Yongle reign: A Fine Blue-and-White ‘Lotus Bouquet’ Dish.

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DESCRIPTION.

With a rounded side and high footring finely painted in deep cobalt blue displaying ‘heaping and piling’ to the center of the interior with lotus bouquet flowers, a seed-pod, sagitaria and aquatic plants tied with a bowed ribbon, encircled by three concentric rings below a composite floral scroll of thirteen flowerheads comprising of pairs of chrysanthemum, lotus, peony, rose, hibiscus, camellia, and a single pomegranate flower beneath the classic scroll at the rim, the exterior depicted with composite floral scroll of fourteen flowerheads consisting of seven pairs of flowers and leaves between a keyfret border around the foot and a border of a classic scroll below the lipped rim, with unglazed base.

RESEARCH & ESSAY.

Uneven application and firing of the blue pigment with areas of pale blue, mid-blue and even black called “heaped and piled” effect of this piece is characteristic of the early Ming blue and white wares. In addition, the designs of lotus bouquet flowers with other auspicious plants such this piece means that a high point in terms of quantity, quality and variety of porcelain design produced at Jingdezhen flourished in Yongle and Xuande reigns. In China, each flower has its appropriate meaning and purpose. The principal varieties are treated separately in this glossary, and their emblematic significance is also fully dealt with. The design on this dish is typically described as ‘lotus bouquet’ that has a symbol of generosity and of food at a time of shortage, and a stalk of millet, symbolizing an abundance of grain.

A ‘lotus bouquet’ dish like on the present piece belongs to an important group of early Ming blue and white wares together with ‘grape’ dishes, ‘melon’ dishes and ‘dragon’ dishes. J. A. Pope, Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, 1981, p.92, discusses the thirty-four ‘bouquet’ dishes of varying sizes and with varying borders in the Ardebil Collection, showing the wide range of intensity of the cobalt within the dishes and the diversity of decoration, albeit based on a master pattern. A dish of this pattern was also excavated from the Yongle stratum of the site of the imperial kiln at Jingdezhen in 1994, and is illustrated in Imperial Hongwu and Yongle Porcelain Excavated at Jingdezhen, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1996, no. 40. Some dishes of this design and pattern are published: one was included in the Min Chiu Society exhibition, Joined Colors, Sackler Gallery, Washington D. C., 1993 and illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 7; and another is illustrated in The S. C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1987, pl. 10; one is illustrated in The S. C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1987, pl. 10. The similar dish of this pattern, but of slightly larger size is from the National Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Geng Baochang, ed., Gugong bowuyuan cang Ming chu qinghua ci [Early Ming blue-and-white porcelain in the Palace Museum], vol. 2, Beijing, 2002, pls 195 and 199. Dishes of this pattern have also been sold at auction, including one (27.7 cm) from Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 8th April 2014, lot. 3003, for HK$ 2,440,000, initially estimated between HK$ 2,000,000 — 3,000,000 (see fig. 1); the smaller one (27.6 cm) at the same room, 4th April 2012, lot. 37, sold for HK$ 2,900,000, initially estimated between HK$ 1,200,000 – 1,500,000 (see fig. 2). Compare with similar pattern to the dish sold at Christie’s New York, 18 – 19 September 2014, lot. 815, sold for US$ 389,000, initially estimated between US$ 150,000 – US$ 200,000 (see fig. 3).

Citation:

  1. Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, J. A. Pope, 1981, p.92.

  2. Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1996, no. 40.

  3. Min Chiu Society exhibition, Joined Colors, Sackler Gallery, Washington D. C., 1993, Catalogue no. 7.

  4. The S. C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1987, pl. 10.

  5. Geng Baochang, ed., Gugong bowuyuan cang Ming chu qinghua ci[Early Ming blue-and-white porcelain in the Palace Museum], vol. 2, Beijing, 2002, pls 195 and 199.

CATALOGUE ENTRY.

Yongle Reign