Chinese / Saucer / Ming period, late 14th centuryChinese
Ming period, late 14th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: Chinese
Title: Saucer
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1300
Creation End Date: 1399
Creation Date: Ming period, late 14th century
Creation Place: China, Jiangxi Province
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Ceramics
Materials and Techniques: Porcelain painted with underglaze copper red (Jingdezhen ware)
Dimensions: H. 1 inch (2.5 cm); D. 7 3/4 in. (19.7 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.152
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.

Another innovation, seen on the lobed saucer illustrated here, was the use of underglaze red, colored using a copper oxide. The red color of the underglaze copper pigment is notoriously difficult to achieve during firing, and pieces decorated exclusively with this color are scarcer than the well-known blue-and-white examples. Nonetheless, underglaze copper-red wares became popular and were made in some number during the reign of the first Ming emperor, Hongwu (r. 1368-1398). Shards from such wares were discovered at the Hongwu palace site in Nanjing, which suggests that they were used at the court. The presence of several copper-red wares from the late 14th century in the palace museums in Beijing and Taipei also supports this presumption. In addition, some ceramics decorated with a copper-based pigment were exported; examples are known in the Philippines.

This saucer illustrates a standard use of underglaze copper red. The piece is decorated with scrolling flowers, probably chrysanthemums, but the copper pigment fired to a dull gray, evidencing the difficulties inherent in working with this color. Lobed saucers such as this one were often used to hold tripod vessels made of bronze or ceramic; it is possible that this saucer once served as a cup stand on an altar or family shrine.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 70.
Related Document Description: 'An Exhibition of Blue-Decorated Porcelain of the Ming Dynasty.' Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 44 (Autumn 1949), pp. 11, 30.
Related Document Description: Parke-Bernet Galleries. The Richard Bryant Hobart Collection of Oriental Ceramics, part 1 (auction, New York, May 23, 1969), lot 103.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.152
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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