Chinese / Flask / Ming period, early 15th century (probably Yongle era, 1403-1424)Chinese
Ming period, early 15th century (probably Yongle era, 1403-1424)

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: Chinese
Title: Flask
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1403
Creation End Date: 1424
Creation Date: Ming period, early 15th century (probably Yongle era, 1403-1424)
Creation Place: China, Jiangxi Province
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Ceramics
Materials and Techniques: Porcelain painted with underglaze cobalt blue (Jingdezhen ware)
Dimensions: H. 18 1/2 in. (47 cm); D. 14 in. (35.6 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.160
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: The history of the Chinese ceramic industry from the late 13th to the early 15th century is one of constant innovation in both technology and taste. Unlike the earlier Song period, during which a wide range of types was produced in kilns throughout China, during the Yuan (1279-1368) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties, most ceramics were produced at the Jingdezhen kiln complexes located in Jiangxi Province. Some of the earliest porcelain in the world was manufactured at this complex, the site of some of the most important technical innovations and refinements in the history of ceramics, including the perfection of the technique for painting decoration under the glaze using a blue pigment derived from cobalt (imported from Iran, where it had long been used in ceramic glazes). This technology led to the creation of China's famous blue-and-white wares, produced for domestic and export markets. Iran, Turkey, and India were the primary patrons for blue-and-white ware during the Yuan and early Ming dynasties. As a result, some of the most extensive collections of 14th- and 15th-century Chinese blue-and-white ware are preserved today in the Topkapi Saray Museum in Istanbul and the Ardebil Shrine in Tehran.

The large size of this early 15th-century flask, decorated with lotus scrolls and two striding dragons, suggests that it may have been intended for use in Iran or Turkey, where similar examples have been found. The alert dragons share the powerful form, large scales, massive head, and upturned nose characteristic of early Ming depictions. The background of lotus scrolls, however, is typical of the early Ming interest in decorative pattern rather than in the naturalism of sea and sky, which are more typically the habitat of the dragon in Chinese ceramics. The style of painting is characteristic of ceramics produced during the rule of the Yongle emperor (r. 1403-1424). Works decorated with three- or four-clawed dragons, such as this, were used at the court as gifts from the emperor to his attendants and were also presented to foreign rulers and dignitaries; images of five-clawed dragons were reserved for ceramics intended for imperial use.

The black spots found in the underglaze pigment used to paint this flask are typical of 14th- and 15th-century blue-and-white ware. They are caused by the precipitation of the cobalt into the overlying glaze during firing. Chinese scholars and connoisseurs have labeled this effect "heaped-and-piled." Also characteristic of ceramics made during this period is a slight wrinkling in the glaze, called "orange-peel," as well as the bluish tinge found in the otherwise transparent glaze.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 73.
Related Document Description: Christie, Manson, and Woods. Chinese Ceramics (auction, London, March 20, 1967), lot 62.
Related Document Description: Treasures of Asian Art: Selections from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, The Asia Society, New York. Hong Kong and Singapore: Hong Kong Museum of Art and National Museum Singapore, 1993, pp. 128, 129.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E. Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd. New York: Asia Society, 1970, pp. 63, 74.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E. 'Asian Arts of the Rockefellers.' Connaissance des Arts 25 (February 1982), p. 59.
Related Document Description: Medley, Margaret. 'Style and Symbolism in Underglaze-Decorated Chinese Porcelain.' Apollo (November 1983), pp. 404-05.
Related Document Description: Treasures of Asian Art: Selections from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, The Asia Society, New York. Tokyo: Idemitsu Museum of Arts, 1992, pp. 84, 137.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.160
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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