PORCELAIN

The huge quantities of porcelain that were imported into Europe in the first half of the 17th century, mostly Chinese blue and white or white wares, ensured the onset of ‘china mania.’ that stimulated to display of the rsults of this’ mania’in massed array in rooms of great houses all over Europe.

Daniel Defoe in the late 17th century blames Queen Mary for introducing into England the custom of furnishing houses with chinaware, piling the china upon the top of cabinets, scritoires and every chimney piece.
This may be true that Queen Mary brought the taste to its full fruition in England.
But it had its origins both on the continent and in England long before this time.

Such was the rapid increase in quantity of this most fashionable decorative accessory, porcelain in the 17th century that we can trace its progression in European houses.

First out of the ‘cabinets of curiosities’ on the table and then from the table onto the walls.

This reached its extreme limits in the late 17thand early 18th centuries in ‘porcelain rooms. ‘
where the walls were dressed in massed Chinese – and Japanese porcelain.

Early in the 18th century this perhaps excessive display of porcelain tended to be reduced, some in hands of certain fanatical collectors such as August the Strong in Dresden.

By the mid 18th century porcelain, still as fashionable as ever, was perhaps not so visible, the glass-fronted cabinet, the china cabinet, itself sometimes of pseudo-oriental aspect, continued the pieces that had formely stood on the lacquer cabinets, uopn brackets on the walls or on and over chimney pieces.

Conversation-piece-paintings of English families show oriental porcelain in use on the tea table or displayed discreetly about the rooms.

We have come back to the conditions visible in the Dutch still life painting of the mid 17th century where porcelain was an attraction, but never dominant part of the scheme of decoration.

The effects of Chinese and Japanese porcelain in Europe was such, that elements of oriental styles became firmly incorporated into the European repertoire.

The demand for porcelain can be verified by considering the styles of porcelain most imitated and adapted by new porcelain factories in Europe.

Many wares were later fitted in Europe with mounts of silver or gilt bronze, often to adapt them to elaborate decorative schemes.The Delftware pottery of Holland for instance, now briefly followed the Oriental style.