A Jiajing jar of similar size and shape, and with the same decorative scheme as the current jar in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 38 - Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colours, Hong Kong, 1999, p. 7, no. 6. The Palace Museum jar, which was formerly in the Qing court collection, has a white ground and the decoration is in green, yellow, turquoise and red enamels. Although lacking the aubergine enamel of the current jar, and including iron red in its palette, the Beijing vessel is very close to the current jar in its form and decoration. A slightly smaller Jiajing jar of the same shape and with similar design in the collection of the Musèe Guimet in Paris is illustrated by D. Lion-Goldschmidt, Ming Porcelain, London, 1978, p. 170, no. 149. The Guimet jar has a white ground and the decoration in green, yellow, turquoise and red. The only major difference in the design scheme is that the band of waves around the base of the Guimet jar is narrower than on the current vessel. For another slightly smaller jar of this shape and design, also with white ground, in the collection of the British Museum, see J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, pp. 265-6, no. 9:116. A further similar, white-ground, example in the Baur Collection is illustrated by J. Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, Geneva, 1999, no. 89.
There is a later variant of these white-ground Jiajing jars, which is of similar form, size and design, but with different use of the enamel colors, and with a black Wanli mark on a yellow base. Both the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, see Masterpieces of Oriental Ceramics, Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 1994, p. 75, no. 51, and the Shanghai Museum, see Ancient Chinese Ceramic Gallery, Shanghai, 1996, no. 67, have examples of the Wanli type. These Wanli jars are of particular interest in that they employ the same palette as the current jar - aubergine, turquoise, green, yellow and black. Their bands around the foot are similarly arranged and colored, and the plantain bands and roundels are also very similar, although they use the colors in different areas of the design. In choice of palette, disposition of colors and use of certain motifs the current jar is very close to the magnificent Wanli mark and period jar sold in our Hong Kong rooms on 26 April 2004, lot 1000. This jar shares with the current vessel similar aubergine ground and identical wave and plantain bands around the foot. The only difference being that the dividing line between these bands is aubergine on the current jar and yellow on the Hong Kong jar. The coloration of the dragons is also the same on the two vessels. The closeness of the current jar to these Wanli vessels may suggest that it was produced towards the end of the Jiajing reign.
The palette combining aubergine, turquoise, green, yellow and black used on these vessels appears on porcelains from the Jingdezhen imperial kilns as early as the Chenghua reign. The famous example of this is the excavated late Chenghua duck censer exhibited in Hong Kong and illustrated and discussed in A Legacy of Chenghua - Imperial Porcelain of the Chenghua Reign Excavated from Zhushan, Jingdezhen, Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1993, pp. 156-7, no. C34. The combination of aubergine turquoise, yellow and green had, of course, been seen on architectural ceramics since at least Jin times, and on fahua-type vessels made at the tilework kilns since at least the Yuan. While the fahua technique appeared at the Jingdezhen kilns in the Xuande reign, the traditional fahua palette including aubergine and turquoise does not seem to have been used with this technique at Jingdezhen until the very end of the 15th century. A rare 16th century kinrande ewer, of a shape usually attributed to the Jiajing reign, is in the collection of the Egawa Museum of Art, Hyogo, and illustrated in Special Exhibition - Chinese Ceramics, Tokyo National Museum, 1994, p. 196, no. 280. This shares with the current jar both the use of colored grounds, and the employment of turquoise, aubergine and yellow. The panel on the side of this ewer shows a yellow dragon on an aubergine ground above turquoise waves. Aubergine also appears as the ground color of a small number of Wanli mark and period bowls with enamels on biscuit. The outlines and details on these bowls are incised and the five-clawed dragons are in yellow and white. One such bowl in the collection of C.P. Lin is illustrated by R. Scott, Elegant Form and Harmonious Decoration - Four Dynasties of Jingdezhen Porcelain, Percival David Foundation, London, 1992, p. 97, no. 100. For another in the collection of the National Museum of History in Taiwan, see The Exhibition of Chinese Ceramics of Eight Dynasties, Taipei, 1987, p. 54. The current jar seems to demonstrate a revival of the complete 15th century palette at the end of the Jiajing reign, presaging its popularity in the Wanli period.