Polychrome wares embellished with gilt to resemble the appearance of rich brocade is known by its Japanese term, kinrande. Their combination of brilliant colours was derived from highly attuned visual enjoyment of painting, lacquer and silk. In the 16th century, items of this type were exported to Japan where they were highly valued, as the Japanese kilns did not start making porcelain until the early 17th century, and even their products were limited in numbers and localised in distribution. A newly arisen class of wealthy merchants prospered in many emergent urban centres, and it was this group that fostered the growth of the tea ceremony as it is practised today.
A number of ewers, similar in design to the present one, are known, where the underglaze-blue inscription Fu gui jia qi is also present, including one in the British Museum, illustrated by J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, pl. 9:69; one sold in these Rooms, 5 July 1983, lot 262; and another illustrated by R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, Book II, London, 1986, p. 821, no. 1648. The first two ewers are most closely related to the present lot, in terms of size, form and design. Compare also the example with an underglaze-blue Jiajing mark, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 27 October 2003, lot 606.
Other comparable kinrande ewers are in the Topkapi Museum, Istanbul, illustrated ibid., pp. 818-821, notably no. 1646, with an identical design of peacocks in panels and an indistinct mark on the base. A blue-glazed ewer with similar gilt decoration is illustrated by J. Ayers, The Baur Collection, Geneva, 1969, pl. A179, together with two other kinrande ewers with polychrome enamels, pls. A177 and A178. Compare also the larger and more elaborately decorated hexagonal-section vessel with a reddish-aubergine ground and gilt painting in the Baur Collection, illustrated ibid., pl. A180.