Treasures from an Unknown Reign

By: by Michael Butler, Stephen Little and Julia B. Curtis

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Shunzhi Porcelain – Treasures from an Unknown Reign

By: by Michael Butler, Stephen Little and Julia B. Curtis

The Shunzhi era (1644-61), marking the end of the Ming Dynasty and the beginning of the Qing, was a transitional period in Chinese history. As far as porcelain was concerned, until the last 20 years, it was a little-known reign not only in the West but in China itself.

By the late 1630s, painters on porcelain had developed a new, highly recognizable, and successful style. Many of the innovative themes were taken from woodblock prints, with landscapes and narrative scenes particularly inspired by contemporary scroll and album paintings. Soon after 1644, potters began to paint wonderful landscapes, with stylistic devices such as clouds and rock formations used to fill in the “back” of the pot.

The beauty and liveliness of the pots’ paintings, along with the evolving shapes of the pots, stands out and makes these years a most significant period the art history of China. In the Shunzhi era, more than any other time in the last 500 years of Chinese porcelain, there was a strong emphasis on individual works of art, each one unique.

This is hands down the best book on Transitional Porcelain I have ever seen, but no books I have listed here are bad. The list of authors tells it all.

I cannot believe why it is so inexpensive. It is very sad if it is because the porcelain prices themselves have gone through the roof but it would not need to be. Pieces from this period between the two last dynasties can still be had and is usually priced below its merits, just because there were no Imperial court around that kept an eye on what the best potters did. From an artistic point if view, this period is a high point in the history of Chinese ceramics. This books shows why.

June 27th, 2013

Beauty’s Enchantment,
Seventeenth-century Jingdezhen Porcelain from the Shanghai Museum and the Butler Collection

By: Sir Michael Butler and Prof. Wang Qingzheng

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Beauty’s Enchantment, Seventeenth-century Jingdezhen Porcelain from the Shanghai Museum and the Butler Collection, by Sir Michael Butler and Prof. Wang Qingzheng.

This book is a catalog from a joint exhibition between the Shanghai Museum and the Butler Collection, covering the period from 1621 to the Mid Kangxi period. The section introductions and captions take their basis in the historical events of the time and explains how this is reflected in the porcelain pieces discussed. The text as well as the illustrations are first class. If you look for one book only covering the Ming-Qing Transitional period, this volume would be my personal choice. It’s really outstanding.

Another highly appreciated feature is that whenever possible, the bases and any present marks are illustrated in full color. All entries in the catalog are also individually signed by the authors.

If you can find a hardbound version it would definitely be worth it. My copy is paperback but given a choice, the quality of the content definitely motivates a better binding.

Paperback: 360 pages
Publisher: Scala Publishers Ltd (March 15, 2006)
ISBN-10: 1857594177
ISBN-13: 978-1857594171
Product Dimensions: 11.7 x 9.1 x 1.2 inches
Shipping Weight: 4.5 pounds

April 6th, 2010

The Hatcher Porcelain Cargoes
By Colin Sheaf & Richard Kilburn

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Sheaf, Colin & Kilburn, Richard, The Hatcher Porcelain Cargoes. The Complete Record.

Overview and general presentation of the two first of Michael Hatchers porcelain cargoes, the Ming junk cargo (c. 1643-1646) from a seventeenth century Chinese junk, and the Dutch East Indiaman Geldermalsen that foundered in 1752.

I think this is a good reference for the Hatcher cargoes, in particular the 1640’s junk. This book and the actual auction catalogs covers it very well. I would not call this book indispensable but the color pictures of the 1640s junk cargo are good and considering the precise dating of the pieces this is a valuable reference.

192 pages
212 illustrations of which 138 in color
Phaidon/Christies, 1988.
ISBN. 0 7148 8046 9

April 6th, 2008

Chinese Porcelains of the Seventeenth Century:
Landscapes, Scholar’s Motifs and Narratives
By: Julia B. Curtis

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Chinese Porcelains of the Seventeenth Century: Landscapes, Scholars’ Motifs and Narratives

Catalog of an exhibition at China Institute Gallery, New York, it describes porcelains made at Jingdezhen between 1630 and 1700, focusing on the motifs of landscapes, scholar’s pursuits and the influence of Chinese landscape painting on the decoration of ceramics.

Paperback: 168 pages
Publisher: China Institute in America, New York 1995.
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0295974672
ISBN-13: 978-0295974675
Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 8.8 x 0.8 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds

April 4th, 2008

Chinese Ceramics of the Transitional Period: 1620-1683
By: Stephen Little

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Chinese Ceramics of the Transitional Period: 1620-1683, by Stephen Little
(New York, 1983)

Exhibition catalog. One of the earlier books that specifically tried to deal with the Ming / Qing Transitional period. Quite interesting and with some good explanations of porcelain motifs of the period and quite some attention spent on explaining the last decades of the Ming dynasty. Recommend as good and interesting. A bit too thin though, to be enough to cover this period.


April 4th, 2008