Lot 558. A very rare anhua-decorated Ming blue and white 'fish' dish, Xuande six-character mark within double circles and of the period (1426-1435); 8 3/8 in. (21.3 cm.) diam. Estimate HKD 600,000 - HKD 800,000. Price realised HKD 1,119,100. © Christie's Image Ltd 2002
The dish is well potted and finely painted with characteristic 'heaping and piling', the central medallion featuring a lotus pond scene with two fish swimming among aquatic plants, the mouth rim encircled by a wave band and the exterior frieze with clusters of flowering lotus plants evenly spaced among four fish, the cavetto decorated in anhua with pairs of dragons and phoenix in flight among clouds (minor rim restoration with associated hairline), box.
Note: The present lot may be compared with other very similar Xuande dishes from well-known collections: one from the British Museum is illustrated by J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, no. 4:32; one from the National Palace Museum, Taibei, was included in the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsuan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, 1998, and is illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 180, together with another dish of identical composition but decorated in reverse blue and white, no. 181; and another from the Chang Foundation, Taibei, was included in the 1996 exhibition Xuande Imperial Porcelain Excavated at Jingdezhen, illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 86-2, together with another version painted against a turquoise-glazed ground, no. 86-3.
The four species of fish depicted on these dishes have been variously identified as qingyu (a fresh-water mullet), baiyu (a variety of carp), lianyu (bream) and guiyu (mandarin fish). According to Li Yiping, the combination of these kinds of fish among lotus plants is homophonous with the Chinese idiom qingbai lian jie, meaning 'unsullied and incorruptible' - a reference to the Confucian ideal of the upright gentleman official, op. cit., 1996, p. 260.
Christie's. The Imperial Sale, Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Hong Kong, 29 April 2002