A Recipe for Porcelain

Past centuries have not seen porcelains, which are merely a certain mass composed of plaster, eggs, scales of marine locusts and other similar kinds, which mass being well united and worked together, is secretly hidden underground by the father of a family, who informs his children alone of it, and it remains there eighty years without seeing daylight, after which his heirs, drawing it out and finding it suitably adaptable for some kind of work, make out of it those precious transparent vases, so beautiful to the sight in form and color that architects find nothing in them to improve upon.”

Thus wrote Guido Pancirolli in the late 1500’s.  At the time, the hunt was on in Europe for the elusive formula of true porcelain.  There were many alchemists and charlatans who boasted of knowing the secret.  Addressing this muddy state of affairs, Pancirolli offered this further bit of wisdom regarding true porcelain to his readers:

Their virtues are admirable, inasmuch as one puts poison into one of these vessels it breaks immediately.  He who once buries this material never recovers it, but leaves it to his children, descendants, or heirs, as a rich treasure, on account of the profits they derive from it; and it is of far higher price than gold, inasmuch as one rarely finds any of the true material, and much that is sold is unreal.

Reading:
History of Ceramic Art.  Albert Jaquemart.  Sampson, Lowe Marston, and Searle/London.  1873.

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3 Responses to “A Recipe for Porcelain”

  1. Never Do This | This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] Porcelain’s unique allure through the ages has elicited reactions from rapture to duplicity.  William Tucker of Philadelphia, for example, was very proud of his “China Factory.”  It was America’s first successfully sustained porcelain effort.  […]

  2. The Old Soft Shoe | This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] Duché of Savannah, GA was one of many 18th century devotees of the quest for a true ‘Western’ porcelain formula.  In a May 27, 1738 trustee report by Georgia’s colonial secretary Colonel William Stevens, […]

  3. Test of Time | This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] Entire industries were spawned to get more, and to make it cheaper themselves.  Until that occurred, Europeans saw the foreign Chinese who made this wonderful work as strange, exotic, impenetrable, […]

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