Porcelain Stand, China, Six character mark of Wanli and of the period (1573-1620). Ø:22 cm H: 8 cm.Vanderven Oriental Art at Brafa Art Fair, Brussels, 21-29 january 2017.
This robustly potted circular stand comprises a ring, supported on five cloud-lappet feet, on a ring base. It is decorated in underglaze blue, except the top of the wide rim, which has been left unglazed. The outside edge of the rim, is decorated with meandering garlands with lingzhi fungus heads, interrupted by a large cartouche bearing the six-character mark of Emperor Wanli. Below this is a band with the Buddhist emblems. The double lobed apron and feet have fruiting peach trees , with birds perched on the branches. The base-ring has a band of waves dotted with blossoms and an inner rim, which is embellished with sprays of blossoms between each aperture. The underside of the stand is also left unglazed.
Peaches, as well as the lingzhi fungus, are symbols of longevity. In China, wood from fruit trees was known as wood of the immortals (xianmu) and the wood of a peach tree in particular, had been used to make charms (taofu) against evil since ancient times. Blossoming peach trees were used as decoration in the new year; these trees would be planted in the nicest and oldest porcelain vase in the family, for it was believed the older the vase, the longer the flowers would bloom.
What exactly this object was used for is unknown, but appears to have supported another object, such as a vase, dish or instrument of some kind. A stand with a matching dish from the later Qianlong Period (1736-1796), is in the Museum of Fine Art in Boston (Acc. Nr. 2013.463); this illustrates what such a stand could have been used for. A similar Ming stand is in the collection of The Museum of Fine Art Boston (Acc. Nr. 50.1352) and the Songde Tang Collection, Hong Kong.
Provenance: Private Collection, UK
Stem Cups, China, Wanli period (1573 - 1620). H: 10 cm ø12 cm. Vanderven Oriental Art at Brafa Art Fair, Brussels, 21-29 january 2017.
This distinctive shape is known as a stemcup (gao zu bei), but is also known as ba bei or as a ‘çup used on horseback’ (ma shang bei). It comprises a shallow bowl, flaring slightly at the rim, decorated on the inside and outside in underglaze blue. The outside of the bowl, shows a celebratory procession of four figures: two holding banners - one beating a drum the other blowing a horn – followed by a man carrying a canopy and lastly an official on horseback. The bottom of the bowl has a double edged roundel, encircling a flowering lotus; the side a scene of fish amongst water plants. The tall, slightly flared and hollow foot, has a band of decoration depicting flying horses amongst clouds and waves. These type of cups, extensively produced in the porcelain kilns in Jingdezhen, became particularly popular from the Yuan Dynasty onwards and were used domestically for serving wine or fruit, as well as in official rituals.
The scenes around the outside, are of the celebratory procession of the Zhuangyuan. This was the name given to the top scholar of the third and final level of the imperial examinations, which were presided over by the Emperor himself. The two placards show the characters for Zhuangyuan (狀元) and Jidi (及第), meaning selected in the examinations. Four fish swimming amongst lotus and weeds can also stand for the four character phrase qingbai lijie, meaning unsullied and incorruptible - the Confucian ideal of a gentleman scholar. The depiction of the ideal scholar Zhuangyuan can be found on many different materials, and in combination with the water plants and fish emblems, could indicate that these cups were given as gifts to an exam candidate.
Provenance: Private Collection, The Netherlands
Pomegranate Ewers, China, Wanli period (1573-1620), c. 1575-1610. H: 16 cm. Vanderven Oriental Art at Brafa Art Fair, Brussels, 21-29 january 2017.
These underglaze blue ewers, are reminiscent of a kendi (cat. nr. 6) as they have no handles, but are much more detailed and finely potted. They have elongated curved spouts, attached high on the waist, with applied leafy branches which spread out over the body. The high neck, ends in a distinctive star-shaped mouth-rim. The globular body is divided into panels following the moulded form. The flower decoration in each panel is divided by a thin double line. The panel under the spout, has an ornamental lappet with bows. The shoulder has a distinctive large key-fret pattern and the long narrow neck, is adorned with a bird on rocks.
The shape of these ewers and their star shaped mouths are associated with the pomegranate fruit, which is why these type of vessels are sometimes referred to as pomegranate ewers. In Chinese symbolism, these fruits with their many seeds (zi) symbolize the wish for many sons (zi), both words having the same sound in Chinese.
This type of porcelain was made at the kilns in Jingdezhen in a period when court patronage declined. This was mainly due to political instability, in the lead up to the downfall of the Ming Dynasty. These ewers would have been made for export, as is attested by the items recovered from the ship wreck of the San Diego - a Spanish war ship sunk by the Dutch off the coast of the Philippines. Similar ewers are now in the collections of The Princessenhof Museum, Leeuwarden (Inv. Nr. NO860), Victoria & Albert Museum, London (c.90-1956), Ashmoleum Museum, Oxford (inv. Nr. 1978.1935) and the Lady Lever Gallery, Liverpool (Acc. nr. LL6437).
Provenance: H.O. collection, United Kingdom (2014)
With Sotheby's (2006)
Pheasant Meiping, China, Wanli period (1573-1620), High Transitional Style 1634-43. H: 44 cm. Vanderven Oriental Art at Brafa Art Fair, Brussels, 21-29 january 2017.
This sturdily potted mei ping vase, has a slightly tapering body and is decorated with underglaze blue decoration in horizontal bands. The décor, shine of the glaze and the structure, date it firmly to the late Wanli period. The main scene, is of long tailed pheasants and rocks in an abundant flower garden. Around the bottom is a band depicting frolicking winged animals, amongst clouds and waves. The high shoulder has lotus scrolls reserved on white, on a washed blue ground; its short neck a band of stiff plantain leaves. The mouth has a rougher partially unglazed edge. The recessed base has an unglazed thickly potted foot ring, to which ample kiln sand has adhered.
This typically shaped vessel, is known as a mei ping - or plum vase - as it was suited to display a bough of plum blossom. A late Ming book on vases especially recommends this form as ‘.. the mouth of the vase should be small and the foot thick. Choose these. They stand firm and do not emit vapours…’. This Wanli period meiping, has straighter sides than those from earlier periods; this could indicate that this shape is the possible pre-curser to the later Rolwagen vases, with similar straight sides but a wider opening at the mouth.
To the Chinese pheasants were very auspicious animals, representing beauty and good fortune. Marco Polo spoke with wonder of the Chinese pheasants, which were he describes to be about as large as peacocks. During the Ming Dynasty, the golden pheasant with its two long straight feathers, was the symbol for civil servants of the second rank.
The flying animals around the bottom band, could have been inspired by the Classic of the Mountain and Seas, - Shanhai jing - a mythological classic written in the late Zhou or Western Han Period (3rd-1st century BC), which included over 200 descriptions of mythical figures and animals. The book was rediscovered, with much other ancient literature, in the Ming Dynasty, Chenghua Period (1465-1487), and re-printed in many different versions. These relative affordable woodblock prints, would have been circulated widely, forming a source of inspiration for designs on porcelain, particularly under Emperor Jiajing (1522-1566). The use of this imagery would have continued into the later Ming period as well.
A vase of a similar shape, but with differing decoration is in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (nr. AK-MAK 1164).
Provenance: Private Collection, Italy
Literature: • Butler 2008
Michael Butler, Late Ming: Chinese Porcelains from the Butler Collections, Exhibition Catalogue Musée National d’Histoire et dÁrt Luxembourg, Luxemburg, 2008, p.6 nr. 6
• Harrison-Hall 2001
Jessica Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, The Brtitish Museum, London 2001, p.290 nr 11.32
• Hobson 1923
R.L. Hobson, The Wares of the Ming Dynasty, London 1923, p.22
• Jörg & van Campen 1997
Christiaan J.A. Jörg & Jan van Campen, Chinese Ceramics in the Collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Amsterdam / London 1997, p. 42 nr..20
• Joseph 1971
Adrian Joseph, Ming Porcelains: The Origins and Development, London 1971, p.57, nr 52
• Little 1983
Stephen Little, Chinese Ceramics of the Transitional Period 1620-1683, China Institute of America, New York, 1983, p.38 nr 2
• Wang 2002
Wang Qingzheng, A Dictionary of Chinese Ceramics, Singapore, 2002, p.51 & 112
• Welch 2008
Patricia Welch, Chinese Art: A Guide to Motifs and Visual Imagery, North Clarendon, 2008, p.80
Kendi, China, Early 17th Century. H: 18 cm. Vanderven Oriental Art at Brafa Art Fair, Brussels, 21-29 january 2017.
This round bodied vessel, with an elongated bulbous spout, is decorated in dark underglaze blue with darker outlines. The neck - decorated with lotus scrolls - flares out into a flat disc under the rim. Around the shoulder it has a band of lappets with a border of squares underneath. The main body has three lobbed cartouches with bold flower decoration, interspersed with stylized clouds. It stands on a low foot rim with a double blue line, the underside also has a double blue ring marked in the center with a stylized rabbit.
This type of vessel - known as a kendi - was used in Asia for drinking wine or water. They were filled through the neck and imbibed or poured from the spout.The term is actually a Malayan word, thought to derive from the Sanskrit name for a waterpot, kundika. This was a type of ewer used in Buddhist ceremonies for sprinkling purification water. The form, which probably originated in India spreading throughout South East Asia, appears to have been produced in many variations.
Even though the Chinese themselves never actually used them, kendi were a very popular and mass produced at the kilns in Jingdezhen. From here they were exported throughout Asia and the Middle East. From the 17th Century kendi came to Europe via the Portuguese traders; not for use but as curiosities and decorative items. Substantial quantities of these ewers were found in the Ming cargos of the Witte Leeuw (1613) and the Hatcher Cargo (1643).
The shape and size of these ewers vary greatly, some have animal forms such as elephants or frogs. The decoration was mainly Chinese in style and treatment, often floral as Muslim countries excluded living beings from their decorative motifs. When the habit of smoking was introduced in the Middle East, kendi also formed part of the Turkish water pipe set. A similar kendi to this one, can be found in the collection of the Topkapi Saray (Istanbul), a museum famous for its large collection of Chinese porcelain with Islamic shapes and decoration.
Provenance: Private Collection, The Netherlands
Literature: • Jörg & van Campen 1997
Christiaan J.A. Jörg & Jan van Campen, Chinese Ceramics in the Collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Amsterdam / London 1997, p.67 nr.54
• Kerr & Mengoni 2011
Rose Kerr & Luisa Mengoni, Chinese Export Ceramics, London, 2011, p.21
• Krahl & Ayres 1986
Regina Krahl, & John Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul; A complete catalogue, part II: Yuan & Ming Dynasty Porcelains, London, 1986, p.665 nr. 1044
• Pinto de Matos 2011
Maria Pinto de Matos, The RA Collection of Chinese Ceramic : A Collector’s Vision, London, 2011, nr 50
• Pijl-Ketel 1982
C.L. van der Pijl-Ketel, The Ceramic Load of the Witte Leeuw (1613), Exhibition Catalogue The Rjksmuseum Amsterdam, 1982, p.130
• Rinaldi 1989
Maura Rinaldi, Kraal Porcelain: A Moment in the History of Trade, London, 1989, p.174-176
• Stöber 2013
• Eva Ströber, Ming: Porcelain for a Globalized Trade, Leeuwarden/ Stuttgart, 2013, p. 184-187 & 216
Ewer with Handle, China, Chongzhen Period (1628-1644), c. 1634-1643. H: 38 cm. Vanderven Oriental Art at Brafa Art Fair, Brussels, 21-29 january 2017.
This bottle-shaped ewer, with a tall slender neck, lip-spout and long handle, is decorated in a good blue in the high transitional style. The main body of the ewer, is decorated with a continuous narrative scene of soldiers approaching a single soldier holding a flag under a large willow tree. Such large stylized willow trees, are typical of the transitional decoration of this period. Between the figures there are copious v-shaped ticks representing grass, in a style is often seen on porcelain between 1634-1643. On the shoulder there is a scrolling border of flowers and leaves The neck, has a vertical décor of a formal tulip, indicating this piece was intended for the Dutch market. The high curved handle is decorated with clouds.
Politically, the late Ming dynasty was a period of decline. It was a watershed period between the final downfall of the Ming empire and the definitive installation of the Qing empire. But despite this unrest, it was a period of great social and economic advancement. The Ming era saw immense progress in the porcelain production in terms of volume and techniques; the main production centre being Jingdezhen. Towards the end of the Ming Dynasty, when orders for imperial wares declined, there was still a considerable demand for goods for the domestic, as well as foreign markets. Porcelain was produced by official kilns (guanyao), as well as privately owned ones (minyao). When the imperial kilns closed in 1608, many of the best artisans could now be employed by the minyao, ensuring a steady stream of high quality porcelain for the elite and rich merchant class outside the court. This is why such high quality potting and painting can be seen in this so-called transitional period.
A similar shaped ewer, with differing décor, is in the Lady Lever Gallery collection, Liverpool (Acc.nr. LL 27) and the Frits van der Lugt Collection, Fondation Custodia) Paris (inv nr 6577).
Provenance: Lai collection, Hong Kong 2013
Baltzer – Bohm collection, Germany 2011
With Vanderven Oriental Art 1990-‘s
Kraak Bowl, China, c. 1635-50. H: 16 cm Ø: 32 cm. Vanderven Oriental Art at Brafa Art Fair, Brussels, 21-29 january 2017.
This large and robustly potted bowl, is decorated inside and out in intense underglaze blue with a violet tinge. It is in the typical so-called ‘Kraak’ style, with characteristics of the later Ming Dynasty. The bowl has high straight sides with a lightly foliated rim. It rests on a V–shaped foot rim, with a triple blue line running around the outside, with a rough unglazed edge. The glazed underside is slightly convex, with no further marks or decoration.
The decoration - both inside and out - is divided into six wide and six narrow bordered panels, alternately adorned with stylized flowers and narrative scenes. Each of the larger panels is framed by a straight-edged scroll border with a stylized flower along the top edge. The narrow panels are each filled with upright sprays of tulips or other flowers. The central medallion on the inside of the bowl, is loosely decorated with houses by a waterside, a decorative theme thought to be influenced by European designs entering China at this time.
Such bowls are characteristic of the Kraak wares produced for export in this period. Similar bowls are also known with slightly varying decoration in the central panel, such as of a lady spooling silk or of large figures in a garden. A very similar bowl to this one is in the collection of The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (inv. Nr AK-RAK 1991-21) and Institut Néerlandais - Fondation Custodia, Paris (inv. 6967).
Provenance: Private Collection, UK
with Vanderven Oriental Art (1997)
Vanderven Oriental Art. Chinese early ceramics from the Han & Tang Periods, Ming & Qing porcelains & works of art including Jades, Bronzes, hardstones and wood. Japanese porcelains, 20th century lacquer & bronzes. Nachtegaalslaantje 1, 5211 LE s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands.