Porcelain jar with underglaze blue and applied decoration, circa 1610-1630. Tianqi-Chongzhen period, Ming dynasty. Registration number: Franks.1397.a. © The Trustees of the British Museum
This small six-lobed jar has a high foot and a low neck with out-turned rim. It is decorated with three curly-haired cherubs applied in relief, their wings painted, with pendant grape vines beneath, and alternating with flower sprays. Height: 12.2 centimetres. Diameter: 3.5 inches.
The cherubs of the present jar, in combination with Chinese-style flower sprays, appear at first glance no more than a decorative device of Western inspiration; comparison with related jars, however, where the flower sprays are replaced by emblems of Christ's Betrayal, Crucifixion, Passion and Descent from the Cross, manifests their symbolic significance as Christian motifs even in this context, and suggests that this jar was made for Portuguese Jesuits. A jar with these additional Christian emblems is in the Fundacao Medeiros e Almeida, Lisbon, Portugal.