BJ: This Saturday Björn and Louise Gremner from AntikWest invited us to their exhibition hall, Jiguge Antiques, in Liulichang to share how to identify and date Chinese porcelains.
AntikWest was founded in 1971 by Björn Gremner, Managing Director and expert in Chinese porcelain and art. Their main focus is sales and marketing of Chinese antiques but they also do consulting on Chinese culture and objects. Björn Gremner is known from Swedish TV-show Antikrundan where he consults as an expert on Chinese and Japanese porcelain and art.
When looking at “Chinese Porcelain” as a whole, Björn suggests to divide the porcelain in two major groups – Chinese market porcelain and Chinese export porcelain. The Chinese market porcelain is primarily made for the Asian market and includes both the imperial ware and ordinary ware. Both of these groups often carry base marks. Antique export porcelain on the other hand, very seldom carry base marks.
The difference between antique pieces made for different markets is found both in their shapes, which depends on their intended use, and their decoration. Flat plates is a western requirement as is handles on tea cups. Most pieces you can sort up easily by comparing with textiles from the area.
The western 17th to 19th century shapes are typically flat and deep plates with condiment flanges, chargers, tea and coffee cups with or without handles, dishes, soup tureens, jugs, pitchers and the like. The Chinese common folks themselves mostly settled for soup bowls of medium size and jars for storage of different size according to what were to go in them. Small jars and boxes for condiments and this and that are the most common of the Asian market shapes.
Björn’s 3 tips for the novice collector of Chinese porcelain:
1. Buy the items outside from China – for someone with limited knowledge about Chinese antiques it is today rare to find old porcelain in China that is manufactured.
2. During the 14th – 19th centuries the porcelain was very thin, so if the porcelain is thicker it might be a replica.
3. Always look at the bases of the ceramics – the way a base of a vessel is cut, finished and glazed changes throughout the dynasties, so looking at bases can help enormously with dating and authentication.