Jiajing Reign: A Fine Blue and White ‘Flying Phoenixes’ Dish

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DESCRIPTION

with rounded sides and slightly flare averted rim standing on unglazed tapering foot ring, painted in underglaze blue outlines and filled with soft blue wash with meticulously a pair of phoenixes flying amid meandering leafy lotus and floral scrolls within a double circle border and undecorated on cavetto below diamond diaper pattern within double circle lines around the rim, the underside portrayed with four phoenixes flaying amid scrolling lotus, the glazed base written with vertically two lines six-character of Jiajing reign mark within a double circled line.

RESEARCH & ESSAY

Compared to the earlier blue-and-white wares, sketching with underglaze blue outlined and filled with blue wash to form the design on the current dish is typical blue-and-white wares produced in the middle of Ming era, from Hongzhi (1487 -1505) to the late sixteenth century. A pair of phoenixes flying around the lotus flower and foliage on the center design like the present dish itself firstly might appear to be a classic pattern of blue and white dish of Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). For example, a large blue and white dish with type of this phoenixes pattern from Topkapi Saray Museum, Illustrated in Topkapi Saray Museum in Istanbul, Krahl, 1986: 494, cat. 566; another from Victoria and Albert Museum, illustrated by John Ayers in Far Eastern Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Sotheby Parke Bernet, in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum 1980, Monochrome Plate No. 139, p. 326 (see fig. 1).

A pair of phoenixes design like on the present dish then became a Ming repertoire, and the design appeared in Ming dynasty of Xuande reign (1426 – 1435). For example, an unmarked blue-and-white dish of two phoenixes design and dated to Ming-Xuande reign from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, is illustrated in Oriental Ceramics, The World’s Greatest Collections, Jan Fountein and Wu Tung, vol. 11: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Kodhansa, Tokyo, 1978, fig. 220. Another is in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, illustrated in Seligman Collection of Oriental Art, vol. II, Chinese and Korean Pottery and Porcelain, John Ayers, London, 1964, pp. 109. Another Ming Xuande dish with similar design is from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in National Palace Museum, Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsuan-te Imperial Porcelans of Ming Dynasty, Taipei, 1998, cat.no. 192. Further, another from British Museum, is illustrated in Catalogue of Late Yuan and Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, Harrison-Hall, Jessica, London, BMP, 2001, cat.no: 4:30 (see fig. 2).

In the later Ming eras, the ‘flying’ phoenixes design like on the present dish was followed as a remarkable treasure and highly valued by the later reigns. Chenghua emperor highly praised and was a remarkable patron of his grandfather Xuande’s 10 years of reign’s traditions. The aesthetics two phoenixes flying design like on the present dish is identical with a blue-and-white dish dated to Chenghua reign (1465–1487) of the Ming dynasty, and now is collected in the National Palace Museum, illustrated in Ming Official Wares, A Survey of Chinese Ceramics, Liu Liang-yu, Taiwan, 1991, p. 131 (see fig. 3). Thus, the present dish belongs to a group of porcelain made by the imperial kilns during the early Jiajing period that was closely modelled after earlier ceramic styles. Jiajing emperor inherited the imperial kilns to extend the tradition of ceramic production and emulate the earlier pattern to affirm his legitimacy of heir by binding himself with earlier Emperors. A fine blue and white ‘Phoenix’ pattern with imperial Jiajing mark and of period like the present piece is rare. Compare with similar design on a dish (21.9 cm in diam) but in simple execution of two phoenixes in flight amongst ruyi cloud scrolls dated to Ming of Jiajing reign, sold at Sotheby’s London, 05 November 2014, lot. 92, estimated between GBP 5000 – GBP 7000 (see fig. 4)

The symbol of animal, a phoenix, which have masculine sex is regarded with Feng, meanwhile, a phoenix, which have feminine sex, is regarded with Huang. In the combination of Feng and Huang flaying and humming each other melodiously is associated with a symbol of marriage harmonization in accordance with mythology of ancient Chinese.

Citation:

  1. Topkapi Saray Museum in Istanbul, Krahl, 1986: 494, cat. 566.

  2. Far Eastern Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum, John Ayers, London, Sotheby Parke Bernet, in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum 1980, Monochrome Plate No. 139, p. 326.

  3. Oriental Ceramics, The World’s Greatest Collections, Jan Fountein and Wu Tung, vol. 11: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Kodhansa, Tokyo, 1978, fig. 220.

  4. Seligman Collection of Oriental Art, vol. II, Chinese and Korean Pottery and Porcelain, John Ayers, London, 1964, pp. 109.

  5. National Palace Museum, Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsuan-te Imperial Porcelans of Ming Dynasty, Taipei, 1998, cat.no. 192.

  6. Catalogue of Late Yuan and Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, Harrison-Hall, Jessica, London, BMP, 2001, cat.no: 4:30.

  7. Ming Official Wares, A Survey of Chinese Ceramics, Liu Liang-yu, Taiwan, 1991, p. 131.

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