Chinese Export Pottery: A Business Model for Athenian Vase Production

SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park

Saturday, March 7, 2020, 10:30am - 1:00pm

Chinese Export Pottery: A Business Model for Athenian Vase Production?

The third presentation in the AIA/SunWatch Winter 2020 Lecture Series presented by Dr. Kathleen Lynch, Archaeological Institute of America National Lecturer and Professor of Classics at the University of Cincinnati.

In early modern times, Chinese potters produced figure decorated porcelain in a range of shapes specifically tailored to export markets. The design, production, and export of these vessels is well-documented with contemporary literary accounts—both Chinese and foreign—and even contemporary drawings of the production process. In the 6th and 5th centuries B.C., Athenian potters produced figure-decorated pottery, some of which seems to be tailored to export markets. In this talk, we will explore how the model of Chinese export pottery may help us understand Athenian vase production for export. In contrast, we know little about the logistics or organization of Athenian pottery production and its trade beyond what we can glean from the pots themselves. Chinese porcelain and its export, then, provides some valuable parallels that may help explain Athenian export strategies.

In particular, we will examine the impact of the consumer’s tastes on Chinese porcelain production. European customers, for example, wanted practical western forms that featured authentically “Chinese” imagery. As a result, potters made export porcelain in shapes and with decoration that would never have been used domestically in China. Similarly, there is evidence that the Athenians also modified shapes and images to suit the tastes of their consumers. We will explore the possibility that the export market shaped Athenian vase imagery more than previous noticed and consider what this means for our study of Greek vases.

Thanks to the Archaeological Institute of America and the generosity of an anonymous donor, admission to the 2020 Lecture Series is free and open to the public. Regular admission fees apply for guests who wish to visit the museum and village during the regular business hours. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Pastries will be provided; guests are welcome to bring a beverage.

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