Synopsis: “A Blaze of Colour: The Emergence of Overglaze Enamels on Porcelain in the 14th and 15th Centuries” by Rosemary Scott – 12 Dec 2012

Synopsis: “A Blaze of Colour: The Emergence of Overglaze Enamels on Porcelain in the 14th and 15th Centuries” by Rosemary Scott – 12 Dec 2012

Holy water flask with overglaze copper green enamel decoration
Holy water flask with overglaze copper green enamel decoration
Yongle reign (1403-24)
H: 22.8 cm
Sold by Christie’s London 11 May 2010
a_very_rare_yellow_enamel-decorated_dish_xuande_six-character_mark_and_d5430776h
Dish with overglaze yellow enamel decoration
Xuande mark and period (1426-35)
D: 19 cm
Sold at Christie’s London May 2011
Rosemary opened her talk on overglaze enamels with a brief summary of underglaze decoration, which she described as inevitably monochromatic, adding that underglaze painted decoration did exist and could be “exceedingly fine, but on high-fired wares was greatly limited as to colour, hence the advent of the overglaze enamel technique revolutionized the decoration of Chinese high-firing ceramics.”

SEACS members also learned that although we tend to think of overglaze enamels as Ming or Qing, they are found on earlier wares, namely Cizhou stoneware that had a white slip applied over their buff clay bodies before the high-fire glazes were applied, which provided a “pale evenly coloured ‘canvas’ on which the coloured enamels could be painted before the pieces were fired a second time”.

Yuan sherds have also been found with overglaze enamels, excavated from Luomaquiao, apparently applied to shufu or luan bai glazes. Scott credits the Yuan potters who clearly left their legacy to Ming potters, especially in the form of the enamels that “dominated overglaze enamels in the 14th and 15th century — red, green and yellow.”
One outstanding example shared with us was a Yongle green enamelled flask, which Scott informed us was not only a rare form in the 15th century, but also “an exceptionally rare example of the use of overglaze green enamel alone to decorate Jingdezhen porcelain at this early date.”

These were only a few take-aways from the splendid pictorial presentation given SEACS by one of the world’s leading experts. Thank you again, Rosemary, for your thoughtful and graciously presented talk.

By Patricia Welch

 
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