EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


February 10, 2013

Is this piece an example of 'Chinese Lowestoft'?

I have a porcelain plate and have been unable to identify the markings on the back. I wonder if the piece is Japanese Imari or Chinese Lowestoft.

We have not heard the term “Chinese Lowestoft” in years —literally — and thought it might be fun to explore this subject. It comes under the heading of, “Oops! How did they get that so wrong?”

We should start by saying that the town of Lowestoft is located in Suffolk on the east coast of England. In the mid-18th century. It was a small fishing village, but in 1756, clay deposits were discovered on an estate just north of town by Hewlin Luson.

These deposits were determined to be suitable for the making of pottery, but Luson was not able to get production under way. The next year, 1757, a different partnership (not including Luson) was formed that managed to make a type of artificial porcelain called “soft paste.”

True Chinese-style “hard paste” porcelain is made from a mixture of “china clay” (kaolin) and “china stone” (petuntse). But the secret of this mixture was known only to the Chinese and the Germans at this time, so the English (and the French, and the Italians) had to cheat and make their porcelain either by adding soapstone, glass or bone ash (thus the term “bone china”) to white clay.

It has been reported that Lowestoft’s formula included about 20 percent bone ash, and most of their wares were naively painted in blue in imitation of the Chinese manner. The factory closed in 1802 (one source says it was 1799), but Lowestoft did not disappear into obscurity, as it might have.

In his 1863 book “Marks and Monograms on European and Oriental Pottery and Porcelain,” author William Chaffers made a colossal boo-boo when he identified Chinese Export wares as having been made at the Lowestoft factory.

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