The resourceful Sima Guang, future statesman and historian of the Song dynasty, rescues his drowning friend from a large jar by throwing stones to break the vat and release the water. A third boy pulls him from the jar by the arm. Very popular in late seventeenth-century Japan, Sima Guang was one of few figure subjects created by the Arita enamellers. Appropriating the charm of the design over any didactic connotation, Chinese export kilns and the German factory Meissen reproduced the pattern around 1730. Dutch enamellers recreated it on porcelain fired in China or Japan between 1710 and 1735. The English factory Chelsea released the pattern, known by the soubriquet 'Hob in the well' around 1755. A Kakiemon-style bowl, a Chinese beaker and saucer dated circa 1730, and a Chelsea fluted dish dated 1752-58 in the Sima Guang pattern are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. For other Kakiemon-style, Meissen and Chelsea octagonal dishes see Nagatake Takeshi, Yabe Yoshiaki and Minamoto Hiromichi, eds., Kakiemon no sekai: genryu kara gendai made (Exhibition of the world of Kakiemon: from its origins to the present), exh. cat. (Tokyo: Asahi Shimbunsha, 1983), pls. 148-50; John Ayers et al., Porcelain for Palaces: The Fashion for Japan in Europe 1650--1750, exh. cat. (London: Oriental Ceramic Society and British Museum, 1990), pls. 122, 192, and 193. For a circular dish fired in Japan and enamelled in the Netherlands see Charlotte Rappard-Boon et al., Imitation and inspiration: Japanese influence on Dutch art from 1650 to the present (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 1992), pl. 15. For other Japanese examples see also Soame Jenyns, Japanese Porcelain (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1965), no. 76c; Alexandra Munroe and Naomi Noble Richards, eds., The Burghley Porcelains, exh. cat. (New York: Japan Society, Inc., 1986), pl. 100.
An octagonal dish of the same pattern was sold in these Rooms, 27 April, 1994, lot 213.