T his magnificent moon flask marks a poignant moment in the development of Chinese porcelain. The Yongle Emperor (r. 1403-24) had a far-sighted international outlook and rang in a cosmopolitan period. He initiated and encouraged contacts to many countries of Asia and as far west as East Africa. Diplomatic missions thus exchanged not only objects and materials, but also ideas and aesthetic concepts. This contact with and interest in other cultures left an indelible mark on China’s crafts, and ceramics as one of the most adaptable media handled by the imperial workshops were directly influenced.
In terms of its shape as well as its design, the present porcelain flask can be considered a result of this outward-looking policy of the Yongle Emperor. Made at the Jingdezhen imperial kilns, it represents the outstanding, high qualitative standard demanded at the time by the court: porcelain and glaze are extremely fine and even, the striking shape is well-proportioned and exactingly fired, the cobalt painting shows a strong blue, the brushwork is sophisticated, and the complex design harmoniously laid out.