In its classic design, the current dish embodies the spirit of continuation in the development of Zhengde-period imperial porcelain from its 15th-century prototypes.
Imperial porcelain dishes created in this decoration first appeared in the Xuande period, and continued to be made in subsequent reigns, most characteristically in the Chenghua and Zhengde periods. Though quintessentially following a canon established by his predecessors, the Zhengde examples were created with minor variations from its 15th-century counterparts. Whilst earlier examples, particularly those of the Xuande period, are sometimes unmarked, marks on the archetypal dishes from the Xuande and Chenghua reigns are usually inscribed horizontally under the rim on the exterior, and the bases of the dishes left unglazed. Other slight modifications are also observed in the Zhengde examples, including the positioning of the four fruiting sprays in correlation to the central spray of flowering pomegranate.
Closely related dishes from the Zhengde reign are amongst worldwide museum and private collections. See one in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, illustrated in John Ayers, Far Eastern ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1980, pl. 154; another similar dish, painted in somewhat bolder outlines and darker cobalt-blue washes, is published in Minji meihin zuroku [Illustrated catalogue of important Ming porcelains], vol. 2, Tokyo, 1977, pl. 98; a third from the Ataka collection, now in the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, was exhibited in the Oriental Ceramics Society exhibition, The Arts of the Ming dynasty, London, 1957, no. 197; and another from the Palmer collection, was sold in our London rooms on 27th November 1962, lot 63.
Xuande-period examples of the current design rendered in various palettes such as blue and white, iron-brown, and reverse-decorated blue-ground dishes are preserved in the British Museum, London, including one from the Percival David Foundation (PDF A.755), and two illustrated in Jessica Harrison-Hall, Catalogue of late Yuan and Ming ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, nos 4:41 and 4:42. Compare also two similarly decorated Chenghua dishes in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Museum’s exhibition Catalogue of the special exhibition of Cheng-hua porcelain ware, Taipei, 2003, cat. nos 86 and 87.
For a Xuande blue and white dish rendered in this design, please refer to lot 125 in this sale.