A fine blue and white 'dragon' dish, Zhengde mark and period (1506-1521)


Lot 679. A fine blue and white 'dragon' dish, Zhengde mark and period (1506-1521). Diameter 8 1/4  in., 21 cm. Estimate 50,000 — 70,000 USDLot Sold 237,500 USD. Courtesy Sotheby's.

 supported on a slightly tapered foot gently rising to rounded sides, vividly painted with a central medallion enclosing a five-clawed dragon writhing amidst scrolling stems of lotus flowers and trefoil leaves, the cavetto with two further writhing dragons also against lotus scroll all between double-line borders, the reverse similarly decorated, a ruyi-head border at the foot, the base with a four-character mark within a double-circle.

Provenance: Sotheby's Hong Kong, 20 October 1993, lot 49.
Spink, London.
Offered at Christie's Hong Kong, 30th October 1995, lot 702. 
Collection of Robert P. Youngman (1940-2018).

Note: The design of five-clawed dragons among dense lotus scrolls is perhaps the most characteristic pattern of the Zhengde period (1506-21) and appears on dishes, bowls and jars of zhadou shape. Although the dragon-and-lotus design was popular throughout the Ming period, this dense and even distribution of the decorative elements, and the soft tone of cobalt blue, are particular to the Zhengde period.

The design may be based on a Xuande prototype, although no exact counterpart is known. For the most closely related Xuande design compare a dish centered with two dragons facing forward among peony scrolls, or one with very similar dragons among lotus scrolls, both illustrated in Mingdai Xuande guanyao jinghua tezhan tulu/Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsüan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1998, cat. nos 188 and 189; an example of the latter design was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 4th April 2012, lot 3156. Compare also a Chenghua mark and period (AD 1465-87) blue and white dragon dish from the Sir Percival David Collection in the British Museum, London, in Oriental Ceramics: The World’s Great Collections, Tokyo, New York, and San Francisco, 1980-82, vol. 6, col. pl. 32, which represents a much more loosely composed forerunner to this design.

On Zhengde dishes of this type, the placement of the surrounding dragons can vary. Two slightly larger dishes are in the British Museum, London, one with the dragons similarly arranged as on the present dish, both illustrated in Jessica Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, pls 8:15 and 16. Another dish similar to the present piece in the Shanghai Museum is published in Lu Minghua, Shanghai Bowuguan cangpin yanjiu daxi Mingdai guanyao ciqi Ming imperial porcelain /Studies of the Shanghai Museum Collections: A Series of Monographs, Shanghai, 2007, pl. 3-78; and one from the Eumorfopoulos Collection, illustrated in R.L. Hobson, The George Eumorfopoulos Collection of Chinese, Corean and Persian Pottery and Porcelain, London, 1925-8, vol. IV, pl. VII, no. D 18, was sold in our London rooms, 29th May 1940, lot 211.

zhadou, a dish, and three different bowls with this design are in the Palace Museum, Beijing, see The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red, vol. 2, Shanghai, 2000, pls 57, 63 and 69-71, one of the bowls with the Zhengde reign mark replaced by a mark in Phags-pa script. A matching zhadou also in the Meiyintang Collection, Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. 2, pl. 686, was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 7th April 2011, lot 60.

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, New York, 11 September 2019