A delftware candlestick from the 19th century.Photo by Huo Chengju.
Meissen porcelain, Wedgwood jasperware, Sèvres porcelain, Capodimonte porcelain, and Staffordshire figurines and porcelain shoes: these are the highlights of European porcelain. Now Shenzheners can see all of them in an exhibition at Shenzhen Museum through the end of May this year.
Titled “East Wind Blowing Westwards,”the exhibition features 176 European porcelains from the Shanghai History Museum. The exhibits include exquisite porcelains produced during the 18th and 19th centuries in major production areas in Europe, such as Meissen in Germany, Wedgwood and Staffordshire in Britain, Sèvres in France, and Capodimonte in Italy.
A Capodimonte figurine from the 20th century. Photo by Huo Chengju.
European trade with China expanded rapidly during the 17th century. Chinese porcelain was extremely popular among the wealthy ruling classes. Only the wealthy could afford even simple blue and white bowls, regarded as the ultimate luxury product.
So it was no surprise that Europeans from the Netherlands, France, Germany and England all tried desperately to copy the Chinese.
A Wedgwood patterned water jug from the 19th century. Photo by Huo Chengju.
The earliest copies of Chinese pieces are not porcelain but earthenware-type items known as “delftware.”
In 1708, in Meissen, Germany, a scientist successfully developed the first European porcelain. The French and English were quick to follow and by the middle of the 18th century there was a huge expansion in the porcelain manufacturing business across Europe.
The porcelain industry became one of Europe’s most important from the 18th to the mid-19th century.
As time passed, the early copies gave way to original patterns as craftsmen throughout the major European nations perfected their techniques.
A French majolica faience plate. Photo by Huo Chengju.
Staffordshire porcelain shoes. Photo by Huo Chengju.