Lot 318. A magnificent and extremely rare blue and white barbed dish, Yongle period. Sold for HK$ 2,280,000 (€262,195)Photo Bonhams.

Very finely moulded and shaped, a feat of technical accomplishment, the large dish of flattened circular form gently rising at the sides to a pronounced everted rim, the cavetto neatly moulded into twelve sections, the rim barbed at each section, forming twenty-four near symmetrical lobes, brilliantly painted in bold tones of cobalt-blue with characteristic 'heaping and piling' effect with a central peony flower surrounded by a lotus, camellia, hibiscus and gardenia all depicted in blossom and bud amidst meandering scroll, the draftsmanship rendered in a spontaneous and energetic manner, reminiscent of a master calligrapher, especially in the lively rendering of the vines and foliage, the twelve-panel cavetto painted with six flowers (camellia, morning glory, lotus, peony, chrysanthemum and pomegranate) repeated in two sections, the underside with similar decoration, the rim with a continuous lingzhi scroll, applied throughout with an exquisite smooth glaze, the underside unglazed revealing a subtle red film of iron. 38cm (15in) diam.

Notes: Large blue and white porcelain dishes of the Yongle period can be found in various museum and private collections. Drawing on the traditions of the Yuan court, in the early Ming dynasty large scale dishes continued to be commissioned for the Imperial court. The select group of large barbed dishes produced in the Yongle period represents the pinnacle of porcelain production in the early Ming period. To fire such a large, complex dish was a technical accomplishment; to paint it so finely with such delicate depiction of floral motifs was an improvement of an earlier innovation. 

The present dish belongs to a group of barbed rim dishes all of similar size (around 38cm diameter) and painted in the same manner with a central composite floral scroll surrounded by individual blooms. For examples from the Qing court collection, see a dish in the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, illustrated Porcelain of the National Palace Museum: Blue-and-White Ware of the Ming Dynasty, Vol.1, Hong Kong, 1963, pl. 22; and a dish in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Mingchu Qinghuaci, Beijing, 2002, pl. 134.

For other examples that have been preserved outside of the former Imperial collection, see two very similar dishes illustrated in Mayuyama, Seventy Years, Vol.I, Tokyo, 1976, p.252, fig.762, and another given to the British Museum by Mrs Walter Sedgwick, illustrated by J.Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, p.116, fig.3:35, where it is noted that a large dish of this shape was excavated at the Yongle stratum at Dongmentou, Zhushan, Jingdezhen in 1994. 

Eleven examples which found their way to the Middle East, where they were highly prized, were donated to the Ardebil Shrine by Shah Abbas the Great of Persia in 1611. Three of these are illustrated by J.A.Pope, Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, Washington, 1981, pl.35, 29.101, 106 and 109 and it is noted that nine of the dishes are inscribed with the mark of Qarachaghay. 

The barbed rim and moulded cavetto can also be seen on a larger dish in the Peabody Essex Museum, illustrated by J.C.Y.Watt and D.Patry Leidy, Defining Yongle. Imperial Art in Early Fifteenth Century China, New York, 2005, pl.1 and another illustrated by J.Carswell, Blue and White. Chinese Porcelain Around the World, London, 2000, fig.99.