This lovely early Ming xuan-de pitcher had old cracks in the handle and the spout support. We sealed these cracks first to give as much strength as possible to its slender curves, then we filled and airbrushed the cracks, recreating the spreading softness that the underglaze blue cobalt glaze acquires when it is fired. It is a challenge to soften these color edges, and to perfectly recreate the subtle range of blue shades that the cobalt takes on as it melts into the glaze. The repairs were coated locally, extending as little as possible onto the surrounding ceramic, and then polished and matted to recreate the subtle surface of the porcelain. This pitcher is a wonderful example of the influence of Islamic aesthetics on the early Ming – as both the form and the minute flower decoration could have come from a Persian palace. Although cobalt was used in China before this time, the characteristic Chinese underglaze blue porcelain decoration seems to have begun from this influence.

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