Saturday, 11 July 2015

Ceramic 44 - V's cup

I found this bowl while researching Spanish Blue on White items. It struck me as being perfect for one of the local SCA ladies. Vee is pretty awesome so I thought I'd celebrate the completing of the initial Spanish post by making a Spanish cup to add to the BoW examples. I've asked Beth to pass it onto Vee at Krae Glas' Carnival this weekend. I hope she likes it.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Blue and White ceramics - Spain

Blue on White ceramics: the reciprocal influence of Chinese porcelain on European and Middle Eastern ceramics -Spain

Other essays on the history of BoW in Iraq, Egypt, early Iran, late Iran, Japan, China, Turkey, Spain, The Netherlands, Italy and England. late Iran

Item 11: 16th century pharmacy jar, cobalt on earthenware.


In the 14th century, Spanish potters were producing polychrome items in greens & browns with lovely brushwork (1). These items are reminiscent of the Cancai ware of China.. Items would often feature incised lines which would help prevent the glazes from running (2). Similar items were produced in many countries and though the artistry is lovely, the Spanish doesn't seem to have had a strong international market for these items.

The late 15th century saw the naval might of the Spanish Empire bloom resulting in the eventual settlement of the Americas. This time of growth was beneficial to all trades especially luxury goods which were traded across the empire. The Spanish potters of the 15th and 16th centuries were known for their beautiful luster work. It is thought that the method of the luster glaze had come to Spain from various conquests and trade routes from Africa. It is possible there was a direct knowledge transfer from the luster artists of Egypt (3).

Spanish potters would decorate items with a metallic luster glaze, typically both front and back (4). Motifs varied depending on the market and the region. Design elements were heavily influenced by Moorish artists with many items showing pseudo-islamic glyphs (5, 6, 7).

BoW items were produced in parallel with lusterware. In early examples the BoW earthenware features wider brush strokes and cruder patterns than the lusterware. Where luster and BoW were combined, the cobalt is used simply and is generally rougher than the luster items created at the same time (8, 9, 10). Ceramicists would eventually develop techniques that resulted in cobalt items that were as refined as the luster items.

All earthenware items were processed in wood fired kilns. One of the major challenges for potters was to ensure the temperature was consistent creating a glaze that would shine but not run. Often the temperature within the kiln would vary resulting in a well fired pharmacy jar (11) and one fired at too high a temperature (12, 13, 14). The temperature challenge could come down to the difference in degrees within 5 centimeters resulting in pharmacy jars where the glaze runs on only the top section of the jar leaving the rest of the design intact (15, 16). I had supposed that the pharmacy jars primarily suffer from running due to their height which would effect placement in the kiln and thus airflow around them however I have found smaller objects like tiles that seem to suffer from dripping as well (17).

Like pharmacy jars and other common household objects, tiles were often mass produced. One indication of this is the way their patterns are designed so the corners link together to create seamless designs (18). Some tiles seem to display an Iznik influence (19) such as half palmette (20) and other designs.  Others have a distinctly Islamic flavour and feature geometrical patterns (21, 22), Interestingly, the central fill is often clearly Spanish in design.

Item 23 is worth noting as it highlights the diversity of resources the Spanish potters drew their inspiration from. The pitcher / ewer could almost be a replicate of the Kashan (23a) vases in shape. The stripes appear to have been applied with a single stroke from a brush with six bundles of bristles.

Item 23: Spanish vase with Kashan influences


Possibly inspired by early Tang-ware (24), the artists of Toledo produced what I call splash-ware (25, 26, 27). It's possible that splash-ware was deliberately created to ensure that even if the glaze runs, the end product can be sold convincingly. This style doesn't seem to have been adopted by any of the other production centers.


Sevillia seems to distinguish themselves in the Blue on White market producing some lovely BoW items (28). They also integrated some black into their designs (29, 30). The items from Sevillia often feature horror vacui, i.e. the filling of all available space with decoration (31).


In the early 15th century, Manises produced lovely luster work as well as a combination of luster and cobalt. Plates would often feature heraldic animals (32, 33), the most prominent being the Spanish Lion of the Kingdom of Leon (34, 35). My favorite group of items from Manises features a cobalt design highlighted in luster (36, 37). These items seem to have an Islamic influence with their symmetrical geometric designs. Manises also utilized cobalt to augment the pattern fill seen in item 38. Later in the 15th century, these patterns became larger and more of a design feature rather than a fill pattern (39, 40, 41, 42)

Item 37: Deep dish from Manises, Spain with lustre and cobalt.


Item 43, a pharmacy jar, is interesting as it appears the cobalt glaze was applied then carefully scratched off. Given that the scratching never punches through the white tin glaze, it's possible the item was fired white then fired again with the blue. Barcelona seems to have concentrated on providing items for the local market such as pharmacy jars (44). Many heraldic tiles were also produced and all  seem to be designed to fit together to create a continuous design (45, 46, 47). By the end of the 16th century, the local potters had mastered the art of fine luster-ware with blue highlights (48). The 17th century saw the develop of lovely BoW shaded work similar to the portraits featured on Italian majolica work (49).

Dish 49: Shaded portrait similar to early Italian majolica work