Marco Polo is a work created by Italian potter Michele Fabbritore for the 9th Changchun International Invitational Exhibition of Pottery Works in China in 2020 (sent to the exhibition).
The work is in ceramic, 30.0 x 15.0 x 40.0 cm, and uses a cartoonish combination of realism and exaggeration to portray Marco Polo on a dressed-up elephant carrying various exotic and rare objects back to his homeland. The work brings the viewers all back to that time period.
Marco Polo was a famous Italian traveller, adventurer and merchant (cultural trader and exchange envoy) in the 13th and 14th centuries. At the age of 15, he left Venice, Italy, and followed his father and uncle on a long journey along the Silk Road, arriving in the summer of 1275 at the capital of Yuan Shangdu (Zhenglan Banner, Xilin Guole, Inner Mongolia). Marco Polo was an intelligent and well-educated man who quickly mastered the Mongolian language, the habits and manners of the Yuan dynasty and the ways of officialdom. He served in the Yuan dynasty for seventeen years. He was sent by Kublai, the emperor of the Yuan dynasty, as a minister of state, and toured Shanxi, Shaanxi and Fujian, as well as Chamchung (Vietnam) and India, and served as governor of Yangzhou for three years.
Marco Polo, father and son, stayed and served in China for seventeen years. Missing their homeland, they repeatedly requested to return to their country. Later, Kublai granted them permission to accompany the Princess Coghodzin to Ilkhan (the Ilkhanate, today's Iran) and set sail from Quanzhou to return home. After a difficult sea voyage, they returned to Venice in 1295, having completed their mission.
Soon after his return, Marco Polo was imprisoned during a war between Venice and Genoa. In prison, he dictated his experiences of his trip to the East, which were recorded by his fellow student Rusticello, who completed the book ‘The Travels of Marco Polo in the East’. This book was widely copied in the West and has had a great impact, with more than 120 translations available.
The Yuan dynasty, as reflected in Marco Polo's Travels, was a relatively open era, with excellent transport links and active foreign trade. Before the fall of the Southern Song Dynasty, trade was mainly by land, with caravans entering Central Asia and West Asia along the ancient Silk Road; after the Yuan Dynasty, trade by sea gradually took on a major role. The number of countries and regions with which the Yuan Dynasty had overseas trade reached more than 140.
The Mongol Empire was centred on Yuan China and formed a loose alliance of khanates spanning the Eurasian continent. This alliance led to an unprecedented new economic, political and cultural landscape between East and West. During the Yuan dynasty there was a strong business culture and many merchants, and the government dealt directly in gold, silver, copper and iron, salt, tea, wine and vinegar, agricultural tools and wood and bamboo to increase revenue for the treasury. The use of a unified paper currency throughout the country provided the conditions for active commerce in the Yuan dynasty. China and Europe began to have formal ambassadorial exchanges, Western merchants and missionaries came to China, and the scope of cultural exchange between China and overseas was expanded as never before.
‘The travels to the East’ written by Marco Polo greatly opened the eyes of Westerners. Like a warm breeze blowing from the East, China became a place of interest and desire for Westerners, thus promoting all kinds of exchanges between East and West. Marco Polo's name is also well known and remembered in Italy and the West.