Blue & White—Travel Through Time with This Transcendent Style

Blue and white porcelain pottery is an art form that can be traced back through many dynasties of China. The oldest dated blue and white artifact in our possession is a set of two tall vases, known as the David Vases. We know their creation date and intended purpose because within the blue designs the artist placed an inscription. The vases were made in 1351 and were an offering to be placed in a Chinese temple. This date places their origin during the Yuan Dynasty, which was proclaimed by Mongol ruler Kublai Khan in 1271, an official conquest by 1279, and ended in 1368. However, the masterful craftsmanship and artistry exhibited in the vases indicate that the blue and white technique must have originated sometime before the David Vases, likely placing the onset of blue and white porcelain arts in the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

The David Vases

The Chinese possessed kilns that were far superior to most kilns of the day and this allowed them to fire a particularly pure clay, Kaolin, at very high temperatures. This clay and their advanced technology are what allowed them to create beautiful glossy white porcelain products. In 1004 Emperor Zhenzog selected Jingdezhen in Jiangxi Province to be the imperial porcelain production center. This center is a likely place where blue and white pottery got its start. Before we give all of the credit to Jingdezhen, however, it is important to note that while they had perfected pure white porcelain, the blue came from somewhere else. Cobalt pigment was sourced from what is modern-day Iran and is responsible for the rich blue that sits in such striking contrast against the porcelain white backdrop.

This quintessentially Chinese style prevailed through the dynasties as it gained popularity and remained an extremely lucrative export. Eventually, potters around the world began to replicate the Chinese style and by the 1700s, even Europeans learned how to recreate the pieces. The true Chinese pieces, however, remained the most affordable and were regarded as the most authentic.

Expanded trade with East Asia, especially China, during the 18th-century fed European's fascination with the exotic. This access to Asian design spurred the growth of the chinoiserie style in art, décor, and fashion, which kept blue and white porcelain pieces in Vogue. Sometime around the 1830s, due to disrupted trade, the ornate chinoiserie style fell from the height of popularity. Yet, we can still find this Asian-inspired style in show houses, design publications, and our own homes today. Ginger jars grace fireplace mantels, bamboo bar carts sit styled with modern spirit bottles and cocktail books, and blue and white china is placed on our tables for special occasions.

These traditional Chinese motifs prevail Caspari's blue & white paper collections, which honor the ancient Chinese arts and make the style accessible to any home. The soft colors are perfect for brunches and celebratory showers, and they pair perfectly with your genuine porcelain pieces for an elegant style with effortless cleanup.