What is Blue and White Porcelain - Guide From Canonbury Antiques

Relevant categories: Chinese Porcelain



Chinese blue and white porcelain

Blue and white porcelain refers to pieces produced by the Chinese and decorated using a blue pigment under the glaze. While this technique had been perfected by the Chinese, blue and white porcelain was also produced in other parts of the world including the Middle East. The blue pigment used for decoration purposes was mostly cobalt oxide.
Today, the technique of making blue and white porcelain is still practiced across the world. Traditionally, artists applied the decoration by hand brush painting. Due to advances in technology, today’s artists either do it through transfer printing or stencilling.


The major reason cobalt oxide is used is its ability to withstand extremely high firing temperatures required to produce blue and white porcelain of the highest quality. If anything, porcelain produced at these high temperatures has the reputation of being very durable. Where other colours are used on the decoration, a second firing is done at a lower temperature.

History of Blue and White Porcelain

The first blue and white porcelain pieces are thought to have been produced in ancient Mesopotamia. Soon, the technique was picked up by the Chinese who produced their first pieces during the Tang Dynasty. The early pieces weren’t porcelain as such but were mainly pottery with cobalt pigment decorations.

The Chinese porcelain pieces were good enough that they spread throughout the rest of Asia through export. It was in Iraq’s province of Basra where skilled craftsmen made blue and white porcelain by imitating some of the pieces imported from China. The earliest Iraq-made pieces date back as far as the 9th century AD and came as a result of the activities that took place on the direct sea route between the country and China.


While the Chinese seemed to have forgotten the technique since the early days when they tried it, blue and white porcelain made a huge comeback in the 14 century. For the first time, the Chinese had found a permanent source of cobalt oxide pigment, which they imported from Persia. The technique used in producing the porcelain pieces was widely adopted during that time.

This was the time when blue and white porcelain from China was widely imported by people from other parts of the world. Soon, other people were producing porcelain of their own. A good example is the pieces with Islamic decorations in the Middle East, those from Japan, and later in Europe where tin-glazed earthenware was produced. Today, the application of the technique picked up in that early period is still in use across the world.

If you want to buy blue and white porcelain today, you are likely to find them either as originals or imitations. For instance, after the widespread importation of Chinese porcelain into Europe, people began to imitate the Chinese pieces. Thus some of the earliest European blue and white porcelain are imitations Chinese originals even though genuine European pieces are still available.

Are you looking for blue and white porcelain? Talk to us today and we shall give you some original pieces no matter the period they were made. You will love it.




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