Writers On Oriental Art

The earliest description we have of the processes connected with the manufacture of Oriental porcelain is to be found in the valuable letters from a Jesuit Missionary, Pere d’Entrecolles, written in 1712 and 1722, and published (Paris, 1781) in ” Lettres edifiantes et curieuses,” copies of which are now rare. The most scientific work that has appeared on the nature of porcelain and its chemistry is the ” Traite des Arts Ceramiques,” by A. Brongniart, 1844. The only work which affords any native evidence on the history of Chinese porcelain, and the various places at which it has been manufactured, is the ” Histoire de la Fabrication de la Porcelaine Chinoise,” translated from the Chinese by M. Stanislas Julien (Paris, 1856). In Marryat’s ” History of Pottery and Porcelain ” is an extended account of the Oriental fabrics, with some useful chronological notes on the introduction of porcelain into Western Asia and Europe, as well as an abstract of the History of King-te-tching. The marks on Oriental porcelain are given in the various editions of Chaffers’ ” Marks and Monograms on Pottery and Porcelain” ; they are also to be found in works published by Dr. Graesse, Mrs. Bury Palliser, and others, as well as in Hooper and Phillips’ Manual of Marks.

The most elaborate treatises, however, which have appeared on these subjects are ” Histoire de la Porcelaine,” by A. Jacquemart and E. Le Blant (Paris, 1862), and “Histoire de la Ceramique,” by A. Jacquemart (Paris, 1873). These works contain minute descriptions of the various kinds of Oriental porcelain, written by one who could fully appreciate their merits, and who has be-stowed great pains upon their investigation. With many of the conclusions of this talented writer (whose recent death we all have to deplore) we regret to say that we are unable to agree; but both works possess great value, and are illustrated by exquisite engravings due to the artistic skill of M. Jules Jacquemart.

The pottery and porcelain of Japan forms the subject of a richly illustrated work recently published, entitled ” Keramic Art of Japan,” by G. A. Audsley and J. L. Bowes.

Notwithstanding, however, the numerous works that have been published, it is probable that we have as yet but an imperfect knowledge of the age, history and meaning of much that appears in collections of Oriental porcelain; and until some European, residing in China, well versed in the subject, and well acquainted with the Chinese language, has obtained access to the stores of native collectors, we shall be to a certain extent working in the dark.

In 1171 we first find any distinct mention of porcelain out of China. In that year Saladin sent to Nur-ed-din as presents, forty pieces of Chinese porcelain. Marco Polo, travelling in 128o, visited one of the sites of the porcelain manufacture, and mentions that it was exported all over the world. It is probable that he may have been the means of calling the attention of his country-men to this production of the far East. Many other notices from travellers of the 14th and 15th centuries might be cited. It was probably through Egypt that it reached Europe ; at any rate, a present of porcelain vases was sent by the Sultan of Egypt in 1487 to Lorenzo de Medici. To the Portuguese is no doubt due the first direct importation of Chinese wares into Europe, in which they were followed by the various India Companies of Holland, England, France, Sweden, &c.