The theme for this week’s #Feature Fridays with Historic Houses is Ceramics.
The earliest examples of functional pottery are thought to date back around 11,000 years to 9,000 BC and were made of clays, moulded by hand and heated on open bonfires.
While these would have been simple, undecorated items used to store vital foodstuffs, they nevertheless paved the way for the advancements that were to follow, starting with the bright paints and glazes added by the Ancient Egyptians and Chinese, and eventually leading to the birth of the European ceramics industry, which – inspired by increased trade with Asia and the Middle East – grew exponentially in the 1500s.
As with everything in the Tudor world – including clothes, land, how many windows your house had, the family you married into, your title and pet bird of prey to name but a few – owning and displaying expensive foreign ceramics was a way of displaying your wealth, connections and modern tastes to visitors. Particularly in the case of Asian and Middle Eastern ceramics, whose bold pinks and golds would have stood out vividly against the dark woods and deep hues of most grand Tudor homes.
Here at Hever, we are fortunate enough to have a variety of Asian ceramics, including the collection of pots in the Long Gallery. While many ceramics were purely decorative, some of our pots have images of fish painted on the inside to denote that these particular items were in fact intended to be fish bowls. Keeping fish was popular in ancient China, with rare gene mutations (patterns) in koi being particularly sought after and highly valued by successive ruling dynasties and, as a result, wealthy society beneath them.
The Tudors themselves may not have kept fish in them, but the desire for high status items that would dazzle and impress is something that was definitely shared by the well to do of both cultures.
You can discover more about Hever’s ceramics and collection of Jardinières here.
If you enjoyed this item on ceramics then why not discover the previous #Feature Fridays news items: