July Update

Over the past few weeks, I continued my study of the stylistic changes seen on domestic porcelains. I went into the specific periods as marked by the reigns of the emperors: Tianqi, Chongzhen, Shunzhi, and early Kangxi. Here is a summary of Tianqi and Chongzhen period, based on previous scholarship.

After the Wanli emperor passed away in 1620, Zhu Changluo, known as the Taichang emperor, inherited the throne. However, he died 29 days later and the throne was passed to Zhu Youjiao, or the Tianqi Emperor. During the Tianqi period, although enamelled and monochromed porcelains were produced, blue-and-white wares continued to be predominant as in the Wanli period. In terms of style, porcelains from the first three years of Tianqi generally continued the Wanli decorative traditions. As the period progressed, however, Tianqi porcelains became significantly different from the relatively orthodox fashion seen on Wanli wares. With no imperial inspector at the kilns, potters enjoyed considerable artistic freedom. As a result, in Tianqi reign we see a stylistic diversity. New styles of landscape decoration emerged, featuring a sense of boldness in composition, brushwork and tonal contrasts. The designs became more free floating and widely spaced. In addition, potters’ and patron’s names were inscribed on porcelains more frequently.

Zhu Youjian inherited the throne in 1627 and became known as the Chongzhen emperor. During the Chongzhen period, Jingdezhen was reorganized under private hands, and was able to make a profit both at home and abroad. Blue-and-white porcelain still predominated. We see a return of high quality of ceramic bodies and glazes. There were also innovations in underglaze painting. Landscape decorations continued to develop, and features such as arbitrary division of composition emerged. In addition, depictions of narrative themes from popular dramas, novels, and myth suddenly proliferated. In general , the designs were drawn with more fluidity, in sharp contrast with the orthodoxy of Wanli. Although some popular Tianqi decorative motifs continued to be used in the Chongzhen period, the quality of painting was higher. Moreover, Chongzhen potters adopted a new procedure for handling pigments that would later be used in underglaze painting. The resulting blue is more vibrant than before.

In the next month I hope I can finish organizing my notes for the other periods.

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