Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Blue and White All Over

dress w/ parasol and ceramic bodice
 During March, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., presented Iberian Suite, a celebration of the cultures of Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking peoples around the world that also highlighted the influences that the region absorbed from other cultures. This global arts remix included dance, theater, and music performances, as well as installations and a literature series.

Two of the installations were of particular interest. One was an exclusive exhibition of more than 140 of Pablo Picasso's ceramic pieces. The other was titled So Blue, So White: Fashions Centuries in the Making. It was a selection of blue and white fashions created by various designers. Interestingly, one of the dresses not only incorporated it's own parasol, but also had a bodice made of blue and white ceramics.
This fashion exhibit also told the "story" of cobalt, which was first mined in central Iran in the 9th century. The Persians used the pigment on ceramics, which had a great appeal to the Chinese. They, in turn, began importing cobalt, producing sophisticated two-tone ware in the 14th century. 

In a story of early "globalization," in the early 1500s, Portuguese merchants began importing these pieces. Exports of Chinese blue and white ceramics soared when the Dutch captured two Portuguese ships in 1602 and 1604 and their cargo of porcelain was sold at auction. Blue and white tableware became very popular in Europe and local manufacturers--most famously, those around the city of Delft--began emulating the style.
Andí's collection of blue/white plates

In the meantime, azulejos, or wall tiles, derived from the Islamic styles of North Africa and Muslim Spain, became emblematic of the decorative arts of the Iberian peninsula and soon spread to the Americas, particularly Mexico and Brazil.

Thus, the continuing allure of blue and white ceramics.

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