkning (1903).
Pottery and Porcelain during the 19th Century
The development of the manufacture of pottery and porcelain in Europe and America throughout the 19th century need not be treated in such detail as the history of its growth up to that period, for modern means of communication and the general diffusion of knowledge have tended to destroy the individual character which was so marked a feature of the pottery of different countries in previous centuries. The 19th century was distinctly the century of machinery, and, for the most part, it witnessed the displacement by mechanical processes of those methods of handicraft which made the older pottery individual and interesting even in its simplest forms. Collectors are prepared to pay very large sums for choice examples of the potter’s art of bygone centuries, but it is doubtful if much of the pottery of the 19th century will ever be collected for its intrinsic merits, though it may be preserved as an illustration of the spirit of the age.In preceding sections of this article the development of the brightly painted tin-enamelled wares and the gaily decorated porcelains of various European countries have been traced down to the end of the 18th century, because that date marks, quite distinctly, the period when the old handicraft of the potter was for various reasons displaced by organized manufacture. The disturbed economic condition of Europe in the last quarter of the 18th century and the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century proved disastrous to most of the pottery and porcelain works where artistic wares were made, and the disturbance of traditional methods was completed by the superior mechanical perfection and cheapness of the English earthenware introduced by Wedgwood and his contemporaries. The English pottery was neater, more perfectly finished and more durable than the painted tin-enamelled pottery of the continent. It vied in finish with the expensive continental porcelains, and for nearly half a century it carried all before it, not only in England, but throughout the world. An intelligent observer, M. Faujas de Saint Fond, writing in the beginning of the 19th century, remarks of English pottery that “Its excellent workmanship, its solidity, the advantage which it possesses of sustaining the action of fire, its fine glaze impenetrable to acids, the beauty and convenience of its form, and the cheapness of its price, have given rise to a commerce so active and so universal, that in travelling from Paris to Petersburg, from Amsterdam to the farthest parts of Sweden, and from Dunkirk to the extremity of the south of France one is served at every inn upon English ware. Spain, Portugal and Italy are supplied with it; and vessels are loaded with it for the East Indies, the West Indies, and the continent of America.” It was calculated that at this time three-fourths of the pottery manufactured in England was sent abroad. Such a state of things was not likely to continue, and in most of the European countries, after the settlement of 1815, such of the older factories as had survived, or new factories specially created for the purpose, adopted English methods of manufacture. In many cases
|Sèvres. Pâte-tendre, c. 1757, painted by Falot and Morin.||Meissen. May-flower vase mounted in ormolu. Pâte-dure.|
|Meissen. Crinoline figure (Kandler), Pâte-dure.||Sèvres. Pâte-tendre, c. 1756.|
While we must admire, from the economic point of view, the methods of manufacture which have placed England in the first rank as a pottery-producing country, inasmuch as they have brought within the reach of the humblest domestic utensils of high finish and great durability, it is impossible to say much for the taste or art associated with them. Neatness, serviceableness and durability, English domestic wares undoubtedly possess in a degree unknown to any earlier type of pottery, but the general use of transfer-printing as the principal method of decoration, and the absence of any distinctive style of ornament, must cause them to take a low rank in comparison with the wares of past centuries, when mechanical perfection was impossible and rich colour and truly decorative painting were the chief distinctions of the pottery of every country. The London International Exhibition of 1851 is generally supposed to indicate the low-water mark of art as applied to industry; it should rather be regarded as marking the period when many of the old handicrafts had been extinguished by the use of mechanical appliances and the growth of the factory system, and when the delight of men in these current developments was so great that they were regarded as triumphs in themselves, when they were only “means to an end.”
Since that period the development of pottery and porcelain has followed two main directions: (1) an attempt on the part of manufacturers to produce the most artistic results possible with modern processes and methods, and (2) the interesting and valuable efforts of those individual potters in every country with whom art was the first consideration and commercial production was disregarded.
Though the English pottery factories were of such paramount importance in the first half of the 19th century, it must be remembered that some of the oldest factories in Europe were still alive and active. The royal factories in Sèvres, Meissen, Berlin, Vienna, St Petersburg and elsewhere, surviving the wreck of the Napoleonic Wars, continued at the expense of their respective states, to produce porcelains which were the legitimate development of their work during the 18th century.
Meissen and Berlin.—At Meissen, efforts were made to improve the technical process in use, but, unfortunately, the old Meissen wares had already become valuable, and they were reproduced, marks included, until all initiative was destroyed, and the factory continued to live, mainly, on its old reputation.
At Berlin, the financial troubles of the Prussian monarchy throughout the early years of the 19th century were severely felt, so that a cheaper class of porcelain was manufactured. The only innovations that can be ascribed to the factory during this period, though highly esteemed at the time, form striking examples of the artistic decadence of the period. Such was the lace-work decoration made by dipping lace in porcelain slip so that on firing the thread burned away, leaving a porcelain facsimile; another was the production of slabs of porcelain modelled in such a way that on viewing the piece by transmitted light it appeared like a picture painted en grisaille.
From the artistic point of view there is little to be said for the majority of productions of the Berlin factory, but nowhere in the world has greater attention been paid to the technical and scientific problems of porcelain manufacture, and this establishment has rendered the greatest service in the development of the important chemical and electrical industries of Germany by the splendid appliances it has invented for scientific use.
Since 1870 the works, removed to Charlottenburg, have been conducted with very great enterprise. It was here that Seger perfected his soft porcelain based on the glazes and bodies of the best Japanese porcelains, and here also he developed the manufacture of copper-red glazes in imitation of the old sang-de-boeuf and flambé, glazes of the Chinese, at the same time establishing some of the scientific principles underlying their production. At Berlin, too, all the modern methods of decoration, whether in coloured glazes, raised enamels, pâte sur pâte, the elaborate paintings of flowers, birds or figures, or the use of crystalline glazes, have been followed with great success; but the factory has never yet given any special impetus or new direction to the decorative side of porcelain.
Vienna.—Few European factories were so little affected by the general trend of affairs as the royal factory at Vienna. We have already referred to the elaborate paintings and rich gilding which became the distinguishing feature of its wares towards the end of the 18th century, and this style, once perfected, seems to have been continued with little change. It has been stated by a renowned German authority, that the Viennese porcelain was at its best between 1785 and 1815. During this period the plan of painting copies of pictures on porcelain was developed to its utmost, and this, in combination with the richest gilding, marks the apotheosis of Viennese porcelain. The factory came to an end in 1864, but collectors should be warned that a flood of cheap porcelains, decorated in modern Viennese workshops, and therefore styled “Viennese porcelain,” has during the last twenty years overwhelmed the English and American markets.
Sèvres.—The important part played by the Royal French manufactory at Sèvres has already been sketched. During the troublous years of the French Revolution the works practically came to a standstill, and under the Directory it was a question whether this manufactory, along with certain other state establishments in France, should be closed. Napoleon, however, decided that for the glory of France and as a means of encouraging its porcelain industry, seriously threatened by the English potters, the establishment at Sèvres should be conducted as a national factory. By a splendid coincidence Alexander Brongniart, a man of great natural ability, and a noted scientist, was appointed director, and retained that post under the successive governments of France until his death in 1847. In the hands of Brongniart the establishment at Sèvres became at once a school of research and a centre of practical accomplishment—the influence of which was felt throughout Europe. Its products were obviously inspired by the demands of successive French monarchs and their courts. It ministered to the grandiose ideas of Napoleon, who demanded pieces that were to speak of his victories, and after every campaign a fresh table service or new suite of vases was produced to commemorate the emperor’s successes. The most striking piece of this kind was the vase made to commemorate the marriage of Napoleon and Marie Louise in 1810. It was designed by Isabey and was modelled with figures in bas-relief. The principal group contains not less than 115 such figures, while the subsidiary group, representing the acclaiming populace, contains between 2000 and 3000 figures. This vase was three years in making, and is said to have cost something like £1250. Unfortunately this was not a solitary example of the productions of Sèvres, for under every successive government of the 19th century the factory has been called to produce enormous vases which are to be found in the rooms or corridors of every palace and museum in France, and while these pieces represent wonderful technical skill, both in their manufacture and the decorations with which they are covered, very few of them possess either spontaneity or charm. They are correct, frigid, cold, and compare most unfavourably from the artistic point of view with the masterpieces of oriental pottery.
Everything was carried out on the grand scale, and once again the influence of Sèvres became paramount in Europe, and its styles of painting and decoration were eagerly followed from 1830 to 1870 by all those European potters who were attempting to make anything beyond useful domestic wares. As an instance of its aims in the period between 1830 and 1850, large sums were spent in the production of great slabs of porcelain many feet in area; on which were painted copies of some of the famous portraits and other pictorial masterpieces in the galleries of the Louvre. A number of these are preserved in the museum at Sèvres, and must always excite admiration and even wonder at their technical accomplishment.
The most noticeable invention of Sèvres in the middle part of the 19th century was the pâte sur pâte decoration in which porcelain clays of various colours are used as the artist’s medium. The idea appears to have been adopted from an old Chinese vase by Robert, the chief painter, and at the London International Exhibition of 1862 some small cups decorated in this method, by Gely, were first shown. The most successful work in this style was, however, that produced by M. Solon, who worked at Sèvres until 1870. In that year he came to England and was employed at Minton’s, where for about thirty-five years he continued this method of work, one of the few artistic and beautiful styles of pottery decoration of the 19th century. As practised by M. Solon the pâte sur pâte decoration took the form of paintings of figure subjects or dainty ornamental designs in white slip on a coloured porcelain ground of green, blue, dark-grey or black. On such grounds a thin wash of the slip gives a translucent film, so that by washing on or building up successive layers of slip, sharpening the drawing with modelling tools, or softening or rounding the figure with a wet brush, the most delicate gradations of tint can be obtained, from the brilliant white of the slip to the full depth of the ground. This method was rapidly adopted by all the principal European factories, though nowhere was it carried to such perfection as at Sèvres and at Minton’s. M. Taxile Doat has executed many extraordinary pieces in this style of decoration at Sèvres, and in the British Museum there is a large vase of his, presented by the French government at the beginning of the present century. One great feature of French porcelain manufacture during the 19th century was the development of the industry at Limoges and the neighbouring district of central France. Limoges was a small centre of porcelain production in the period between 1780 and 1850, but after the latter date it rapidly developed into a pottery centre second only in importance to that of the Potteries district in England. We can do no more than mention this fact, because, for the most part, the activities of Limoges have been devoted to the production of pottery commercially, rather than pottery as an art.
The Franco-German War proved a disaster for Sèvres, and all work came to a standstill for a time. The existing manufactory, which was almost completed before the outbreak of the war, was opened by Marshal MacMahon in 1876, but for many years the work was continued under great discouragement. Between 1879 and 1889 attention was paid to the study and imitation of old Chinese methods, and this resulted in the reproduction of many of those Chinese glazes which had hitherto been the despair of European potters.
At the Paris Exhibition of 1900 the display made by Sèvres was perhaps the most notable feature of the magnificent collection of ceramics gathered there. The collection included many varieties of porcelain, both hard and soft paste, decorated in all the current styles of the period; under-glaze painting, on-glaze painting, flambé glazes and crystalline glazes, but most beautiful of all were the magnificent groups of “biscuit” figures designed as table garnitures by some of the best French sculptors of the time.
English Progress.—The demand for elaborate specimens of painted porcelain was at its height throughout Europe between 1851 and 1880, and this demand was undoubtedly fostered by the series of international exhibitions held during that period, when every European pottery works of note produced large and costly specimens of porcelain or earthenware, smothered with painting and gilding. Every famous manufactory produced something beyond the ordinary, but undoubtedly the first of European factories during this period was that of Messrs Minton at Stoke-upon-Trent. M. Leon Arnoux, a descendant of the Arnoux’s of Apt, an old family of French potters, was at this time the technical and artistic director of Messrs Minton’s works, and he was the only pottery director during the 19th century who could in any sense be compared with M. Brongniart of Sèvres. M. Arnoux combined in a remarkable degree artistic with technical skill, and under his management the works of Messrs Minton became the greatest centre of ceramic art in Europe. Skilful modellers, like Jeannest, Carriere-Belleuse, and Protat, and pottery painters such as A. Boullemier, Moussill, E. Lessore and L. Solon were engaged at this factory and produced many of the most characteristic European decorations of the middle of the 19th century.
To this period, too, we must refer another English invention, that of a special porcelain known as “Parian.” This in its finest expression was a “biscuit” porcelain used for the production of statuettes and groups rivalling the finest 18th century “biscuit” figures of Sèvres and Derby. It seems probable that this Parian was first made at the works of Copeland and Garratt, at Stoke-upon-Trent; but it was immediately adopted at Minton’s, Wedgwood’s, and at Worcester; and each of these firms used it in a distinctive way. Glazed Parian was also manufactured at the Belleek Porcelain Works in Ireland (the only Irish porcelain works of any note), and later its manufacture was developed by the Worcester Royal Porcelain Company, Moore Brothers of Longton, and other English manufacturers until it became an important branch of the English porcelain made in the period under review.
Japanese Influence.—At the Paris Exhibition of 1867 the great collection of the applied arts of Japan took Europe by storm, and there was an immediate outbreak of adaptations of Japanese art in Europe once more; not as in the 18th century, when the old Japanese patterns were copied or frankly imitated, but a European-Japanese style arose, based on the methods and ideas of the great Japanese painters and draughtsmen, the workers in metal, in iron, in lacquer and in silk. In England the Worcester Royal Porcelain Company produced a series of elaborate and skilful pieces inspired from this source, which for perfect and minute execution must be ranked before all other European works of their kind.
The most admirable result of this revived interest in Japanese art was, however, developed at the Royal Copenhagen works, the productions of which are not only famous all over the world, but have set a new style in porcelain decoration which is being followed at most of the continental factories. By the use of the pure Swedish felspar and quartz and the finest china clays from Germany or Cornwall a material of excellent quality is prepared, and on this naturalistic paintings of birds, fishes, animals and water or northern landscapes and figure subjects are painted in delicate under-glaze blues, greys and greens. The Royal Copenhagen works has also produced a profusion of skilfully modelled animals, birds and fishes, either in pure white, or delicately tinted after nature, with the same under-glaze colours.
Not only have Berlin, Sèvres and other European factories adopted the modern Copenhagen style of decoration, but the Japanese are now imitating these skilful productions which were originally inspired by their own early work.Stonewares.—Mention must be made of the revival of the manufacture of artistic stonewares by Doultons of Lambeth, and Villeroy and Boch, the great German potters. Doultons, besides reviving the older forms of English stoneware, made some entirely new departures, and their pieces with designs etched in the clay are admirable examples of the right use of a refractory material. Villeroy and Boch reproduced the old Rhenish stonewares, and many interesting new departures in addition, but mostly in German forms that have not commended the wares to other nations.
|Chelsea porcelain; 1745–1770.
Figure after Watteau.
|Worcester Porcelain; c. 1760–1770.|
|Whieldon and Wedgwood,|
cauliflower ware; c. 1750–1760.
|Wedgwood’s jasper; c. 1780.||Turner’s jasper; c. 1780.|
Artistic Results.—While the great potteries of Europe have been employed in improving their methods of manufacture and in consolidating their knowledge on the technical and scientific side, so that they are able to produce pottery more perfect in shape, with a higher degree of finish and greater certainty of result than was ever known before, it cannot be said that the artistic results have been commensurate with the labour expended. Fortunately, however, the success of these important industrial concerns in stereotyping modern production has incited a considerable number of clever men, either potters or artists, to become artist-potters and producers of individual wares, often recalling the works of the great schools of bygone centuries. This movement, which to-day has its exponents in every European country as well as in the United States of America, originated in France between 1840 and 1850, when the formation of the earliest ceramic museums and the new-born interest in the old French faience led to various attempts at pottery-making by the old methods of handwork and rule of thumb. Avisseau of Tours (1845), Pull of Paris (1855), and Barbizet (1859) began to make pieces in the style of Palissy, and Ulysse of Blois (1863) revived painted faience in imitation of that of Nevers. Slowly a demand for painted pottery was created among collectors and amateurs, and in France and other countries artists began to dabble in the painting of pottery. In some cases the artist retained his freedom, painting pieces obtained from some pottery manufacturer, which he sold on his own account after they had been decorated and fired; or he became attached to a particular factory and his productions were sold by the potter; or the artist became an amateur potter, and either worked alone or encouraged other artists to co-operate with him.
It is impossible to do more than mention a few of the prominent men in each class, whose works were not only esteemed in their own day, but are also likely to be regarded always as among the distinguished productions of the 19th century. Emile Lessore and Chapelet were both painters who were attracted by the technique of the potter. For some time they bought specimens of pottery from a small manufacturer named Laurin at Bourg-la-Reine, and after a time they definitely forsook pictorial art for that of the potter. Lessore painted in underglaze colours in a delicate sketchy style figure-subjects, mostly adapted from old engravings. He worked for a short time at Sèvres, and then, like so many other French pottery artists of this period, he came to Minton’s in England, and finally entered into an engagement with the old firm of Josiah Wedgwood & Sons which continued almost to his death (1860–1876). On their fine cream-coloured earthenware he sketched many thousands of fanciful designs which had a great vogue in the ’seventies and ’eighties of the last century. Chapelet pursued a very different course. His first innovation was a method known as “Barbotine” or slip-painting, in which coloured clays were used “impasto,” often in considerable thickness, so that after the work had been fired and glazed it bore some resemblance to an oil painting. For a few years this style of decoration became the rage all over Europe, but it fell into contempt almost as rapidly as it had found favour, and is now only used for the decoration of common wares. Ultimately, Chapelet gave up painting and applied himself to the discovery of technical novelties. He was apparently the first European potter to produce flambé glazes after the manner of the Chinese, and a fine collection of these productions of his is preserved in the museum at Sèvres.
The greatest of all the French innovators was, however, Théodore Deck, who had been trained as a working potter and was led to forsake the management of an ordinary tile and pottery business in Paris to experiment on his own account. He started a little workshop in the Boulevard Montparnasse in Paris and rapidly gathered round him a number of young painters all eager to experiment in the magnificent colours which Deck with his passionate love of Persian and other oriental pottery could place at their disposal. Within a few years this venture was so successful that Deck was known all over the civilized world as a great potter, and his original creations, painted by men like Ranvier, Collin, Ehrmann, Anker and other artists, were readily purchased by the lovers of ceramic art in every country. The crown of his career came in 1887, when he was appointed director of the National Manufactory at Sèvres, for he was the only practical potter who had ever occupied that position; but he died in 1890 before he had been able to impress his personality on the work of Sèvres.
The same movement that was active in France found its exponents in other countries as well. In Italy and the south of France the last quarter of the 19th century witnessed a revival of Italian majolica and of lustre decoration. Prominent in this direction were the productions of Cantegalli of Florence and of the Massiers of Golfe-Juan near Cannes; while in England William de Morgan created an artistic sensation by his tiles and vases decorated with lustres, or with painted colours recalling those of the Persian and Syrian potters of the middle ages. This departure in England was, however, followed up by many manufacturers who were keenly alive to the possibilities of pottery colour, and Mr Bernard Moore, of Longton, Maw & Company of Jackfield, and Minton’s of Stoke-upon-Trent, produced much excellent work, in tiles and vases inspired from the same oriental sources.
Meantime, in America there had been growing up a manufacture of pottery after the approved methods, in Trenton, New Jersey; East Liverpool, Zanesville and Cincinnati (Ohio). To all these centres English workmen had been attracted, and earthenware after the current English styles was manufactured; but, as was the case in Europe, individual efforts were made to produce artistic pottery. The first and best known of these artistic departures was that of the Rookwood Pottery at Cincinnati, and again it was an amateur, Mrs Bellamy Storer, who founded an enterprise which has since produced some very original work. From 1880 to 1889 the work was mainly carried on at the expense of this lady, but since that date the enterprise has been self-supporting, and the Rookwood pottery has become known throughout the world.
The latter half of the 19th century also witnessed the development of new branches of pottery manufacture for sanitary purposes—and it is not too much to say that much of the improved sanitation of modern dwellings and towns has been rendered possible by the special appliances invented by potters for these purposes. In this direction the English potters undoubtedly led the way, and not only have their methods been imitated abroad, but English manufacturers have also established large works in Germany, France and the United States of America. Varieties, too, of hard-fired pottery, comprising earthenwares, stonewares and porcelains, have been invented for use in the chemical and electrical industries. But these belong to the great modern branch of pottery manufacture, not to pottery art. In the same way, the revived attention paid to the various forms of pottery for the interior and exterior of buildings belongs rather to the question of mural decoration than of pottery.
At the beginning of the 20th century we find England and Germany the leading pottery manufacturing countries; Germany excelling in the amount of its output, and England in the fineness and finish of its productions. France, in addition to the National Manufactory at Sèvres, as much as ever divorced from commerce, has its porcelain industry at Limoges and large manufactories of tiles and earthenware in many departments; while there are also a number of artist potters like Lachenal, Dalpayrat, Delaherche and Taxile Doat who make purely artistic pottery in hard-fired stonewares (grès) and porcelain, while the production of decorative stonewares for building purposes has been developed by such firms as Bigot, Boulanger and E. Müller. A great development has also taken place in the production of decorative pottery and tiles in Holland. The famous Delft works, besides producing quantities of painted blue and white earthenware (made in the English and not in the old Dutch fashion), has been experimenting largely in the development of crystalline and opalescent glazes and in lustres, while the Rozenburg factory at the Hague and a factory at Puramerende, near Amsterdam, have made some distinctive but rather bizarre painted pottery and porcelain. The success of the Royal Copenhagen factory has already been mentioned, and this success led to the foundation of Bing & Gröndhal of Copenhagen, who largely follow the styles of decoration initiated at the Royal works. In Sweden there are two important factories at Rörstrand and Gustafsberg. Under the accomplished director of the Rörstrand factory, Mr Robert Almström, a great variety of products have been successfully manufactured, including hard-paste porcelain, English bone china, earthenware, majolica and stoves. Italy, Spain and Belgium have also important modern pottery works.
In the United States of America there are large establishments for the manufacture of earthenware, bone china and tiles, all after the English fashion, while in addition there are a number of experimental kilns at work producing artistic pottery. The Rookwood factory has already been mentioned, but the wares produced at the Grueby factory and by Mrs Robineau and T. Brouwer are also worthy of note. (See “Report on American Art Pottery,” pp. 922-935 of Special Reports of the U.S. Census Office, Manufactures, pt. iii., 1905.)
Technical Pottery Works.—It is only possible to give a selection of the best of the modern standard works dealing with the technical side of pottery production. Brongniart, Traité des arts céramiques (3rd ed., Paris, 1877), with notes and additions by Salvétat; E. Bourry, Traité des industries céramiques (Paris, 1897); Théodore Deck, La Faïence (Paris, 1887); A. Granger, La Céramique industrielle (Paris, 1905); E. S. Auscher, La Céramique cuisant à haute température (Paris, 1899); Technologie de la Céramique (Paris, 1901); Les Industries céramiques (Paris, 1901); Seger, Gesammelte Schriften (Berlin, 1896; Eng. trans., Eastern, Pa., U.S.A., 1902); Langenbeck, The Chemistry of Pottery (Easton, Pa., U.S.A., 1895); William Burton, Porcelain (London, 1906). (W. B.*)
- The archaeologist is frequently puzzled as to the place of origin of some example of ancient pottery—was it made in the district where it was found, or had it been imported from some other centre? When we possess a sufficient body of analytical data obtained by the use of one general chemical method, an analysis of a fragment will frequently enable such a question to be answered, where now all is doubt and speculation. But the analytical results published hitherto are often not worth the paper they are printed on for such a purpose, the older methods of silicate analysis being only approximate.
- It must always be borne in mind that, side by side with the production of artistic wares in all countries, the traditional craft of the village pot-maker continued, and has probably been less interfered with than is generally imagined, except in the British Isles. Any country market-place in Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Germany, or Holland is provided to-day with a simple peasant pottery little removed in its forms, its decorations, or its technical skill from the country work of the middle ages. In England the cheapness of machine-made pottery has largely destroyed such village industries.
- I tre libri dell’ Arte del Vasajo, by Cipriano Piccolpasso of Castel Durante, A.D. 1548.
- The earliest glazed objects found in Egyptian tombs (once dignified by the name of Egyptian porcelain) are hardly to be called pottery at all, though we have no other name for them. The material is largely sand held together by a little clay and glass.
- Foreign pottery had been imported into Egypt at least as early as the XIIth Dynasty, e.g. the Cretan polychrome ware of the Middle Minoan period (Kamares style) found at Medinet Ghuraib (“Kahun”) and the Cypriote (?) “punctuated” black ware from the same site, and from Khata’anah (17). The date between the XIIth and XIIIth Dynasties is certain (14), but the Middle Kingdom Egyptians do not seem to have imitated these earlier foreign forms. British Museum, No. 17,046, is, however, probably an instance of an Egyptian idea imitated by the foreign potter (17).
- Some of these figures appear to have been made with a mixture of sand, clay and coloured glass which produced a real glassy porcelain—the earliest porcelain of which we have any record.
- On this subject see in particular Mazard, De la connaissance par les anciens des glaçures plombifères, a scientific and valuable monograph (1879); also Rayet and Collignon, Hist. de la céramique grecque, p. 365 (or B.M. Cat. of Roman Pottery, Introduction).
- For a full description and lists of such kilns see Walters, Ancient Pottery, ii. 443-454.
- See examples in colour on Plate V.
- A peculiarity of the Persian and allied blue glazes, of many shades, is that they appear to have been produced not by dissolving the colouring matter in the glaze, but by coating the white ground of the ware with a thin wash of some cobaltiferous substance—probably an earth containing varying proportions of cobalt, manganese and iron—and then melting a thick alkaline glaze over it.
- See Drury Fortnum, Archaeologia, vol. xlii.
- Specimens of Turkish and other Eastern wares exist with elaborate English silver mounts of the time of Elizabeth, and these were doubtless included under the name of “Damas Wares.”
- See Riaño, Spanish Arts, Victoria and Albert Museum Handbook, pp. 149-151; and Sobre la manera de fabricar la antigua loza dorado de Manises (1878).
- See examples in colour, Plate VI.
- There is ample documentary evidence to prove how largely the lustred pottery of Spain was imported into Italy from the 12th century onwards; and it is important to note in this connexion that almost all the fine examples of Hispano-Moresque in our modern collections have been obtained from the palaces of ancient Italian families.
- Piccolpasso, I tre libri dell’ arte del Vasajo, dated 1548. It has been several times translated both into modern Italian and French. The English reader will find an excellent abstract of this interesting MS. in the volumes on Majolica by Drury E. Fortnum.
- For a full account of the lustre process see Franchet, Comptes rendus for December 1905, and W. Burton, Society of Arts Journal, 2846, vol. lv., 1907.
- See Magne, Le Palais de Justice de Poitiers (Paris, 1904); also Solon in Burlington Magazine (November 1907).
- See B. Fillon, Les Faiences d’Oiron (1862).
- See E. Bonaffe, Les Faiences de Saint-Porchaire (1898).
- See examples in colour, Plate X.
- An excellent summary of the remains of English medieval pottery will be found in Hobson’s “Medieval Pottery found in England,” Archaeological Journal, vol. lix.
- Böttger at Meissen made a similar ware as his prelude to the discovery of white porcelain, but this was after Dwight’s death.
- For a discussion of the stages through which this was achieved the reader is referred to special works, such as Prof. A. H. Church’s English Earthenware, and W. Burton’s English Earthenware and Stoneware.
- It is amusing or annoying to find in European museums the wares of Wedgwood, Turner, Adams and one of the Leeds potteries, all lumped together as “Wedgwood,” and yet one can hardly wonder at it, remembering how much has been written of Wedgwood and how little of the other English potters of the 18th century.
- See examples in colour, Plates VII. and VIII.
- S. W. Bushell, Chinese Art (Victoria and Albert Museum Handbooks, ii. 5-6).
- Yao is the Chinese term equivalent of the English “pottery” or “ware.”
- See Brinkley, Japan and China, ix. 353-365.
- Solon, The Noble Buccaros (Stoke-upon-Trent, 1896).
- M. Reinand, Relation des voyages faits par les Arabes et les Persans dans l’Inde el à la Chine dans le IXe siècle (Paris, 1845).
- The suggestion has been made that the céladon wares found in Western countries were made by Moslem potters and not by the Chinese, but this theory is not generally accepted. On this point consult Karabacek, “Zur muslimischen Keramik” in Österreichische Monatsschrift für den Orient, vol. x., 1884; A. B. Meyer, “Über die Herkunft gewisser Seladon-Porzellane” under “Über die Marta banis,” ibid. vol. xi., 1885; Hirth, Ancient Porcelain (1888), and Bushell, Oriental Ceramic Art (1899).
- It is of interest to note that the “Delft” of Holland, also a product of the 17th and early 18th centuries, makes the nearest approach in quality to the blue and white porcelain of the Chinese.
- See Drake, Sir W., Venetian Ceramics; and Davillier, Baron Ch., Les Origines de la porcelaine en Europe.
- Travels in England and Scotland (Eng. trans.), vol. i. p. 97.