Jar decorated with dragons and “shou” character for “longevity”

Blue-and-white. Jar: carved wood stand. Clay: white porcelain, heavily potted. Glaze: colorless, transparent. Decoration: in under-glaze cobalt oxide (blue). Six-character mark on the neck (daming jiajing nianzhi )and two shou 壽 characters included in the design of dragons, crested waves, fungus of longevity, and clouds.

Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, Jiajing reign, 1522-1566
Medium
Porcelain with cobalt under colorless glaze
Style
Jingdezhen ware
Dimensions
H x W: 53.1 x 52.2 cm (20 7/8 x 20 9/16 in)
Geography
China, Jiangxi province, Jingdezhen
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1945.36a-b
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Ceramic, Vessel
Type

Jar

Keywords
China, clear glaze, cobalt pigment, dragon, Jiajing reign (1522 - 1566), Jingdezhen ware, longevity, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), porcelain, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

To 1945
Allen J. Mercher, New York. [1]

From 1945
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Allen J. Mercher, New York. [2]

Notes:

[1] Curatorial Remark 1 in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s)

Allen J. Mercher

Description

Blue-and-white. Jar: carved wood stand. Clay: white porcelain, heavily potted. Glaze: colorless, transparent. Decoration: in under-glaze cobalt oxide (blue). Six-character mark on the neck (daming jiajing nianzhi )and two shou 壽 characters included in the design of dragons, crested waves, fungus of longevity, and clouds.

Inscription(s)

The inscription on the neck is 大明嘉靖年製 Ta ming chia ching nien chih: "Made in the reign of the Chia Ching Emperor of the great Ming dynasty."

Label

This imperial jar with a Jiajing reign mark on the neck was likely used to hold wine; originally it would have had a porcelain cover. Its decoration reflects the Jiajing emperor's attraction to practices aimed at attaining immortality. He commissioned many ceramics from the imperial workshop at Jingdezhen decorated with images of long life. Here, two five-clawed dragons, which are imperial emblems, stride across the jar pursuing a fancifully written character. The word is "shou," which means "longevity." To reinforce the meaning, the two "shou" characters rise out of depictions of sprigs of the  "fungus of immortality," said to be an ingredient in elixirs to prolong life.

Published References
  • Ernst Zimmermann. Chinesisches Porzellan. Leipzig. .
  • Sekai toji zenshu [Catalogue of the World's Ceramics]. 16 vols, Tokyo, 1955-1958. cat. 212.
  • Cosmo Monkhouse. Chinese Porcelain. pl. 3.
  • Jan Stuart. Beyond Paper: Chinese Calligraphy on Objects., October 1995. .
  • Robert L. Hobson. Chinese Pottery and Porcelain: An Account of the Potter's Art in China from Primitive Times to the Present Day. 2 vols., New York and London. vol. 2: p. 43 f, pl. 72.
  • Warren E. Cox. The Book of Pottery and Porcelain. 2 vols., New York. vol. 2: fig. 679.
  • Stephen W. Bushell, Victoria and Albert Museum. Chinese Art. 2 vols., London. vol. 2: fig. 19.
  • John Ayers. The Baur Collection: vol. 2: Chinese Ceramics, Ming Porcelain and Other Wares. vol. 2, Geneva. cat. 1156.
  • Grace Dunham Guest, Archibald Gibson Wenley. Annotated Outlines of the History of Chinese Arts. Washington, 1949. p. 10.
  • Ming Porcelains in the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington, 1953. p. 37, fig. 34.
  • Robert L. Hobson. Handbook of Chinese Pottery and Porcelain. pp. 60-66, fig. 87.
  • Robert L. Hobson. The Wares of the Ming Dynasty. Rutland, Vt. p. 104.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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