A rare iron-red ground underglaze-blue square dish, mark and period of Jiajing

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Lot 37. A rare iron-red ground underglaze-blue square dish, mark and period of JiajingEstimate HKD 150,000 — 200,000 (16,934 - 22,578 EUR)Lot Sold 875,000 HKD (98,780 EUR). Photo: Sotheby's.

the shallow rounded sides rising from a gently tapered foot to a flaring rim, the interior boldly painted in underglaze blue with a ferocious five-clawed dragon writhing amongst flames above tumultuous waves crashing on jagged mountains, below a shou character flanked by wan symbols on ruyi clouds, all enclosed within a double-line border repeated at the rim, the exterior with four Buddhist lions at play with brocade balls, all reserved against a rich dark iron-red ground save for the rim and the base, the base inscribed with a six-character reign mark in underglaze blue - 14.6 cm, 5 3/4  in.

ProvenanceChen Chi, Japan.
Bluett & Sons Ltd, London, 1961.
Collection of Roger Pilkington (1928-69), from 1961 (£690).

LiteratureAdrian Joseph, Ming Porcelains: Their Origins and Development, London, 1971, pl. 81.

Note: This square dish is notable for its powerful design of a front-facing five-clawed dragon carrying a shou character on its back. While wares decorated in this colour scheme are known from as early as the Xuande reign (1426-35), the use of overglaze iron-red grew significantly during the Jiajing reign (1522-66), as in 1526 the use of underglaze copper red was forbidden by a decree.

Dishes of this form and decoration are unusual, although a slightly smaller example in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated Gugong bowuyuan cang gu taoci ziliao xuancui [Highlights of ceramic research material in the collection of the Palace Museum], Beijing, 2005, vol. 1, pl. 157. Compare also a larger square dish, similarly decorated with a front-facing white dragon reserved against an iron-red ground, in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, published in Daisy Lion-Goldschmidt, Ming Porcelain, London, 1978, pl. 169.

Sotheby's. The Pilkington Collection of Chinese Art, Hong Kong, 06 Apr 2016