Chinese / Dish / Ming period, Xuande era, 1426-1435Chinese
Ming period, Xuande era, 1426-1435

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: Chinese
Title: Dish
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1426
Creation End Date: 1435
Creation Date: Ming period, Xuande era, 1426-1435
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. 1 7/8 in. (4.8 cm); D. 10 1/4 in. (26 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.165
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: Noted for their refined bodies and elegant shapes, porcelains made during the reigns of the Xuande (1426-1435) and Chenghua (1465-1487) emperors of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) are ranked among the finest examples of imperial Chinese wares. Many of the characteristics of 15th-century porcelains result from increased imperial interest in ceramics. Ceramic production during this time--which was the near-exclusive domain of the imperial Jingdezhen kilns in Jiangxi Province--is noted for the development and refinement of techniques for making and decorating wares, experimentation with shapes and designs, and the widespread use of reign marks (inscriptions that identify the name of the dynasty and the reign name of an emperor).

A six-character Xuande mark is written on the base of this elegant dish painted in underglaze cobalt blue. Its decorative composition--a single large floral spray in the center of the interior and four different floral sprays along the interior rim, or cavetto--is found in many other pieces from the period, suggesting that potters relied on pattern books created at the court. The decorative motifs on this dish illustrate the numerous variations of flowers and fruits found in the designs of Xuande-era porcelain. Crepe myrtle is painted in the center, and a lotus, pomegranate, apple, and cherry decorate the rim; a continuous floral scroll circles the exterior rim. As is characteristic of dishes from the Xuande era, the designs are larger, more forceful, and more focused than was typical of earlier works with similar motifs.

Although the motifs seen on this dish were chosen primarily for their decorative possibilities, it is important to remember their numerous symbolic associations. For example, the pomegranate often symbolized the desire for children; the Chinese word for apple (ping) is a homonym for that of peace; and the cherry is sometimes understood to refer to young women. The combination of these auspicious motifs and their constant reuse has led to the suggestion that dishes with such decoration were intended to be used by women. Commissioned throughout the Ming dynasty, dishes decorated with motifs of this type were made in several color schemes, including blue and white, yellow and white, and more rarely, brown and white. If they were indeed made for women, it is possible that the variety in color schemes and decoration reflected the different statuses of the many women at the Chinese court. Court regulations from the subsequent Qing dynasty (1644-1912) indicate that certain color combinations were specifically assigned to court ladies of different ranks. For example, yellow porcelains were used by the empress and empress dowager, while those with white interiors were assigned to concubines of the first rank. It is possible that some version of this system was already in use during the Ming dynasty, just as many of the imperial symbols used by the Qing, such as the five-clawed dragon, had been developed earlier.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 74.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.165
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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