The quality and variety of the porcelains produced during the reign of the Xuande Emperor are a testament to his keen personal interest in porcelain production. Both large and small pieces are equally well made, and the variety of shapes is considerable, ranging from large jars to tiny bird feeders such as the present example.
A number of related Xuande-marked blue and white bird feeders have been published such as the example in the Shanghai Museum, modeled as a section of bamboo and decorated with lingzhi scroll, illustrated in Underglaze Blue and Red, Shanghai, 1987, p. 141, no. 139. Like the present example, the reign mark of the Shanghai bird feeder is prominently written in a line on one side of the vessel. The Shanghai example also features two apertures on top with unglazed rims and similar molded flower heads at either end painted in underglaze blue. Other comparable Xuande-marked examples include the bird feeder of very similar form to the present lot, but decorated with lotus scroll, sold at Sotheby Parke Bernet, Hong Kong, 18-19 May 1982, lot 139, and the bird feeder modeled as two pomegranates, also with two unglazed apertures on top, illustrated in Jingdezhen chutu Yuan Ming guanyao ciqi, Beijing, 1999, p. 200, no. 164, together with other small Xuande-marked bird-cage vessels of various shapes, p. 202, nos. 167-71. See, also, the Xuande-marked 'bird-feeding vase' decorated with similar undulating floral scroll in the National Palace Museum, Taipei illustrated in Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsuan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, Taipei, 1998, pp. 66-7, no. 6.