This fine ewer epitomises the classic Yongle blue and white style that became the blueprint for porcelain decoration throughout the Ming dynasty. It represents one of the finest wares made in the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen in the early Ming period. The shaped panel containing a peach and loquat and the surrounding 'Flowers of the Four Seasons' (rose, peony, chrysanthemum and camellia) are executed in a particularly naturalistic and vigorous fashion through bold and dark lines. However the washes of shading and finely detailed foliage also create a sense of delicate sensitivity in the auspicious motifs.
A closely related ewer 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 (I), Shanghai, 2000, pl. 41, together with a related example attributed to the Xuande reign, pl. 114, and another with a Xuande reign mark and of the period, pl. 115. Two further ewers of this type are illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, vol. 2, London, 1986, pl. 618, both repaired with Islamic metal mounts; two damaged examples, from the Ardebil Shrine and now in the National Museum of Iran in Teheran, are published in John Alexander Pope, Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, Washington D.C., 1956, pl. 54 (top left), and in Misugi Takatoshi, Chinese Porcelain Collections in the Near East. Topkapi and Ardebil, vol. 3, Hong Kong, 1981, pl. A78; and another in the Museum of Chinese History, Beijing, is included in Zhongguo taoci quanji, vol. 12, Shanghai, 2000, pl. 15. Compare a similar ewer sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 27th April 2003, lot 213; another sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 7th July 2003, lot 643; and a third example sold at Christie's London, 13th November 2001, lot 119.
A fragmentary ewer of this type but with the panels reserved, excavated from the waste heaps of the Jingdezhen kiln site in Zhushan, was included in the exhibition Imperial Hongwu and Yongle Porcelain Excavated at Jingdezhen, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1996, cat. no. 59.
The Four Flowers of the Four Seasons represent the wish for wealth and honour throughout the year. These flowers represent the four seasons: the spring peony, the summer rose, the autumn camellia and the winter chrysanthemum.
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