Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
In early modern times, Chinese potters produced figure decorated porcelain in a range of shapes specifically tailored to export markets. The design, production, and export of these vessels is well-documented with contemporary literary accounts—both Chinese and foreign—and even contemporary drawings of the production process. In the 6th and 5th centuries B.C., Athenian potters produced figure-decorated pottery, some of which seems to be tailored to export markets. In this talk, we will explore how the model of Chinese export pottery may help us understand Athenian vase production for export. In contrast, we know little about the logistics or organization of Athenian pottery production and its trade beyond what we can glean from the pots themselves. Chinese porcelain and its export, then, provides some valuable parallels that may help explain Athenian export strategies.
In particular, we will examine the impact of the consumer’s tastes on Chinese porcelain production. European customers, for example, wanted practical western forms that featured authentically “Chinese” imagery. As a result, potters made export porcelain in shapes and with decoration that would never have been used domestically in China. Similarly, there is evidence that the Athenians also modified shapes and imagers to suit the tastes of their consumers. We will explore the possibility that the export market shaped Athenian vase imagery more than previous noticed and consider what this means for our study of Greek vases.
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:
Emerson, J., J. Chen, M. Gardner Gates. 2000. Porcelain Stories: From China to Europe, Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Sargent, William. 2012. Treasures of Chinese Export Ceramics from the Peabody Essex Museum, New Haven: Yale University Press.
Inaugural Tsakirgis Lecture