Chinese bottle vase

Contributed by Birmingham Museums

There are few classes of object which reflect the power of international trade as much as the blue and white porcelain, made in China and exported around the world. This bottle vase embodies some of the complexity of the trade. The tradition of painting in blue on a white ceramic surface was initially developed in the Near East before being exported, along with the cobalt which provided a rich blue/black intensity to the painting. This vase, made in China in the fifteenth century and decorated with the softer, smoky blue/grey native cobalt, has been made in Iranian style for importation back into the Near East, when the influence of Chinese design and the fashion for blue and white ceramic was at its height. When it was bought in Persia by Birmingham Museum in 1890, it was erroneously acquired as an example of Iranian ceramic imitating Chinese porcelain. In fact it is a Chinese vessel in the style of an Iranian vessel which in turn is imitating Chinese style.

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