the flattened pear-shaped body supported on a short slightly splayed circular foot, rising to a waisted neck and everted rim, set with an elongated arched spout on one side, the opposite with a slender curved handle surmounted by a small lug and culminating with a protruding flange at the end, each side of the vessel moulded with a raised almond-shaped panel enclosing a scene of an attendant standing before a scholar below a pine tree, surrounded by floral scrolls extending along the spout, the upper neck with beribboned babao emblems below a band of florets encircling the mouthrim, the handle picked out with classic scrollwork, all above a green-ground floret band encircling the footrim, all the details rendered vibrantly in rich tones of the wucai palette, the base with an underglaze-blue six-character reign mark within a double-circle
Notable for its elegant proportions and colourful design, late Ming ewers of this shape are seldom found decorated in the wucai
palette and are more commonly known covered overall in a monochrome white glaze. See for example a Jiajing ewer from the Meiyintang collection, illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection
, vol. 2, London, 1994, pl. 691, and sold in our London rooms, 8th July 1974, lot 235; one with its matching cover and incised with dragons, sold in these rooms, 28th November 1978, lot 118; and a third, sold in our London rooms, 16th May 2012, lot 92. See also an iron-red ground example, decorated on the central panel in gilt with a peacock, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 27th October 2003, lot 606; and another sold at Christie’s London, 18th November 2005, lot 14.
Depictions of scholars and immortals in idealised and remote landscape were particularly popular during the reign of the Wanli Emperor and his predecessor, the Jiajing Emperor, as they depicted the Daoist ideal of retreat from bureaucratic life in favour of a life in tune with nature. Artefacts of all media produced in these two reigns brimmed with auspicious Daoist imagery, in response to the Emperors’ fervent support of Daoism and its magical practices. This ewer is a fine example of this practice, as it is also decorated with the babao ('Eight Precious Things') and lingzhi scrolls, which are auspicious symbols of good fortune and longevity.