An exhibition presenting an interesting dialogue of the best of Chinese and German porcelain through history opens at the Shanghai History Museum on Friday.
A total of 136 treasures from Chinese, Japanese and German museums with 79 Meissen pieces, some dating back to the 18th century, will be on display. One hundred pieces are from the Hetjens-German Museum of Ceramics in Dusseldorf, the Meissen Porzellan-Museum and the Museum of Oriental Ceramics in Osaka, while the rest are from the Shanghai History Museum, Jiangxi Provincial Museum and Guangzhou Museum.
The exhibition tells a story of how Chinese porcelain, which started to be exported in large quantities in the 17th and 18th centuries, charmed Europeans and inspired their own creations of “white gold” —— the name given to porcelain by the German alchemist Johann Friedrich Bottger.
Among the pieces created by Chinese artisans for European clients in the 18th century, exhibition visitors will find an enamel ice bucket with the coat of arms of a Swedish family, an enamel helmet-shaped cup also for the Swedish market and a small gourd-shaped bathtub likely used for baptizing babies.
The Museum of Oriental Ceramics in Osaka contributed some of their treasures from that period with Japanese motifs, and alongside visitors will also find some porcelain in the Japanese style created in China’s Jingdezhen, known as the capital of ceramics.
“Imari, Meissen and China all affected one another in porcelain during the old times,” Degawa Tetsuro, director of the Osaka museum, told Shanghai Daily. He said the exhibition will give visitors an insight into how Eastern and Western cultures combine via porcelain.
Daniela Antonin, director of the Hetjens-German Museum of Ceramics in Dusseldorf, said items for display had been selected from a long list with a view to balancing the tastes of Easter and Western people. “We Europeans like big and beautiful porcelain products or those with gold,” said Antonin. “But our Chinese partners prefer the small and exquisite ones.”
Among the exhibits they brought, she highlighted a writing kit with Chinese inspired figurines. Mounted on a gilded bronze base, a Chinese couple, which came out from the Westerners’ imagination, is placed at the center. The figure of the wife is supposed to hold an umbrella over her husband’s head and in his hands there is a book with Chinese characters. The couple is surrounded by flowers set in an idyllic landscape with two lambs and a pug.
“I hope we can find back what antiquities tell us. They tell us important stories,” Antonin said.
Among the treasures from the Shanghai History Museum is an enchanting dancing girl wearing a porcelain lace dress that was created in Dresden in the 19th century.
Wang Chenglan, a researcher at the Shanghai museum in charge of putting the exhibition together, said it was meant as a conversation between China and Germany as two major capitals of ceramics in the world across the Silk Road.
The exhibition, on the first floor of the museum’s East Building, will continue to November. The two foreign museum directors will give lectures about Chinese and Japanese Imari porcelain’s way to the West and the Chinese porcelain’s influence on Meissen porcelain.
This exhibition will also tour China. After Shanghai, the porcelain will be on display in places including Dalian, Guangzhou, Jiangxi, and Zhengzhou.