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Wucai square dish.jpg



18.6 cm wide, 4.7 cm high

The square dish is heavily potted and painted in the interior in underglaze blue, overglaze enamels and iron-red with a winged dragon amidst flames and clouds, above crested waves. The sides of the interior are painted with a continuous decoration of four fish in a lotus pond. The exterior is painted in the same color scheme with eight cranes flying amidst stylized clouds. The base is decorated in underglaze blue with a hare reserved against a rock with bamboo and lingzhi.

This highly unusual square dish compares closely to a group of Jiajing-period (1522–1566) imperial square dishes of the same size, with variegated designs, including dragons and cranes. During this period the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen introduced new designs in the wucai (‘five-color decoration’, here meaning underglaze blue in combination with overglaze enamels) palette, and at the same time an increasing production of square vessels, including boxes, vases, bowls, and dishes.


Although no similar dish appears to be published, dragons, with wings enamelled in the same yellow, can be seen on a porcelain incense burner, dated by inscription to 1564, illustrated in R.L. Hobson, The Wares of the Ming Dynasty, 1962, pl. 28, fig. 2. It is highly likely that the present dish dates from around the same period.



Formerly in a British private collection




Christie’s, Chinese Ceramics, Works of Art and Textiles, London, 6 November 2009, lot 44

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