Our twenty-sixth Research Paper comes to us from Lady Agnes Marie de Calais. She begins by writing about a unique small ceramic item she came across in a museum one day, and this paper is evidence of the research she has begun to dive into related to that unique item.
(Prospective future contributors, please check out our updated Call for Papers.)
The Brief Experiment of Medici Porcelain
In the summer of 2018, while visiting the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, I stumbled upon an interesting piece of pottery and began to wonder about its origin. I had no idea at the time that this seemingly common piece of tableware actually represented a major manufacturing moment in late European Medieval history, the development of soft paste porcelain. A complex, scientific and secret history surrounds this one precious medieval material, often given as a gift to royalty. And, like most things owned by royalty, those around them sought a copy of the work they could afford.
The Importance of Porcelain in Medieval Western Europe
Our story begins in 1295 when a very small item arrived in Venice that changed an entire industry. This small white bottle from Qingbai province, China, had been carried by Marco Polo around the world and survived hazards unknown. It had a unique smooth texture, remarkable strength compared to its thinness, and a glaze that appeared almost as though it was a fine layer of glass. We know of it from writings, but the actual extant piece has been lost to history, as well as the knowledge of what it held.