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The vessels were mostly intended for use and not for show; were clumsily fashioned of any local clay, and if glazed at all then only with coarse lead-glazes, coloured yellow or green; in no case above the level of workmanship of the travelling brick- or tile-maker.
The finest expression of this native style is to be found in the Gothic tile pavements of France, Germany and England, where all the colours are due to the clays and there is no approach to painting.
From Italy and Spain, France and Holland, Germany, and finally, though much later, England learnt this art, and the tin-enamelled pottery of middle and northern Europe, so largely made during the 17th and 18th centuries, was the direct offshoot of this movement of the Italian Renaissance.
During the 15th and 16th centuries Chinese porcelain also began to find its way into Europe, and by the whiteness of its substance and its marvellous translucence excited the attention of the Italian majolists and alchemists.
The not yet exploded view that Egypt or Assyria was the special cradle of this art, and that the pottery of the Greeks and Romans directly descended from such a parent stock, cannot survive in view of the incontestable evidence that pottery was made by the prehistoric peoples of what we now call Greece, Italy, Spain and other countries, long before they were aware that any other peoples lived on the earth than themselves.the property of plasticity (the power of being readily kneaded or moulded while moist), and the property of being converted when fired into one of the most indestructible of ordinary things.The clays form such an important group of mineral substances that the reader must refer to the article for an account of their occurrence, composition and properties.What part the Byzantine civilization and the Persians played during this obscure time, we are only just beginning to realize; but we now know that many interesting kinds of decorated pottery were made at Old Cairo, at Alexandria, at Damascus, in Syria, Anatolia and elsewhere (on which the later Moslem potters founded their glorious works), at a time when all over Europe crocks of simple red or drab clay, covered only with green and yellow lead-glazes, were the sole evidence of the potter’s skill.What the Arab conquests destroyed, and what their breath quickened into life, we can only guess; but the fact is indisputable that with the Mahommedan conquests there came a time when the potter’s art of the Occident reached its highest expression, and when methods and knowledge hitherto confined to Egypt, Syria and Persia were spread from Spain and the south of France to India—even, it may be, into China.