Chinese porcelain & the Country House: one to watch

It’s that man from Antiques Roadshow with a fancy plate?

I first saw a BBC4 programme, in which Lars Thorp (of Antique’s Roadshow fame) goes to China to trace the history of porcelain, last year.  Having failed to record a copy at the time, I’ve noticed that it is on again this Sunday evening at 8pm: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b015sttj

For anyone interested in the artifacts that furnished (and continue to furnish) the interiors of Country Houses, this one hour documentary makes interesting viewing, so much so I thought I should share it.

For those not in the UK or without access to BBC4, iPlayer could be the answer?  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/tv/bbc_four/20120129

Oh, and while I’m at it, tonight on BBC2 there’s another programme about the current market for Chinese porcelain, and that too is on iPlayer: click here.

What the BBC say

“In November 2010, a Chinese vase unearthed in a suburban semi in Pinner sold at auction for £43 million – a new record for a Chinese work of art. Why are Chinese vases so famous and so expensive? The answer lies in the European obsession with Chinese porcelain that began in the 16th century.

In this documentary Lars Tharp, the Antiques Roadshow expert and Chinese ceramics specialist, sets out to explore why Chinese porcelain was so valuable then – and still is now. He goes on a journey to parts of China closed to Western eyes until relatively recently. Lars travels to the mountainside from which virtually every single Chinese export vase, plate and cup began life in the 18th century – a mountain known as Mount Gaolin, from whose name we get the word kaolin, or china clay. He sees how the china clay was fused with another substance, mica, that would turn it into porcelain.

Carrying his own newly-acquired vase, Lars uncovers the secrets of China’s porcelain capital, Jingdezhen. He sees how the trade between China and Europe not only changed our idea of what was beautiful – by introducing us to the idea of works of art we could eat off – but also began to affect the whole tradition of Chinese aesthetics too, as the ceramicists of Jingdezhen sought to meet the European demand for porcelain decorated with family coats of arms, battle scenes or even erotica.

The porcelain fever that gripped Britain drove conspicuous consumption and fuelled the Georgian craze for tea parties. Today the new emperors – China’s rising millionaire class – are buying back the export wares once shipped to Europe. The vase sold in Pinner shows that the lure of Chinese porcelain is as compelling as ever.”

Happy viewing…

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