Stembowls of this form were made in porcelain from as early as the Yuan dynasty and continued to be produced throughout the Ming period. Often placed on altars to hold offerings, stembowls covered in this attractive yellow glaze were reserved for use by the court as the color yellow denoted imperial paraphernalia. The yellow glaze was achieved by adding to the glaze mix a small amount of iron oxide and required the utmost attention at every stage of production, from the purity of the clay and precision of potting to the evenness of the glaze and control of firing, as the slightest irregularity would have resulted in the rejection of the piece.
A closely related example, from the collection of Sir Percival David and now in the British Museum, London, was included in the exhibition Ceramics Evolution in the Middle Ming Period. Hongzhi to Wanli (1488-1620), Percival Foundation of Chinese Art, London, 1994, cat. no. 6; another in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is illustrated in Monochrome Ware of the Ming Dynasty, bk. II, Hong Kong, 1968, pl. 11; and a third sold in our London rooms, 13th October 1992, lot 95. Compare also a stembowl of similar shape but lacking the molded decoration, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, published in Minji meihin zuroku [Illustrated catalogue of important Ming porcelains], Tokyo, 1977, vol. III, pl. 37; another sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 18th May 1982, lot 188; and a third, from the Meiyintang collection, illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Meiyintang Collection, vol. 4, pt. I, London, 2010, pl. 1683, sold in our Hong Kong rooms in 1973, 1978 and 1988, and most recently in our London rooms, 20th May 2001, lot 41.
See also the Ming prototype to this stembowl, decorated in the anhua technique with two dragons, from the collection of Mr and Mrs Alfred Clark and now in the Au Bak Ling collection, sold in our London rooms, 9th December 1975, lot 134, and again in our Hong Kong room, 3rd May 1994, lot 56.