Asian ceramics connoisseur to give lectures

Potter tooling a plate from Jingdezhen, China, will be part of the program discussion.

Potter tooling a plate from Jingdezhen, China, will be part of the program discussion.                      — William Sargent photo

Come to the Bruce Museum to get a lesson or two in Asian ceramics on May 13 when independent scholar and former curator of Asian Export Art at the Peabody Essex Museum William Sargent presents a two-lecture seminar.

Mr. Sargent will delve into the influences and imitations of Chinese Export porcelain, as well as current production in China, during his presentation. The seminar, Asian Ceramics for Western Markets: Influences & Imitations Abounding, will begin at 10 a.m. and end at 1:30 p.m., with morning coffee and pastries, and a gourmet box lunch included for all participants.

This special half-day study is an annual event presented by the Connecticut Ceramics Study Circle.

Mr. Sargent’s first lecture will begin with the study of early export porcelains shipped to Europe that quickly revolutionized the ceramic arts of the west, both in materials as well as form and decoration. Regarded as objects of great rarity, they gave impetus to European ceramic workshops to try to unlock the secrets of porcelain technology. Influences and imitation took hold, as European potters imitated the landscape and animal designs of Chinese artists, and Chinese workshops adapted European vessel shapes in order to appeal to European tastes. But until the 18th century, no European manufactory could come up with the formula for the ringing hard, feather-light porcelain objects.

In the second half of the seminar, Mr. Sargent will describe and illustrate the still vibrant tradition of porcelain production taking place in Jingdezhen today. At the same time he will address the difficulty of ascertaining authenticity of antique pieces on the current global market.

“While the talk is a celebration of the potters’ and decorators’ arts, the continuing traditions do, in fact, create issues for collectors and curators of today,” Mr. Sargent wrote in an e-mail. “Potters today are, more and more, copying the past with great accuracy, and the potential problems for us in recognizing authentic pieces increases.”

China has long influenced the cultures of the West. From the introduction of luxury goods through seaborne trade, to the study of her religions, architecture, landscape design, and the social habit of taking tea, China’s influence has been a steady and strong thread within western civilization since the 17th century. Ceramics is one of the first and most lasting of these influences, according to the museum.

Mr. Sargent has authored five major publications, including most recently, Treasures of Chinese Export Ceramics: From the Peabody Essex Museum, organized 12 exhibitions and contributed to more than 35 essays on the topic. His lectures all over the world are greatly anticipated. The seminar fee for members is $90. The fee for non-members is $120. The seminar will follow this schedule: 10 a.m. — coffee and pastries, seminar supplies handed out; 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., Lecture I, followed by gourmet box lunch; Lecture II — 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

For information and to make a reservation, call 914-921-0621, or write [email protected]

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