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Oriental and Western Ceramics Essay

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Updated: Sep 25th, 2020

The paper at hand is aimed at comparing and contrasting two artifacts. They are two porcelain vases created in 18-19th century. Whatever paradoxical it might seem, the subjects that belong to the same time period have completely different designs. It is assumed that this phenomenon can be explained by the fact that their designs refer to different ceramic traditions: the Orient ceramic school and the Western ceramics. It is presumed that these traditions have many distinguishing features that make them rather different than alike.

The first subject is a painted porcelain vase that dates back to the 19th century. Historians cannot indicate the particular artist who created its design, though it is currently known that the vase was produced in either Guangdong or Canton province in the South of China.

The vase is a representative of the Oriental Ceramic school. It is designed in a classic Chinese style that is famous for its simple and conservative shapes (Leidy 2015). The vase is rather big and massive; in the meantime its shape is stream-line. In other words, no curved line or flection contradicts the harmony of the composition. Another distinguishing feature of this style is the abundance of minor details in the painted pattern. Thus, it is takes one long to distinguish all the minor elements of the surface painting.

Such vases perform few functions. Instead, people would purchase them for the purpose of decorating their houses. Chinese porcelain has always been a costly ware so it would serve to be a luxurious interior design item. Such vases are still rather expensive; nevertheless, they are considered to be an exquisite element of décor (Pierson 2009).

The vase is made of the high-quality Chinese porcelain. Its surface is covered with glazed enamels. It has a colorful design, though the general color palette is rather restrained. A warm color palette is evidently prevailing. The paintings that cover the vase illustrate the scenes from the everyday life of the relevant period. The scenes are depicted in details; looking at them, one might have an impression of studying a masterpiece in an art gallery. On the one side, there is a picture of a feast: there is a long table full of food and drinks, and people entertaining themselves. On the other side, there is a picture of a general near the city wall.

The second subject is the copy of the Portland Vase made by Josiah Wedgwood at the end of the 18th century. Josiah Wedgwood was a famous English potter who has performed significant contribution to the development of pottery industrialization in Great Britain. His other famous works are Jasperware “Horse Frightened by a Lion” and the black vase on the stand. Wedgwood was not the first one to copy the Portland Vase. Meanwhile, history has shown that his attempt turned out to be the most successful.

The vase is designed in the classic Roman style. In fact, the Portland Vase appeared in Rome between the first and the second AD. Initially, they were made of cameo glass, and their surface was covered with the depiction of some mythological scenes (Whitehouse 2003). These depictions are still the matter of debate in the expert community.

The Portland Vase has no functional purpose – it was used as the decoration element of the interior. As well as the first vase, this element of décor refers to the luxury type.

The vase is designed in a blue color palette. Cold tones are dominating over the warm pallet. The painting that covers the vase illustrates white silhouettes that color of which contrast with the background. Presumably, it is the mythological characters depicted. Some scholars believe that one of the silhouettes is the figure of the ancient God of Love, Cupid (Whitehouse 2003). Unlike the illustration on the first vase, this painting is not detailed – the depicted objects have fuzzy outlines.

The vases belong to the relatively similar historical periods, but their visual concepts have a lot of differences. The design of the oriental vase contains more colors that do not contrast one with another, contrary to the white-blue color palette in the second vase. In addition, the painting on the western vase is less detailed than the carefully depicted illustrations on the oriental vase. The shape of the western vase is sophisticated while that of the oriental vase is simple and unpretentious.

As a result, the oriental ceramic is more elaborate in its design – its surface paintings can compete with classic oil paintings in terms of details and tones. In the meantime, it is simpler in its shapes than the western style.

The analysis of the two vases has shown that these items have more differences than similarities notwithstanding the fact that they belong to the similar epoch. Thus, the oriental ceramic tradition showed detailed surface painting and subdued color tones. The western ceramic school, on the contrary, showed vague surface illustrations and contrasting palette. In addition, the Western Vase has a more complicated shape whereas that of the Orient Vase is streamline and simple.

Reference List

Leidy, DP 2015, How to Read Chinese Ceramics, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York.

Pierson, S 2009, Chinese Ceramics, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Whitehouse, D 2003, Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, Hudson Hills, New York, New York.

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