Cover Image

Larger ImageView Larger


The Pilgrim Art

Cultures of Porcelain in World History

Robert Finlay (Author)


Other Formats Available:
Illuminating one thousand years of history, The Pilgrim Art explores the remarkable cultural influence of Chinese porcelain around the globe. Cobalt ore was shipped from Persia to China in the fourteenth century, where it was used to decorate porcelain for Muslims in Southeast Asia, India, Persia, and Iraq. Spanish galleons delivered porcelain to Peru and Mexico while aristocrats in Europe ordered tableware from Canton. The book tells the fascinating story of how porcelain became a vehicle for the transmission and assimilation of artistic symbols, themes, and designs across vast distances—from Japan and Java to Egypt and England. It not only illustrates how porcelain influenced local artistic traditions but also shows how it became deeply intertwined with religion, economics, politics, and social identity. Bringing together many strands of history in an engaging narrative studded with fascinating vignettes, this is a history of cross-cultural exchange focused on an exceptional commodity that illuminates the emergence of what is arguably the first genuinely global culture.
Robert Finlay, Professor of History at the University of Arkansas, is the author of Politics in Renaissance Venice and Venice Besieged: Politics and Diplomacy in the Italian Wars, 1494-1534.
“This book is a must read for students of world history.”—Richard Foltz Journal Of World History
“Enthusiastic.”—American Historical Review
“Engaging work. . . . Highly recommended.”—L. R. Hudgins Choice
“A significant contribution to the academic field, an encapsulation of information gleaned from different fields that will serve several audiences.”—Rose Kerr Burlington Magazine
The Pilgrim Art is a remarkable work of synthesis. With porcelain as his focus, Robert Finlay puts the histories of China, India, the Islamic world, Europe, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, and East Africa into dialogue with one another. In highlighting the interactions, exchanges, and influences that linked these regions, he makes a distinctive contribution to understanding of the global past. He blends the histories of production, distribution, and consumption with the histories of technology, trade, and art, as well as social history, commodity history, cultural history, political history, and literary history. The result is a rich stew of historical analysis combining close attention to detail with graceful writing and a clear focus on global themes. The Pilgrim Art ranks as an example of contemporary world history at its finest.” —Jerry H. Bentley, Editor of the Journal of World History and author of Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times

"Finlay traces the rise and fall of Chinese porcelain across global flows of desire, artistic symbols and styles, innovation, espionage, competition and colonial power. This is commodity history as it should be written—exciting, engaging, with a masterful attention to regional context, be it France, Japan, India, or the Swahili Coast."—Stewart Gordon, author of When Asia was the World

Join UC Press

Members receive 20-40% discounts on book purchases. Find out more