The inscriptions in Persian may be translated:
'O The Exalted, the Door to Divine providence!
No one knows how far Your sublimity goes
Your power is beyond limits and measure'.
The form of this very rare vase has evolved from an Islamic shape. It must have provided quite a challenge for the potter and it is interesting to note that instead of making the sides of the square section using four slabs, the Chinese potter has chosen to lute upper and lower sections half way up the flattened sides. Given the complexity of both the body and the applied tubular elements at the mouth, it is perhaps not surprising that very few such vases have survived into the present day.
The only other complete vase of this exact shape and design that has been published appears to be the example in the Cleveland Museum of Art illustrated by J. Neils, ed., The World of Ceramics: Masterpieces from the Cleveland Museum of Art, 1982, pp. 125-6, no. 130, and again in the Catalogue of the Severance and Greta Millikin Collection, 1990, p. 9, no. 29. For a damaged vase of similar type, but with a different inscription, in the collection of the British Museum, see J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, p. 198, no. 8:10. The British Museum vase shares with the current vase very similar decorative treatment of the flared foot and square lower body, but the mouth and neck of the museum's vase is missing. The vessel in the British Museum bears two roundels containing Arabic script on two opposing sides, while the other two sides bear ruyi scrolls. The Arabic script has been translated as reading: 'The smallest is at your service, so ask for me and you will find me trustworthy'. The current vase bears two roundels on each of the four flat sides as well as one on either side of the neck containing Persian script.
A complete vase with square body, flanges on either side of the neck and with seven holes in an integral domed covering, in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford is illustrated by D. Lion-Goldschmidt, Ming Porcelain, London, 1978, p. 128, no. 102. Instead of dots, the flared foot of the Ashmolean vase has a petal and a cloud band, but the square body section has similar paired roundels and ruyi scrolls. The inscription on the Oxford vase is different from those on the current vase and the British Museum vase. The neck of the Ashmolean vase also bears a different decorative scheme and the flanges are ruyi-shaped. The Ashmolean vase is of similar size to the current vase.
These vases with square bodies are related to a small group of pear-shaped vases, which have been dated by Western scholars to the late 16th century and by Chinese scholars to the Zhengde reign (AD 1505-21). The shape, which is depicted in a diagram of Zhengde vertical forms by Geng Baochang in Ming Qing ciqi jianding, Beijing, 1993, p. 113, fig. 207, no. 9, has six tubes attached vertically around the top of the neck and six rectangular flanges attached vertically around the base of the neck and around the widest part of the body. Also arranged around the body are six roundels containing Arabic or Persian inscriptions. Two vases of this form are in the Percival David Foundation. A blue and white example formerly in the collection of Mrs. S. W. Bushell, is included by M. Medley in Illustrated Catalogue of Underglaze Blue and Copper Red Decorated Porcelains, London, 1976, p. 46, no. A662. The other vase, which is similar in size to the current square-bodied vase, is decorated in underglaze blue and overglaze red and green enamels. See M. Medley, Illustrated Catalogue of Ming Polychrome Wares, London, 1978, p. 29, no. 72, and pl. VI).
See, also, another blue and white example of this latter type, as well as a related vase with compressed cylindrical body raised on a pedestal foot and painted with two Arabic inscriptions in rectangular reserves separated by a pair of ruyi handles repeated in a pierced version flanking the flaring neck that is capped by a domed, scalloped-edge top pierced with nine apertures illustrated in Knapton and Rasti Asian Art, London, November 2001, nos. 28 and 30.