Chinese / Platter / Yuan period, mid-14th centuryChinese
Yuan period, mid-14th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: Chinese
Title: Platter
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1334
Creation End Date: 1366
Creation Date: Yuan period, mid-14th century
Creation Place: China, Jiangxi Province
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Ceramics
Materials and Techniques: Porcelain painted with underglaze cobalt blue (Jingdezhen ware)
Dimensions: H. 3 in. (7.6 cm); D. 18 3/8 in. (46.7 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.151
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: The history of the Chinese ceramic industry from the late 13th to the early 15th century is one of constant innovation in both technology and taste. Unlike the earlier Song period, during which a wide range of types was produced in kilns throughout China, during the Yuan (1279-1368) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties, most ceramics were produced at the Jingdezhen kiln complexes located in Jiangxi Province. Some of the earliest porcelain in the world was manufactured at this complex, the site of some of the most important technical innovations and refinements in the history of ceramics, including the perfection of the technique for painting decoration under the glaze using a blue pigment derived from cobalt (imported from Iran, where it had long been used in ceramic glazes). This technology led to the creation of China's famous blue-and-white wares, produced for both domestic and export markets. Iran, Turkey, and India were the primary patrons for blue-and-white ware during the Yuan and early Ming dynasties. As a result, some of the most extensive collections of 14th- and 15th-century Chinese blue-and-white ware are preserved today in the Topkapi Saray Museum in Istanbul and the Ardebil Shrine in Tehran.

Decorated with Chinese themes such as the mythical qilin (a unicornlike creature), bamboo, morning glories, melons, and plantains, this large mid-14th-century blue-and-white platter exemplifies the type of ceramic exported to the Middle East during the Yuan period. All of these motifs are considered auspicious and convey blessings and wishes for good fortune. The style of the composition, particularly its density and complexity and the lack of empty space, is characteristic of blue-and-white ware made for export. The large size of the platter also reflects its intended market: it was most likely used to serve food to a large group of people. This custom differs from the Chinese tradition, in which numerous smaller bowls and plates are offered individually to each person sharing a meal.

An inscription engraved on the outside of the footring (Shah Jahan ibn' Jahangir Shah, 1063) documents this platter as one of the few examples of Yuan-period porcelain known to have been preserved for some length of time in India. Written in Farsi, the language of the Persian and Mughal courts, it cites the name of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (r. 1627-1658) and gives a date corresponding to 1652/1653 in the Western calendar. Similar inscriptions dating to the period of Shah Jahan's reign are found on other ceramics from the late Yuan and early Ming periods. Shah Jahan is famous for his patronage of the arts--in particular, the building of the Taj Mahal--and he is also known to have been a collector of ceramics. However, there are no extant imperial collections from either the Mughal or Rajput courts of India comparable to those found in Turkey and Iran, and much less is known about the nature of imperial collecting in India. References to Chinese porcelains found in imperial Mughal memoirs and European accounts of this court make it clear that Chinese porcelains were held in high regard, even depicted in Indian paintings.

Several Chinese porcelains are known that are inscribed with the name of Shah Jahan, his predecessor Jahangir, and his successor Aurangzeb. It is not clear why certain pieces such as this platter were inscribed with the names of these emperors. It is possible that this blue-and-white platter had been in Shah Jahan's family for generations and that he had it engraved as a mark of ownership or lineage. Or the ceramic might have been a gift from his Persian or Turkish counterparts, and later inscribed to record Shah Jahan's appreciation of this rare and precious object.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 69.
Related Document Description: Das, Asok Kumar. 'Chinese Porcelain at the Mughal Court.' Silk Road Art and Archaeology 2 (1991-92), pp. 381-409.
Related Document Description: Treasures of Asian Art: Selections from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, The Asia Society, New York. Hong Kong and Singapore: Hong Kong Museum of Art and National Museum Singapore, 1993, pp. 120, 121.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E. Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd. New York: Asia Society, 1970, pp. 56, 57, 73.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E., and Wai-kam Ho. Chinese Art Under the Mongols: The Yuan Dynasty, 1279-1368. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1968, cat. no. 148.
Related Document Description: Medley, Margaret. 'Style and Symbolism in Underglaze-Decorated Chinese Porcelain.' Apollo (November 1983), pp. 403.
Related Document Description: Mowry, Robert D. 'A Ming Blue and White Plate.' Art and Auction 7 (November 1984), pp. 110-11.
Related Document Description: Pal, Pratapaditya, et al. Romance at the Taj Mahal. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; London: Thames and Hudson, 1989, p. 168.
Related Document Description: Sotheby and Co. Chinese Ceramics (auction, New York, June 6, 1967), lot 39.
Related Document Description: Sotheby and Co. Art and Auction, 1966/1967. New York: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1967, p. 255.
Related Document Description: Treasures of Asian Art: Selections from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, The Asia Society, New York. Tokyo: Idemitsu Museum of Arts, 1992, pp. 78, 79, 135.
Related Document Description: Washburn, Gordon Bailey. 'The John D. Rockefeller III Oriental Collections.' ARTnews 69 (September 1970), p. 43.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.151
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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