BFE 28 A blue and white Kosometsuke dish

Tianqi-Chongzhen, c. 1625-1635

The sturdily potted dish is of square section with tapering sides and a flat everted rim with indented corners. The interior is painted in underglaze blue with a central panel, corresponding to the shape of the dish, enclosing a diagonal composition of lotus flowers and tall grass growing from a pond. Lotus leaves in the lower left corner reveal a swimming turtle below a hovering insect. The corners of the cavetto are decorated with scrolling ornaments from which three small tassels are suspended. The rim is reserve-decorated with a border of scrolling chrysanthemum. The underside is undecorated and the base covered with transparent glaze.
17.8 cm wide

The decoration on the present dish is painted after a Chinese woodblock print from the Bazhong Huapu, ‘Manual of Eight Types of Painting’, dating from the Tianqi period (1621-1627) (1). In the original print a frog is seated on the lotus leaf in the lower left corner, which is replaced by a turtle on the present dish. The flying insect is added to the composition. 

In Japan, the turtle is not only respected for symbolizing old age, but also for playing an important role in the old Japanese story of Urashima. The legendary Urashima once saved a turtle’s life, and when they met again the turtle revealed itself as the beautiful daughter of the Dragon King (2).

There is a very similar square dish in the collection of the Asian Art Museum, San Fransisco (3), another is illustrated by Kawahara (4) and a third one is in the Asian Art Museum, Berlin, formerly in the collection of Georg Weishaupt (5). A dish with identical border, formerly in the collection of Effie B. Allison, is painted in the centre with four immortals (6). Dishes of the same form are also known decorated in overglaze enamels with various designs (7).


Provenance: Formerly in a Japanese private collection
                     Acquired from Jorge Welsh, London

  1. Butz and Kawahara, 'Chinesische Porzellane des 17. Jahrhunderts fur Japan', 1996, pl. 50
  2. Piggott, 'Japanese Mythology', 1982, pp. 126-129
  3. Curtis, 'Trade, Taste & Transformation', 2006, pl. 49
  4. Kawahara, 1977, pl. 325
  5. Butz and Kawahara, 1996, pl. 50
  6. Curtis, 2006, pl. 97
  7. Butz and Kawahara, 1996, pls. 45-46
Ceramics > Early Ceramics