Celadon is just one of the beautiful glazes used on Chinese ceramics. The colour is derived from iron and ranges in tone from a greyish green to a sea-green, with the intent to reflect the wide range of greens found in jade. While other colours naturally occurring in jade such as yellow could be used, it is usually from within the green range of colours, high fired and applied to the surface of white porcelain or stoneware.
While the name "celadon" stands for the pale green to greyish-green glaze used to coat the classic pottery of China, today this term denotes the ceramic itself.
A celadon type was first produced in China about 3500 years ago, but it was not until the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 to 220 AD) that what is considered true Chinese celadon, first appeared.
Over the centuries, the art of celadon would travel to other countries in Asia. Korea, Japan and Thailand also have a rich history of celadon ware. As European porcelain makers developed throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, celadon was produced by all the major manufacturers.
We should remember that in 17th century Europe, porcelain was known only by rare examples from China. No one is sure of the real story behind the name “Celadon” but two, rather romantic accounts survive.
The first entails the French, who were captivated with this new and refined ceramic ware. The story tells of the name being derived from a shepherd, the principal character in a popular 17th century, French, pastoral romance, “L’Astrée” by Honoré d’Urfé (1568 -1625). In this early operatic production, the hero, “Celadon”, a shepherd, was characterized by a pale green cloak and it is supposedly from this cloak that we now identify the Chinese, pale, jade green glaze.
By the way, the French, in fact, not only gave us the name for this colour but also a full range of other sublime Chinese coloured glazes, still used as standards in the West today, to identify the major range of Chinese ceramic colours.
Some of these names will be familiar such as “Famille Jaune” or the yellow family of glazes in which yellow is the predominant colour. “Famille Noir”, the black family of coloured glazes, “Famille Rose”, denoting the pink family of colours and “Famille Verte”, the green range of glazes.
The second story that persists is another romantic tale, this time set in the Middle East. This jade green porcelain was greatly prized throughout the East and we know from court records that in the year 1171 Salah-ed-din (Saladin) Sultan of Egypt, sent as a gift, 40 pieces of this ware to Nur-ed-din, Sultan of Damascus. It is from the name of the Sultan “Salah-ed-din” that the name “Celadon” is said to have been derived.
This version of the two stories is thought to be the most unlikely, however, it really is a case of which story you prefer! However the name originated, the glaze we know as celadon is today still as popular as ever with its elegant, cool, jade green range of colours.
Celadon is also one of the most versatile of colours and is well known to interior designers for its adaptability. It never fights with other colours, but fits in well within a very broad range of colour schemes.
All shades of green are the pervasive colours of the natural world, making green an ideal backdrop in interior design, simply because we are so used to seeing it everywhere, green occupying more space in the light spectrum visible to the human eye than all other colours.
© Antique Lamp Shoppe 2019