Lot 135
  • 135


50,000 - 70,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • porcelain + wood box
  • 25.2 cm, 9 7/8  in
the shallow rounded sides rising from a short tapered foot to an everted rim, painted in various tones of cobalt on a rich yellow ground, the interior painted with a medallion enclosing a leafy branch bearing two five-petalled gardenia flowers, encircled in the cavetto with branches of pomegranate, crab apple, grape and a bouquet of lotus, between double line borders, the underside with a continuous scroll of seven large blooming roses borne on a foliate stem, between double lines at the rim and foot, the base left white and inscribed in underglaze blue with a six-character mark within double circles, Japanese wood box

Catalogue Note

The gardenia (zhizi) is a flower very rarely depicted on Chinese ceramics and known almost exclusively from the present design. It is not immediately associated with any auspicious meaning, but the highly fragrant flowers were popular with ladies to wear in the hair, and were used for flavouring tea and for preparing cosmetics, and the small fruits of the plant were coveted for dyeing – producing a fine yellow or orange colour – as well as for their medicinal benefits.

The blue-and-yellow colour scheme was developed in the Xuande period (1426-35), when the first dishes of this design were produced and was taken up again in the Chenghua period (1465-87). In both periods, the base of the dishes was generally still unglazed and the mark inscribed in a horizontal cartouche below the rim. In the Hongzhi and Zhengde reigns the design experienced its peak, and after the Jiajing reign (1522-66), when rare examples were still produced, was totally abandoned. 

This dish is particularly rare for its large size and six-character mark on the base, and only one other example appears to have been published, excavated in Beijing and now in the Capital Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Zhongguo taoci quanji [Complete series on Chinese ceramics], vol. 13, Shanghai, 1999, pl. 147. A larger dish (29.5cm), also with a six-character mark, from the Qing Court collection and still in Beijing, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (II), Shanghai, 2000, pl. 232, together with a smaller dish with a four-character mark on the base, pl. 233. Further smaller dishes with six-character marks include one in the British Museum, London, published in Jessica Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, pl. 8:23; one in the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, illustrated in Lu Minghua, Shanghai Bowuguan cangpin yanjiu daxi/Studies of the Shanghai Museum Collections : A Series of Monographs. Mingdai guanyao ciqi [Ming imperial porcelain], Shanghai, 2007, pl. 1-41; and a fourth example from the Meiyintang Collection, illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 1994-2010, vol. 2, pl. 683, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 9th October 2012, lot 43.