Chinese / Covered Jar / Ming period, Jiajing era, 1522-1566Chinese
Covered Jar
Ming period, Jiajing era, 1522-1566

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: Chinese
Title: Covered Jar
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1522
Creation End Date: 1566
Creation Date: Ming period, Jiajing era, 1522-1566
Creation Place: China, Jiangxi Province
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Ceramics
Materials and Techniques: Porcelain painted with underglaze cobalt blue and overglaze enamels (Jingdezhen ware)
Dimensions: H. 18 1/2 in. (47 cm) with cover; D. 15 3/4 in. (40 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.182a-b
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: A change from delicate shapes and elegant designs to larger, bolder forms and new decorative motifs distinguishes Chinese ceramics produced from the late 15th through mid-17th century. This change reflects both the weakening of imperial control and the development of new domestic and foreign markets in response to the loss of imperial patronage. Imperial ceramics were produced during the reigns of the Hongzhi (1488-1505), Zhengde (1506-1521), Jiajing (1522-1566), Longqing (1567-1572), and Wanli (1573-1620) emperors. By the end of the Wanli reign, however, the production of imperial ceramics was officially halted, largely because money had to be raised to cover the expense of resisting the Manchu armies, who would eventually conquer all of China.

The ceramics produced at the Jingdezhen kilns in the late 15th and early 16th centuries for imperial use continued the shapes and decoration of earlier Ming porcelains. However, the bold treatment and lively movement of the fish and aquatic plants painted on this large covered jar typify a new aesthetic in early 16th-century imperial ceramics. Often described as a water jar, this piece has the six-character Jiajing reign mark on its base. Jars of this type are much more heavily potted than other pieces that bear imperial marks, probably because of their relatively large size and perhaps also because of their function, as they are generally believed to have been used as outdoor decoration in gardens. Nonetheless, both the thickness and the size characterize ceramics made in the 16th century.

The jar is decorated with eight goldfish among various aquatic plants, while four goldfish and plants are on the cover. The theme of fish swimming in their natural habitat can be understood as a symbol of harmony. In addition, this motif is a rebus or visual pun for 'vast fortune,' as the pronunciation of the Chinese words for 'eight fish' is similar to that of this term. The stylized plants depicted in this aquatic scene include lotuses, water chestnuts, sweet flag, water plantain, ceratophyllum, myriophyllum, and potomogeton.

The style of painting seen here, in which overglaze enamels and underglaze blue are combined, is known as wucai ('five-color') decoration, which began to be used in the 15th century. Wucai decoration can consist either of a combination of underglaze blue and overglaze enamels (where the enamels are not necessarily filling in underglaze outlines) or of painting entirely in overglaze enamels. The former technique was used to paint this jar: only the band of leaves on the base is painted under the glaze.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 80.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.182a-b
AMICA Library Year: 1999
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright Asia Society

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