Learning about Chinese Porcelain and Art from Asia On eBay is an Expensive Education
If you've found yourself attracted to the shapes, forms, use of color, materials used and symbolism coupled with the fascinating history of Chinese art, learning about only draws you in further.
It happened to me while in grammar school and is largely why I became a dealer in Oriental Art.
As a child I was raised here in New England in the coastal town of Marblehead, Massachusetts. It was a place drenched in American and Maritime History. Every year our schools made field trips around the North Shore to visit historic houses, museums and libraries. We visited most of them at least once and often many times over the years. The Nathaniel Bowditch House, The House of Seven Gables, The Witch House, Ropes Mansion the Peabody Essex Museum all of which were in Salem and many more. We then would venture further into Essex, Mass to see the Choate and Coffin houses, then Beauport aka Sleeper McCann House and Hammond Castle in Gloucester and on and on. Their are hundreds of them in the area, not to mention the libraries which in many towns are the equal of some museums.
Interestingly even at a young age I never tired of seeing these places, it was always like visiting another world to me, a friendly one at that.
|Younzheng Period Bowl Circa 1740,
National Palace Collection, Taiwan
Eventually I began to notice the constant presence of and influence of Asian Art and culture throughout these places. Sometimes it was a Chinese style balustrade around a porch, or the use of glazed monochrome glazed tiles brought back during the 19th C. on clipper ships that had been incorporated into a garden wall. Inside often you would find large decorated folding screens from China or Japan, depicting intimate domestic scenes or perhaps expansive landscapes coated in ethereal layers of clouds and mist with spectacular dragons chasing the flaming pearl. The carpets would often be Chinese with dining tables set with 18th C. hand painted Export Porcelains. The more I looked, the more I realized how much Chinese and Japanese tastes influenced what I saw growing up in New England. This was the start of the slippery slope for me.
From my early 20's onward, the search has continued to see and learn more, to buy some for myself and find other pieces that someone might enjoy for themselves. 35 years later, it is still going on. Tens of thousands of pieces bought and sold and its still as fascinating as ever,
The Search for Knowledge, once "The Bug" Bites you!
- BUY GOOD BOOKS! Which means building a library for your hobby. My own has nearly 700 books on just Chinese, Japanese and Korean Art, plus more auction catalogs from Christies and Sothebys than I ever plan to count. Auction Catalogs are often better than books, better pictures and some very scholarly articles, particularly form the two aforementioned auction houses. (buy them AFTER the auction if you want them for reference only, you'll save a bundle) The Auctioncatalogstore on eBay often have some good deals.
- Keep track of museums and make a real effort to visit a FEW times exhibitions that come your way, seeing things flesh is the best educator of all. Know thy dealer. If you have them in your area, visit and get to know dealers near you who handle fine Asian art. They in general love what they do and can save you from making massive mistakes and many are superb teachers very willing to share their knowledge. Remember, a dealer sees more material in a month than you as a collector will see in a 3 years, maybe 5 years, not to mention their accumulated knowledge of decades.
- When you buy something, study it, evaluate the quality of the work, materials used, compare it to other examples. Yes, drag out the BOOKS!
- Google Image search, never underestimate the power of Google's image searching ability, use it. Bear in mind though that not all of the descriptions are accurate.
- Accumulate great websites for finding images and information, once you find them book mark them!!! Here are a few; Alain Truong's Blog in France, The Freer Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian in Washignton, DC and The Peabody Essex Museum, Salem Mass. last and hopefully not least is our own area the Bidamount Archive from this area if you a logged into Google, you can visit the rest of the folders which are loaded with images.
When you feel confident start with modest purchases, you can buy on eBay but be careful, the parent site to this Blog has some excellent searches including some very good dealers here and in Europe you can check out, but NEVER EVER buy anything being represented as an antique from a China based seller, they ARE all! Fakes. Read our other Blogs about fakes from China, its worth it.
Here is a VERY good 50 minute video The History of Chinese Porcelain