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early cobalt in glazes, another 2 cents worth

updated sat 6 sep 03


Richard J Mahaffey on wed 3 sep 03

I have read and been told of cobalt in glazes originating in the area
of present day Iran and Turkey. It was used under the clear lead glaze
that was used on earthenware prior to the advent of the use of tin as
an opacifier. You can see a few of these early pots in the Avery
Brundage Collection in the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

I recall seeing those pots when the collection was housed in the De
Young Museum in Golden Gate park. (The new museum is now in the Civic
Center area, the old Opera house I believe. Alas, the last time I was
home (SF) I had bad timing and missed the opening by a couple of >

It seemed the proto-porcelain and true porcelain brought on the
invention of what we call Majolica where the potters in Persia and
Turkey added tin to create an opaque white glaze. They then changed
from underglaze decoration to overglaze decoration. Some speculate
that this accounts for the relative lack of blue and white in Sung
(Song) wares. (I am not sure if that is the story.) It does make
sense that raw cobalt and the technology for it's use in decorating
pots would be an attractive trade commodity for those on the Silk Road.

I wish I could remember where I read this information, but my memory
is not what it once was (At least my memory (!) tells me that it was
better when I was younger.) I did hear a discussion of this in Turkey
between a Turkish Ceramics Prof and a Chinese Prof. (Translated of
course.) They seemed to agree.

As for the use of Cobalt in glass in Egypt and else where I have seen
cobalt blue glass from Pharonic (Sp?) Egypt as well as Iron blue glass
(Much prettier blue IMHO).

Well, my two cents worth with out citing authors so take it for what it
is worth.

Rick Mahaffey
Tacoma Community College
Tacoma, WA, USA

Linda R. Hughes on fri 5 sep 03

Would you have read that in the book IZNIK, The Pottery of Ottoman =
Turkey, by Atasoy and Raby? There is lot of good information on Blue & =
White ware (the term used in the book) in it.
And Paul, I have a copy of it here at the house if you want to look at =
it. It is a beautiful book.

Linda R. Hughes