Pater Gratia Oriental Art

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Sold Monochromes 1700-1900


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Sold Ceramics - Sold Monochromes 1700-1900 - Page 1


Object 2011961


Miniature double-gourd vase






Height 67 mm (2.64 inch), diameter 33 mm (1.30 inch), diameter of mouthrim 8 mm (0.31 inch), diameter of footring 16 mm (0.63 inch), weight 32 grams (1.13 ounce (oz.))


Double-gourd miniature 'doll's house' vase on a flat unglazed base. Covered all over with a monochrome black glaze.


Ceramics with a monochrome glaze have a long tradition in China, the earliest being that applied by potters of the Shang dynasty (c.14th-11th century B.C.). Monochromes continued to be made throughout the Ming dynasty. The great era of monochromes begins at the end of the 17th century when the Jingdezhen kilns had been reorganised and the links with the court re-established. The emperors Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong were all interested in craftsmanship and technical virtuosity and as a result the search for new shapes and glazes was promoted. The great variety in monochrome glazes that became available in the 18th century can be divided into two groups: the monochromes fired at a high temperature and those fired at a lower temperature in a muffle kiln. The first group is the largest and includes, the cobalt blues ranging from a very dark, even blue and the powder blue variety to the light blue clair de lune glaze. Colours based on copper pigments include sang de boeuf or 'ox blood', 'peach bloom' and other varieties of copper red. Then there are the various browns, ranging from the dark 'Batavia brown', which was very popular in the 18th century, to a light brown. The green celadon glaze also belongs to this category, as do the simple white monochromes and the rarer 'tea dust', 'iron rust' and lustrous 'mirror black' glazes. The low-temperature wares include various shades of green, the imperial and other yellows and the relatively scarce coral red. On monochromes the Chinese could not abandon their love of decoration, so a rather formal pattern of dragons, flowers or scrolls is often incised under the glaze or painted in overglaze gold, reflecting the taste of the court. Monochromes were primarily intended for the Chinese market, but some inevitably reached the West in the 18th century as private merchandise. The greatly appealed to the prevailing rococo taste and were eagerly collected. Monochromes continued to be made in the 19th century and a wide range of good pieces is known. (Jörg & Van Campen 1997, pp.229-230)


The black glaze was discovered in the 18th century during the Kangxi period. The glaze consists of iron and manganese. About 1722 it was described as a new type of glaze by a Jesuit, Father d'Entrecolles. The French Jesuit Father d'Entrecolles sent two letters to Father Orry, treasurer in Paris of the Jesuit missions to China and India. The first letter was sent on September 1st, 1712, the second on January 25th, 1722. d'Entrecolles used direct observation at the kilns, as well as the technical knowledge of some of his converts to discover the secret of hard-paste porcelain manufacture.


On January 25th 1722, in his second letter to his friend Father Orry, Father d'Entrecolles writes:


VIII Le noir éclatant ou le noir de miroir appellé ou kim¹ se donne à la porcelaine, en la plongeant dans une mixtion liquide composee d'azur prépare: il n'est pas nécessaire d'y employer le bel azur, mais il faut qu'il foit un peu épais & mêlê avec du vernis peyeou & du tsekin, en y ajoûtant un peu d'huile² de chaux & de cendres de fougeres: par exemple, fur dix onces d'azur pilé dans le mortier, on mêlera une tasse de tsekin, sept tasles de peyeou & deux tasses d'huile de cendres de fougeres brûlées avec la chaux. Cette mixtion porte son vernis avec elle, & il n'est pas nécessaire d'en donner de nouveau. Quand on cuit cette sorte de porcelaine noire, on doit la placer vers le milieu du fourneau, & non pas près de la voute, où le feu a le plus d'activité. (Lunsingh Scheurleer 1982/1, pp.58-59, pp.70a-71a)


¹(ou kim = ou kin, by this will be meant wu chin or 'mirror black')

²(huile (oil): the Chinese refer to the glaze on porcelain as oil and d'Entrecolles invariably uses the term oil for glaze)




VIII The shining black or mirror-black glaze is obtained by dipping the porcelain in a fluid mixture composed of the prepared blue colour. It is not necessary to employ for this purpose the finest blue, but it must be used to considerable strength, and mixed with the glaze used for the burnished-gold glaze as well as with the ordinary glaze. The mixture is a glaze in itself, and in firing the ware they care to place it in the middle of the oven, and not near the vault where the firing is most active. (Lunsingh Scheurleer 1982/1, p.83)


For identically shaped and monochrome black ('mirror black') covered miniature 'dolls house vases, please see:

For a large pair identically shaped double gourd vases, decorated with 'mirror black' glaze, please see:

Condition: A tiny fleabite to the rim.



Lunsingh Scheurleer 1972, pp.143-144

Lunsingh Scheurleer 1982/1, pp.58-59, pp.70a-71a & p.83

Lunsingh Scheurleer 1989, cat. 100

Hartog 1990, p.151 & cat 138

Pinto de Matos 1996, cat. 141

Jörg & Van Campen 1997, pp.229-230


Price: Sold.


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Sold Ceramics - Sold Monochromes 1700-1900 - Page 1


Object 2012050A








Height 44 mm (1.73 inch), diameter of rim 275 mm (10.83 inch), diameter of footring 157 mm (6.18 inch), weight 588 grams (20.74 ounce (oz.))


Dish on footring, panelled sides and undulating rim. Undecorated. Marked on the base with the symbol mark 'Mandarin mark of honour', in a double circle, underglaze blue.


In this monochrome state these type of 'raw' (undecorated) dishes did not belong to the regular assortment used for export to the West. Normally they would have been used for decorating with enamels or Chine de commande designs in Canton after which they were exported to the West. The few 'raw' dishes that did end up in the West were normally used for over-decorating. This rare example survived all decorators in China as well as in the West.   


Condition: A restored hairline and some glaze rough spots to the rm.


Price: Sold.


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