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Chinese Blue and White Porcelain

In the thirteenth century, the city of Jingdezhen in Southern China became the main production centre of porcelain and by 1320, its potters had developed the use of cobalt blue for underglaze decoration. Underglaze blue decoration dominated ceramics from the early fourteenth century to the late 1700s. Blue and white porcelain conquered markets in South East Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Americas. It has aptly been called the first truly global commodity, inspiring some of the major ceramic traditions around the world.

Blue-and-white porcelain made in Jingdezhen is the main focus of the Gardiner’s collection of Chinese ceramics. It is especially rich in objects made during the late Ming and Qing dynasties and illustrates the broad demand for porcelain through wares made for various markets and users: the imperial household, the scholar and gentry classes, and the export market. Pieces in this collection also represent the breadth of themes and decorative motifs, including Buddhist and Daoist iconography, auspicious symbols, mythical beings, and scenes derived from literary sources.

The collection of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain was established by Robert Murray Bell and Ann Walker Bell; this was the first donation of Asian ceramics to the Gardiner Museum. It has since expanded with a significant gift from Janice Stein.