Monday, January 11, 2016

Blue And White

These are two Mexican shallow bowls and three candle holders that we brought back from my mom's house.  Each has its own unique pattern.  They were small (about 6 and 3 inches in diameter respectively) and easy to pack.  And their colors and patterns pleaded with me to take them.  Looking at them makes me feel good.

And when we got home I thought about a post I'd started before about all the blue and white items we have.  Is there something special about these colors?  Is it just us or are lots of other human beings particularly fond of this combination?

I took pictures of other objects we have with these colors.  I looked for some answers, but didn't find much.  There's lots of stuff on colors wheels and color combinations like this page, but white isn't in most color wheels.  Finding info specifically about blue and white was more difficult. But I'll put in what I found.  Maybe Mark, if you see this, you'll have more to add.

   Here's a Chinese vase, and that leads to the origin of this color combination.   From the Blue and White Porcelain page on Wikipedia.
"In the early 14th century mass-production of fine, translucent, blue and white porcelain started at Jingdezhen, sometimes called the porcelain capital of China. This development was due to the combination of Chinese techniques and Islamic trade. The new ware was made possible by the export of cobalt from Persia (called Huihui qing, 回回青, "Islamic blue"), combined with the translucent white quality of Chinese porcelain.  Cobalt blue was considered as a precious commodity, with a value about twice that of gold.[4] Motifs also draw inspiration from Islamic decorations.  A large portion of these blue-and-white wares was then shipped to Southwest-Asian markets through the Muslim traders based in Guangzhou."

This Thai bowl surely originates from the same Chinese tradition.

And this Japanese vase as well.

But what about this Portuguese plate that was a present from close friends of my wife's parents who were always so good to us?

And here's a Japanese cup and saucer made for the US market that has a completely different look.

And here's a very American bowl that is basically blue and white, but adds a few other colors.

Were you getting the sense it was only pottery?  I was.  But here a couple blue and white shirts.

As I was photographing all this I was reminded of how wide the range is of what we call white and what we call blue.

But I still hadn't found much on why people like this combination.

This short introduction from  From Houzz   succinctly repeats the Wikipedia info and adds some aesthetic reasons for the color combination.
"Blue and white is a popular color scheme steeped in history. This classic color palette dates back to the ninth century, when cobalt-blue pigments were used to create motifs on white pottery and porcelain in China. During the 18th century blue and white printed fabrics began popping up in France. 
Blue and white is an appealing combination because it is a very serene palette that looks natural to most people. In design it creates a feeling of elegance and simplicity that is unparalleled."
"Unparalleled elegance and simplicity."  Did the writer just make that up, or is there something more concrete to support that conclusion?

The Anthrotorian, in a post on blue and white in Greece, adds a political reason for the combination:
It wasn’t until 1967, when a military government was in power in Greece, that the other colors disappeared for good.  Thinking that the blue and white showed unification, and supported their political agenda, this government mandated that all buildings must be repainted in blue and white if they weren’t already.

When you do internet searches, you get hits that are vaguely related, but really take you off in a completely different direction.  Like this Harvard Law School paper on the history of the regulation of lipstick from 3500 BC to the present.  I think it showed up because, in addition to more traditional reds, Egyptians used a blue-black lipstick.

For more focus on color, here's a favorite post, from 2011, Are Color Distinctions Natural or Culturally Created? More on Language and How We See the World?

1 comment:

  1. I, too, have found myself drawn repeatedly to blue and white color schemes, in pottery, in textiles, paint, etc. My "wedding china" is a marvelous Dansk pattern, with blue and white dinner plates of one pattern, salad plates of a different pattern, cereal bowls are a third pattern, etc. I still love using this dinnerware a few times a year for special occasions. I gravitate to blue and white quilts and clothing for myself and my spouse. So I appreciate the information you have found and will probably keep my eyes open for more insight into this fascinating phenomenon. Thanks.


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