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: Loan of Chinese Porcelains


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Through the courtesy of Alfred F. Pillsbury, the Art Institute is enabled to exhibit, for the next six weeks, a group of forty-six Chinese monochrome porcelains that are ranked among the finest examples of their kind in this country. Including specimens of every color, from sang de boeuf and deep liver red to the palest sea foam green, these porcelains are like a bouquet of freshly picked flowers.The art of Chinese ceramics goes back beyond the Chou dynasty, when, even in the rough unglazed wares of the period, dignity and purity of form are to be found. The Han period witnessed great artistic progress, as is evidenced by the group of Han potteries in the Institute's collection, and during the T'ang dynasty potters were working with the easy mastery of artists in their craft. Few examples of the potter's art are more engaging than the tomb figures which constitute the best-known aspect of T'ang ceramic art. A still wider expansion of craftsmanship took place under the Sung emperors, and finally color, in its full glory and splendor appears in the three- and five-color porcelains of the Ming potters.But of all the products of the potter's craft in China, none attained to such a high degree of perfection, in both form and glaze, as the monochrome porcelains of the K'ang Hsi and Ch'ien Lung periods, which covered the late seventeenth and the greater part of the eighteenth centuries. At this time the development of glaze pigments fusible at a moderate temperature and applied direct on the past produced a wealth of colors never before known. The emperors K'ang Hsi and Ch'ien Lung, both profoundly interested in ceramic art gave Chinese potters every encouragement and placed extended resources at their disposal. The result of their patronage was a golden age of porcelain which has never been surpasses.Many of the finest examples of this art are to be seen in the Pillsbury collection. Outstanding among the pieces now on view are two amphora vases of the most coveted colors: peach bloom and clair de lune The former is a delicate red that may range from pale pink to a crushed strawberry or even brownish red and which has, in its most desired state, velvety moss-green spots. It has been called the “prince of Chinese colored glazes,” and is much sought after by collectors. The clair de lune is a pale attenuated blue that takes its name from the fact of its resemblance to moonlight. It is one of the most delicate of all glazed in tone, and lends an air or fragility to vessels on which it is used.Other famous colors represented in the Pillsbury collection include sang de boeuf, the famous red that ranges from blood color to a brilliant cherry; the dark, almost black, liver red, which appears in a bottle vase; sea foam green, cucumber green, camellia-leaf green, midnight blue, ashes of roses, starch blue, turquoise blue, imperial yellow, apple green, Rose du Barry, pea green, breast of dove, aubergine, canary yellow, and the marvelous mirror black. Two of the most beautiful pieces are not colored at all, but white of the most perfect and fragile quality. These are two rice bowls ornamented with perforations in the form of stars or flowers filled in with transparent glaze. This porcelain, known as grain de riz, is one of the most delicate of the pastes produced during the great period of ceramic art in China.A visit to the Institute for the express purpose of seeing the Pillsbury monochromes is recommended to anyone suffering from a mid-winter slump. Nothing now on view in the galleries brings color so immediately and piercingly alive.
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Source: "Loan of Chinese Porcelains," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 30, no. 8 (February, 1941): 38-39.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009