Stem bowl

Very fine, light gray-white porcelain stembowl, with broad deep bowl and outflaring rim, set on a tall tubular stem. Finely incised dragons decorate the interior of the bowl and characters are incised in the center bottom. The porcelain is covered with a clear glaze.

Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, Yongle reign, 1403-1424
Medium
Porcelain with 'sweet white' glaze
Style
Jingdezhen ware
Dimensions
H x W x D: 10.4 x 15.8 x 15.8 cm (4 1/8 x 6 1/4 x 6 1/4 in)
Geography
China, Jiangxi province, Jingdezhen
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1998.7
On View Location
Freer Gallery 13: Looking Out, Looking In: Art in Late Imperial China
Classification(s)
Ceramic, Vessel
Type

Stem bowl

Keywords
China, hidden decoration, Jingdezhen ware, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), porcelain, WWII-era provenance, Yongle reign (1403 - 1424)
Provenance

Yongle Emperor (1360-1424) (reigned 1403-1424), China [1]

Brenda Zara Seligman, London [2]

Mr. Frederick M. Mayer, New York [3]

Mr. Rafi Y. Mottahedeh (died 1978) and Mrs. Mildred R. Mottahedeh (1908-2000), NY [4]

To 1998
J. J. Lally & Co. Oriental Art, New York, to 1998

From 1998
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from J. J. Lally & Co. Oriental Art in 1998

Notes:

[1] According to Curatorial Note 1, Jan Stuart, January 6, 1998, in the object record.

[2] According to Curatorial Note 7 in the object record.

[3] See note 2.

[4] See note 2.

Previous Owner(s)

J. J. Lally & Co. Oriental Art
Frederick M. Mayer
Yongle Emperor 1360-1424; (reigned 1403-1424)
Brenda Zara Seligman 1882-1965
Rafi Y. and Mildred R. Mottahedeh 1908-2000

Description

Very fine, light gray-white porcelain stembowl, with broad deep bowl and outflaring rim, set on a tall tubular stem. Finely incised dragons decorate the interior of the bowl and characters are incised in the center bottom. The porcelain is covered with a clear glaze.

Marking(s)

Yongle period (1403-1424) mark in seal script.

Label

The Yongle emperor, who ruled during the Ming dynasty, enjoyed monochrome white porcelain—a preference tied to his promotion of Tibetan Buddhism, which equates white with purity. This stem bowl, with its softly lustrous, sugary whiteness, was likely used at the Chinese court as a Buddhist altar vessel. Its walls are so thin that the glaze forms part of their substance. In strong, raking light, a reign mark incised in the well of the bowl and two gamboling dragons on the sidewalls become visible. Such “hidden decoration” was a technical challenge and imperial prerogative.

Published References
  • Jingdezhen chu tu Ming chu guan yao ci qi (Imperial Hongwu and Yongle Porcelain Excavated at Jingdezhen). Exh. cat. Taipei. pp. 282, 364.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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