Chinese / Ewer / Ming period, early 15th century (probably Yongle era, 1403-1424)Chinese
Ming period, early 15th century (probably Yongle era, 1403-1424)

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: Chinese
Title: Ewer
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1403
Creation End Date: 1424
Creation Date: Ming period, early 15th century (probably Yongle era, 1403-1424)
Creation Place: China, Jiangxi Province
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Ceramics
Materials and Techniques: Porcelain with incised design under glaze (Jingdezhen ware)
Dimensions: H. 13 in. (33 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.155
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 creation of China's famous blue-and-white wares.

Recent excavations at the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen have determined that porcelain covered with a warm white glaze, often called 'sweet white wares' (tian bai), were among the most popular ceramics produced during the rule of Yongle (r. 1403-1424), the third emperor of the Ming dynasty. Over 95 percent of the ceramics unearthed from the strata dating tothis period are white wares, suggesting that imperial taste contributed substantially to the production of this type of ceramic. Moreover, Yongle is known to have patronized the construction in 1412 of a nine-story pagoda at the Bao'en temple in Nanjing,and the choice of white bricks to cover this structure further attests to his preference for plainer wares.

This pear-shaped ewer typifies the white wares produced during Yongle's reign, although its form ultimately derives from Middle Eastern metalwork, attesting to changes in the form and decoration of ceramics produced during the first half of the 15th century. This ewer would once have had a small lid; the body, spout, and handle are decorated with a peony spray lightly incised under the glaze.Difficult to see at first glance, decoration of this type is often termed anhua, or 'hidden decoration,' and was very popular in the early Ming period, at least in part because of the imperial taste for plain white wares.

The innovative combination of foreign shapes with Chinese designs suggests the two-way influences of the Chinese ceramic trade from the 14th to 15th centuries. Since export ceramics produced during the Yuan dynasty had catered specifically to foreign tastes, it is often possible to determine whether a particular piece had been made for the domestic or the export market. During the first half of the 15th century, however, foreign forms were also used domestically, and the large number of new shapes that appear during this period suggest a taste for exotic forms both at the court and in the domestic market.

Yongle's preference for white wares is quite different from the taste for brightly colored underglaze blue and copper-red wares of the late 14th century; several reasons have been proposed to explain this change in imperial taste. White is the color of filial piety and mourning, and it is possible that Yongle's choice of ceramics was partially intended to mitigate the circumstances under which he came to rule: Yonglespent the first four years of his reign publicly grieving for the father whose wishes he had ignored when he usurped the throne. However, white wares were also esteemed during the Tang (618-906) and Song (960-1279) dynasties, and Yongle may have fosteredtheir production to claim a link to this illustrious past.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 71.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E. Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd--Part II. New York: Asia Society, 1975, pp. 52, 53, 97.
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. 124, 125.
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. 83, 137.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.155
AMICA Library Year: 1999
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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