Sunday, December 14, 2008

Daryle Lambert: Antique Blue and White

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Most of us have heard of Canton china with scenic decorations that usually include village scenes called “ballast ware” in the early days. The reason for this name for Canton porcelain was that the seamen used it as weight to stabilize the ship as it traveled. This blue and white porcelain was mainly for the export trade and produced in large quantity. However there was another porcelain being produced at the same time called Nanking porcelain that was of a higher quality and this is the one I want to concentrate on today. To the naked eye you may not see much difference besides the border but the porcelain itself is much finer.

By going to the Internet you will find many articles on Canton China but few on Nanking so take your time in the search. Here are parts of an excellent article for you to read written by Lorena Overstreet Allen.

Utilitarian in appearance with outer rims having unsymmetrical ridges and indentations, Canton has several characteristics that distinguish it from other Chinese export porcelains although it is very similar to the blue and white Nanking pattern. Both Canton and Nanking ware are hand painted with a composition of a coastal village scene consisting of tea house, arched bridges, willow trees, meandering streams and distant mountains and an absence of figures. The most obvious difference between Canton and Nanking patterns is noted in the design of the borders of each. The border of Canton patterns has a blue lattice network and inner border of wavy or scalloped lines called “clouds” while Nanking borders are diapered with a geometric lattice and spearhead design and may have an application of burnished gold. Unlike the aesthetically finer quality and reliable color of Nanking ware, Canton pigments vary in intensity from a washed out gray-blue to cobalt blue, depending on the varied intensities of heat within the kiln during the firing process. These thick greyish to cobalt pigments and glazes adhere closely to the body. Another distinguishing characteristic is the coarser textured examples of Canton ware which may have a residue of ash embedded in the clay resulting in the descriptive term “oatmeal” applied to such pieces.

Between 1800 to approximately 1860 the United States was the principal market for all Chinese export porcelain, although there was virtually no production from 1839 to 1860 because of China’s Opium Wars. By 1890 the United States government required all imports to be marked with their country of origin, hence "CHINA" or "MADE IN CHINA" is displayed on the foot of the later wares, simplifying the dating process. The U.S. Stamp Act of 1894 mandated the imprint of “Made In China” on all export porcelain although in the early 20th Century some Canton ware still arrived with only paper labels.

You may be asking, why would he want me to know the difference between the two types of Porcelain? Well here’s the answer. One can make you big money while the other is fairly common. Also, few of your competitors will know the difference between the two of them. Just a different border, how can that mean so much? It may mean as much as triple in value if you find the Nanking piece. Here are a few examples. This bowl could be a $5 at a garage or house sale or, if it is Nanking porcelain, 101/4 by 5 inch piece with scalloped rim, footed, with a landscape, the value would be $1500 or more. Yes, having a keen eye may well pay big bucks for you. How about this piece, a tureen or sauce bowl, 10 1/2 by 15 by 10 1/2 inches $2000? Or something a little different, a cider jug worth $1500. I think that it would well worth your time to look at every piece of blue and white porcelain you see in the future because who knows, it may prove to be a real treasure.

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