Previously sold in Hong Kong, 30 April 1991, lot 8.
Yuan dishes incorporating a foreign inscription in the original cobalt blue underglaze painting and of this moulded petal border design are extremely rare. This group of moulded and painted dishes is among the most admired of early blue and white wares. The mixture of the rich textures creates one of the most distinctive visual effects in the blue and white repertory and is unique to the Yuan period.
Only one other dish with a comparable moulded and painted pattern appears to have been published, from the Cummins and Hobart Collections, now in the Fogg Museum of Art, Cambridge, Massachusetts and illustrated in Sekai Toji Zenshu, vol. 13, fig. 219 and also included in the O.C.S. Jubilee Exhibition of the Ceramic Art of China, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1971, Catalogue, no. 141. While the cavetto shares a similar design, the petal panels appear to be shorter in proportion to the whole. The medallion of the Fogg dish is also painted with a bird amongst flowers rather than foliage as in the present example.
Pope illustrates a third known dish with a contemporary Arabic
inscription in Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, pls. 19 and 20.
The inscriptions have been much discussed and researched, but with uncertain conclusions being hindered by the indistinct nature of the writing, probably owing to the artist being Chinese and unfamiliar with the foreign script. For two published discussions, see John Carswell, 'A Fourteenth Century Chinese Porcelain Dish from Damascus', American University of Beirut Centennial Publication 1866-1966, p.52, note 26 and Basil Gray, 'Persian Influence on Chinese Art from the Eighth to the Fifteeth Centuries', vol. I, p. 16.
It has been argued on the basis that Chinese words are known to have been written in foreign script, possibly by numerous Muslims working at various levels of Chinese society, that the inscription could read 'Jingdezhen'. A second reading is that the inscription is in fact a Persian name. Research has so far remained inconclusive.
A barbed rim dish also painted in reserve around the well but unmoulded and with peony scroll rather than lappets, waves around the unmoulded rim, and bamboo, lotus and melons in the centre is illustrated in the Chang Foundation Inaugural Catalogue, p. 38.