White On White - Blanc de Chine

Posted on May 26, 2019 by Maurice Robertson | 0 Comments

The interior lighting of our homes is a basic requirement to a comfortable life; but we can take yet another step and choose a style of lighting that adds to, not only our physical comfort, but our psychological comfort as well.  Blanc de Chine, with its simple lines and elegant understated style, produces, not only a sense of calm, but the perfect antique lamp.

One of the outstanding qualities of the beautiful white porcelain known to the West as “blanc de Chine” is its unique ability to adapt to the evolution of changing styles.  It always remains “modern” and completely at home in the traditional/classic or most contemporary interior.

The term “blanc de Chine” is always used to describe this highly translucent porcelain produced at the famous kilns at Te Hua in China's Fukien province.  The area along the Fujian coast was traditionally one of the main ceramic exporting centres.  Over 180 kiln sites have been identified extending in an historical time line from the Song period, 960-1279, to the present day. 


Blanc de Chine does not sound very Chinese, being French for "White of China", but it was, of course, the French of the early 19th century who gave us the names of the beautiful Chinese, single coloured ceramic glazes or monochromes. 

Blanc de Chine is a creamy white to pure white porcelain, first produced during the latter part of the long Ming dynasty, 1368 - 1644.  On a technical note, the white colour of blanc de Chine is due to the lack of iron, (less than 0.5 percent ferric oxide), in the clay mined at Te Hua.  Rich in quartz and kaolin, sericite, feldspar and low levels of iron which led to the production of this high quality white porcelain.

The first blanc de Chine shapes were devotional objects such as incense burners, candlesticks, flower vases and figures of saints.  These shapes conformed to the official stipulations of the early Ming period, not only in their whiteness but also in imitating the shape of archaic ritual objects.  Blanc de Chine is especially found in the very fine devotional figures of the Buddha and of Kuan-Yin, the goddess of mercy, who was particularly revered in Fujian.

White porcelain has always been very popular among the Chinese, who love simple, practical and traditional home decoration.  It must also be mentioned that white is the colour of filial piety which has always been important to traditional Chinese culture.  These early Ming period porcelain shapes were manufactured to achieve a perfect fusion of glaze and body, traditionally referred to as ivory white and milk white.

Blanc de Chine is seen as an aesthetic style of porcelain, possibly appreciated more by the aesthetically minded decorator, being completely undecorated and relying entirely upon its form, which is usually simple in style.

When Europeans discovered Chinese porcelain in the early 17th century, large quantities arrived in Europe as Chinese export porcelain and were successfully copied at Meissen and in the mid 18th century in England at Chelsea and Bow.  Many 18th and 19th century European factories continued to reproduce porcelain in blanc de Chine style.

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Posted in Blanc de Chine lamps


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