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finely potted with a shallow flared bowl resting on a tall splayed foot, covered overall in a rich copper-red glaze, slightly speckled near the white rim, the interior of the hollow foot covered with a transparent glaze
Monochrome copper-red vessels of the early Ming period are among the most striking and rarest imperial porcelains made in that dynasty. By the Yongle period, the Jingdezhen potters had experimented with this exceedingly difficult-to-fire pigment for about a century and occasionally were able to achieve the desired result of the rich deep red seen on the present bowl. The rarity of satisfactorily completed examples and the large quantity of sherd finds at the kiln site from the Yongle and Xuande strata suggest that failures were far more common than successes; see Jingdezhen chutu Mingdai yuyao ciqi [Porcelains from the Ming imperial kilns excavated at Jingdezhen], Beijing, 2009, p. 14, fig. 10 (fig. 0). Only nine intact copper-red stem bowls of both periods combined appear to be otherwise preserved, all except one in museum collections.
The National Palace Museum, Taipei, holds three copper-red stem bowls, one of Yongle mark and period, decorated with dragons inside, published in Minji meihin zuroku. Kōbuyō, Eirakuyō, Sentokuyō [Illustrated catalogue of important Ming porcelains. Hongwu, Yongle and Xuande wares], Tokyo, 1977, pl. 30; an unmarked example with traces of a dragon design in gold, and an undecorated example of Xuande mark and period, both included in the Museum's exhibition Mingdai Xuande guanyao jinghua tezhan tulu/Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsüan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, Taipei, 1998, cat. nos. 101 and 96.
The Palace Museum, Beijing, holds an unusual stem bowl of Yongle mark and period from the Qing court collection, with red glaze only on the outside and white glaze inside, as well as an unmarked example, fully glazed in red and with traces of a gilt design; see Zhongguo taoci quanji [Complete series on Chinese ceramics], Shanghai, 1999-2000, vol. 13, pls.12 and 17.
Two copper-red glazed stem bowls in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, are illustrated in John Ayers, Far Eastern Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1980, col. pl. 44, both attributed to the early 15th century, but the author suggesting that one, with more widely flared bowl, may belong to the Yongle reign, and the other, with a deeper bowl and shorter stem, to the Xuande period. Ayers also states, p.168, that 'such pieces are hardly found outside the former Chinese palace collections'.
One other red-glazed stem bowl with anhua dragons and a four-character Yongle reign mark inside is in the Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo, published in Idemitsu Bijutsukan zōhin zuroku. Chūgoku tōji/Chinese Ceramics in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, 1987, pl. 159, and sold in our London rooms 15th April 1980, lot 265; and another also with indistinct anhua dragons inside, included in the Min Chiu Society exhibition of Monochrome Ceramics of the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1977, cat. no. 1, was sold in these rooms, 28th November 1978, lot 117, and is illustrated in Sotheby's. Thirty Years in Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2003, pl. 116.
The Ming imperial kiln site at Jingdezhen has yielded a similar red-glazed stem bowl of Yongle mark and period (fig. 1), an unmarked red-glazed stem bowl recovered together with a number of red-glazed bowls and dishes from the Xuande stratum (fig. 2), and a Xuande-marked example with white inside and red outside (fig. 3); for figs. 2 and 4 see Jingdezhen chutu Mingdai yuyao ciqi, op. cit., pls. 24 and 46; for fig. 3 see Jingdezhen chutu Ming Xuande guanyao ciqi/Xuande Imperial Porcelain Excavated at Jingdezhen, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1998, cat. no. 52-1. In the Chang Foundation catalogue Liu Xinyuan compares the subtle changes in vessel shapes from the Yongle to the Xuande reign, and shows, p. 154, the Xuande stem bowl shape to have a fractionally more flared rim and foot, although excavated examples seem to vary in outline and proportion.
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