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YONGLE PERIOD (1403-1424)

Finely potted with the straight sides tapering to a narrow foot ring, delicately painted on the interor in rich cobalt blue tones and rendered in delicate pencil design to depict a dianthus scroll on the cavetto, borne on an undulating vine growing long bladed leaves, above a band of interlocking spearheads on an interconnected stem, surrounding concentric circles enclosing a single floral medallion, all below a zig-zag band dividing clusters of circles under the mouth rim, the exterior with a band of composite floral scroll above four za bao, miscellaneous treasures, each divided by a stylised floral bloom, further decorated with bladed leaves above the slightly tapered wedge-shaped foot ring
6 1/4 in. (15.8 cm.) diam.

Lot Essay

The present bowl is known as jixin, 'chicken heart-shaped' bowl, deriving its name from a steep interior which corresponds with a slightly protruding exterior on the base. Two bowls decorated with this exact pattern and almost the same size, are published. The first, from the collection of Mrs Walter Sedgwick, illustrated by S. Jenyns, Ming Pottery and Porcelain, pl. 28A; and the other, a bequest from Mrs W. Roberts, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, illustrated by J. Ayers, Far Eastern Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1980, p. 46, dated to the early 15th century. The motifs employed on the present bowl and the published bowls are typical of Yongle blue and white wares. Compare the stylised floral blooms on the exterior of the bowl with those found decorating the back of a spoon excavated from Zhushan, included in the exhibition, Imperial Porcelain of the Yongle and Xuande Periods, Excavated from the Site of the Ming Imperial Factory at Jingdezhen, Hong Kong, 1989, illustrated in the Catalogue, 165, no. 41. It has been noted that this floral bloom motif originated from Buddhism, and is found to decorate the pages of a book of Buddhist chants published in 1419, see, ibid., p. 67.

A bowl with this same size and pattern from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is illustrated in Catalogue of a Special Exhibition of Early Ming Period Porcelain, 1984, no. 24. This rare design continued into the Xuande period and is found on a bowl of this same pattern, and size, bearing a Xuande six-character mark on the base, from the Riesco collection. The Riesco bowl was included in the exhibition The Ceramic Art of China, The Oriental Ceramic Society, London, 1972, and is illustrated in the Catalogue, no. pl. 108, no. 153.

The interlinked trefoil on the interior and the composite floral band on the exterior mouth rim both relate well to bowls with a concave base, known as mantou xin or 'mantou-heart' bowls, such as the bowl excavated at Dongmentou, Zhushan, included in the exhibition, Imperial Hongwu and Yongle Porcelain excavated at Jingdezhen, Chang Foundation, 1996, and illustrated in the Catalogue, p. 228-9, no. 83; where it is mentioned that this style of decoration was an influence from Islamic Middle East. Compare with two related mantou xin bowls of the Yongle period both decorated with Persian inscriptions below the exterior mouth rim, the first in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Special Exhibition of Early Ming Porcelains, 1982, illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 29; and the other from the E. T. Chow and T. Y. Chao Collections, sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 18 November 1986, lot 41, and illustrated in Blue and White Porcelains in the Collection of the Tianminlou Foundation, Hong Kong, 1996, p. 222. no. 94.

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