Details & Cataloguing

Important Chinese Works of Art

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THE MAHIN BANU ‘GRAPE’ DISH: A MAGNIFICENT AND STORIED BLUE AND WHITE DISH
MING DYNASTY, YONGLE PERIOD, CIRCA 1420
superbly painted in the center in rich tones of cobalt-blue with three bunches of grapes borne from a gnarled vine issuing characteristically broad furled leaves, detailed with veining, and delicately coiling tendrils, the cavetto subtly lobed in twelve panels each enclosing a floral spray; rose, peony, lotus, camellia, chrysanthemum and mallow alternating with leafy lingzhi sprigs, the barbed rim encircled by a band of roiling white-capped waves, the underside with similar floral sprays within the bracket-lobed panels, the base unglazed and with several markings; an inscription on the side of the foot and another along the base of the foot read Shah Jahan ibn Jahangir Shah 16 (regnal year) AH 1053, corresponding with AD 1643-4; a circular inscription reads waqf-e...razavi 'abduhu mahin banu safavi; a weight measure in black '252 tulah', and several unidentified drilled collectors marks
Diameter 17 in., 43.2 cm
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Provenance

Mahin Banu Khanum (1519-1562) daughter of the founder of the Safavid dynasty, Shah Ismail I. (r. 1501-1524.)
Shah Jahan (r. 1628-1658), fifth emperor of the Mughal Dynasty of Northern India.
J.J. Klejman Works of Art, New York.
Guennol Collection, acquired 22nd September 1967.

Exhibited

Art Treasures of Turkey, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1968.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, on loan and display 1968-1991.
The Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, on loan and display from 1991-2006.
The Guennol Collection: Cabinet of Wonders, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, 2000, cat. no. 31.
Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Court, Los Angeles County Museum of Art,  2011; Museum of Fine Arts Houston, 2011-12, cat. no. 99, illustrated on p. 63, fig. 58, with a detail of the engraved medallion with inscription in the center of the base. The dish is discussed on p. 67.  

Literature

The Guennol Collection, vol. I, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1975, pp. 287-290.
Suzanne G. Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1975, p. 129, fig. 41.
Abolala Soudavar, "A Chinese Dish from the Lost Endowment of Princess Sutanum (925-69/1519-62)", in Kambiz Eslami, ed. Iran and Iranian Studies in Honor of Iraj Afshar, Princeton, 1998, pp. 125-134, figs. 1-3.
Frances Z. Yuan, "Chinese Art, the Wonder Cabinet and the Guennol Collection", Orientations, March 2000, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 84-89, figs. 8 and 8a.

Catalogue Note

One of the great classic patterns of the early Ming, these dishes, always featuring three clusters of grapes issuing from a single stem, vary in few but important ways; the sides are lobed or rounded and the rims are straight or barbed. It is important to note that of all remaining examples, only one other dish of this precise design is published: a blue and white 'Grapes' dish with a foliate-rimmed border of breaking waves from the Ardebil Shrine is illustrated in John Alexander Pope, Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, London, 1981, pl. 37 (figs 1 and 2).

Other similar examples which have a wave border similar to the present example terminate in flat rims such as one in the Topkapi Museum, Istanbul, illustrated by Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, vol. 2, London, 1986, no. 606 (TKS 15/1456); another in the Ardebil shrine illustrated in Pope (ibid pl. 38); and a dish from the Avery Brundage Collection in the Asian Arts Museum, San Francisco similarly inscribed with the name of the Mughal Shah Jahan ibn Jahangir Shah (AD 1593-1666) and a date equivalent to AD 1643-4 and previously sold in our London rooms 24th March 1964, lot 96 is illustrated in He Li, Chinese Ceramics, London, 1996, p. 220, no. 400; another from the T. Y. Chao and R. E. R. Luff collections exhibited at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Ming and Ching Porcelain in the Collection of the T. Y. Chao Family Foundation, illustrated in the Catalogue, 1978. A dish reputedly given by the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) to Sir Robert Hart, Inspector General of the Imperial Maritime Customs at the Chinese Treaty Ports, on his retirement in 1908, sold in our London rooms, 13th December 1966, lot 79. A dish of this pattern but of slightly smaller dimension from the Meiyintang Collection was sold in our Hong Kong rooms 4th April 2012, lot 21.

Examples of 'grape' dishes with barbed rims vary from the present example being painted along the rim with a continuous floral scroll pattern most often described as 'blackberry-lily'. For an example preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, see Geng Baochang, ed., Gugong Bowuyuan cang Ming chu qinghua ci [Early Ming blue-and-white porcelain in the Palace Museum], Beijing, 2002, vol. II, pl. 133. Another of this type in the China National Museum is illustrated in Zhongguo guojia boguan, ciqi juan, ming dai, guancang wenwu yanjiu chonghsu, Shanghai, 2006, pl. 38. For an example in the Ardebil shrine, which holds eleven 'grape' dishes, see Pope (op.cit., pl. 38.) Another, in the British Museum, London, is illustrated in Jessica Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, pl. 3:36, where the author mentions that this grape dish pattern became the most influential design model for Iznik potters making blue and white wares in the 1530s and 1540s. Another example of this type gifted by Mr. and Mrs. F. Gordon Morrill, is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and illustrated in Wu Tung, Earth Transform, Chinese Ceramics in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2001, p. 115.

Fragments of 'grape' dishes have been recovered from the waste heaps of the Ming Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen examples of which are illustrated in Imperial Hongwu and Yongle Porcelain Excavated at Jingdezhen, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1996, pl. 44; and Imperial Porcelain of the Yongle and Xuande Periods Excavated from the Site of the Ming Imperial Factory at Jingdezhen, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1989, cat. no. 90.

  

Important Chinese Works of Art

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New York