Porcelain has been produced in China and Japan since antiquity, and examples that reached Europe in the thirteenth century were widely admired for their whiteness, translucence, and durability. Porcelain is made by firing kaolin, a soft white clay, at extremely high temperatures and is distinguished from earthenware, which is porous, opaque, and cruder.
Considered a luxury material, porcelain continued to be imported from Asia until the early eighteenth century, when Europeans learned how to produce it—at first in Dresden, Germany, in 1708. The formula for porcelain-making quickly spread across Europe.
Henry Clay Frick acquired Chinese and Japanese porcelain that was created with a western market in mind. These works are here juxtaposed with objects produced in Germany and Austria in the eighteenth century. They include a number of pieces created by the Meissen Manufactory, in Saxony, as well as some made in Vienna, after Claudius Innocentius du Paquier, in 1719, brought the secret of making porcelain from Germany to Austria. In recent years, the Frick has expanded its holdings of European porcelain considerably, thanks to gifts from collectors such as Henry H. Arnhold, and Melinda and Paul Sullivan.
In Europe, Asian and European porcelain was often shown together and arranged by color and shape in what became known as “Porcelain Rooms.” This arrangement at Frick Madison is designed to evoke these spaces and highlight the dialogue between objects made out of the same material in different geographical areas around the same time.