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The La Castilla Collection: A Photography Exhibition

Blue & White Chinese Heirloom Porcelain from the Qing & Ming Dynasties

By Mike Baños

Exhibit Poster

Cagayan de Oro City’s only Lifestyle Museum will feature next month a photo exhibit of Blue & White Chinese Heirloom Porcelain from the Ching & Ming Dynasties dating back to the 13the to 17th centuries.

Dubbed The La Castilla Collection: A Photography Exhibition, it will run from February 1 to 28, 2023 at the 3rd Floor Foyer of the Ayala Centrio Mall.

La Castilla Museum at LIceo de Cagayan University

The fourteen photos will feature a selection of blue and white antique jars from the Pelaez Family collection of the La Castilla Museum of Philippine Household Heirlooms and Antiques (The Rodolfo and Elsa Pelaez Family Memorabilia).

“This is one of the off-site programs of the museum where we fulfill the mandate of museums to make collections accessible to the public, while also keeping the objects safe and preserved in their cabinets,” said Kelly Ramos, Curator of the La Castilla Museum.

Blue and white porcelain, or Qinghua (meaning blue flowers), is the most widespread porcelain, and China’s most famous china. This underglaze ceramic, decorated with blue pigment, normally cobalt oxide, has been produced for over 1,000 years (Jiang, 2021).

Two blue and white porcelain jars at the La Castilla Museum

The color blue gained special significance in the history of Chinese ceramics during the Tang dynasty (618-907). The distinctive color in blue-glazed pottery and porcelain comes from cobalt ores imported from Persia, which were a scarce ingredient at the time and used in only limited quantities.

In the Yuan (1279-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties in particular, different types of cobalt ore and methods of application determined the distinctive feature of the shades of blue that appeared on blue-and-white porcelain ware. (Ho, 2019)

In his book, Rodolfo & Elsa Pelaez A 20th Century Legacy, author Nelson A. Navarro wrote:

“Elsa Pelaez managed to collect one of the biggest and most impressive collection of blue-and-white heirloom Chinese porcelain from the Ming and Qing dynasties during the 1950s ‘antiques boom’ from Muslim traders of Lanao, as well as from private collections and auctions from Cebu and Manila. These are now in the La Castilla Museum, along with later acquisitions of fine art from Europe and other parts of the world.”

Elizabeth Wilson, author of A Pocket Guide to Oriental Ceramics in the Philippines, relates how these heirloom porcelain pieces made their way to the Philippines.

“Chinese porcelain and stoneware reached the Philippines as early as the 9th century. During the Song and Yuan periods, from 960 to 1368, trade with the Philippines reached its peak.” “…Many pieces compare favorably with pieces in museums in China or, for that matter, with the antique ceramics displayed nowadays in the best shops in Hong Kong and Singapore…” “…Until the 14th century, Filipinos prized celadon pieces above all others. Gradually, however, celadon lost out to the blue-and-white ware produced in China and Vietnam for the Middle East. The Chinese took to the new ware slowly, but the Philippines and Indonesia proved to be the ideal markets for early experiments in glazing techniques.”

A cabinet of mostly blue & white ceramics at La Castilla Museum

“Blue and white ceramics have blue or blackish-blue decorations on a white or off-white body. Recent archaeological finds in China show that blue-and-white was made as early as the Tang Dynasty. Perhaps it ceased to be popular for several centuries. In any case, it was only in the mid-14th century, with the development of foreign trade, that production of blue-and-white rose to commercial scale to meet the demands from the Middle East. The Persians had tried to master blue coloring themselves but could not control the glazes and asked the Chinese to do it for them. Even though the Chinese had known about cobalt blue since the Tang period, they had also found it difficult to work with. For this new trade, they imported the pigment from the Middle East because, when it was fired, the imported cobalt did not run as much as their own. Even then, they had trouble getting a clear color. Many of their experiments were exported to the Philippines.”

The La Castilla Museum in R.N. Pelaez Boulevard, Carmen, Cagayan de Oro City is a Lifestyle Museum of Philippine household artifacts, heirlooms, and antiques.

It is housed within the former summer residence of Atty. Rodolfo Neri Pelaez and Mrs. Elsa Pelaez, founders of Liceo de Cagayan University. Designed in the ornate Spanish Mediterranean style, it was built in 1968 within six hectares of land bordering the Cagayan River, and is now part of the Liceo de Cagayan University campus.

This exhibit is a project of the 18th Cultural Season of the Liceo Office of Cultural Affairs in celebration of the 68th Founding Anniversary of Liceo de Cagayan University and National Arts Month in the Philippines. It is mounted by La Castilla Museum in partnership with Liceo de Cagayan University, Ayala Malls, Ayala Centrio, Cagayan de Oro City Tourism & Cultural Affairs Office, Cagayan de Oro Historical & Cultural Commission (HISCOM), Liceo Office of Cultural Affairs, Liceo Office of Communications and Promotions, and The Liceo Press.

The La Castilla Museum is open from Monday to Friday at 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Saturdays at 8:00 AM to 12:00 NN. It is located at Rodolfo N Pelaez Boulevard, Kauswagan, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines.

The exhibition team for this event is headed by Roger Odron (Project Director), with Kelly Ramos (Curator/Researcher/Writer), Jeikko Gomez (Photographer), Salvador dela Peña (Editor) and Reynan Lacaba (Graphic Designer).

For inquiries call 858-4090 local 188/ 09602205026/ 09162219949/ 09276484552(Museum Curator)

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