Previously sold Sotheby's Hong Kong, 13 November 1990, lot 130.
Bowls of this pattern are quite rare, however a small number are in public collections, each varying slightly in size. One such example in the Percival David Foundation is illustrated by A.D. Brankston, Early Ming Wares of Chingtechen, Oxford University Press, Hong Kong, 1970, pl. 14; one in the Cleveland Museum of Art is illustrated by Daisy Lion-Goldschmidt, Ming Porcelain, Office du Livre, Fribourg, Switzerland, 1978, pl. 53; one from the Shanghai Museum included in the Exhibition of Blue and White Porcelain from the Shanghai Museum, Tokyo, 1988, Catalogue, no. 26; two are in the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, the first included in Blue and White Ware of the Ming Dynasty, Book II, pt. 2, pl. 42, the other in the Illustrated Catalogue of Ming Dynasty Porcelain, pl. 58; and finally one in the Jingdezhen Ceramic Museum included in the exhibition Catalogue, Xuande Imperial Porcelain excavated at Jingdezhen, The Chang Foundation, Taiwan, 1988, pl. 119.
Other bowls of this pattern in private collections include the example sold at Sotheby's London, 10 December 1985, lot 196, and illustrated in Chinese Ceramics, The S.C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, pl. 28, with a panoromic view in pt. II, pp. 46-47; and the bowl in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd, included in the Asia Society Exhibition Catalogue, 1975, no. 35. A last example was included in The Philadelphia Museum of Art 1949 Exhibition of Ming Blue-and-White, illustrated in the Catalogue, pl. 63.
These bowls are typified by their sturdy potting, low sides, wide mouth and plain interiors. The nianhao is written in a line from the right to left below the rim. They are found with a number of designs around the exterior such as lotus or peony scrolls, lotus with Buddhist emblems, fruit sprays and composite scrolls. Those decorated with the 'Three Friends of Winter' are among the rarest. Their precise use remains obscure but suggestions include vessels for playing dice, brush washers, an arena for cricket fights or fruit bowls.