Tianqi mark and period, 1621-1627
The deep bowl stands on a straight foot and has steep sides with a lipped rim that is slightly everted. The exterior is painted in underglaze blue, iron-red and green enamel with a continuous scene of two scholars in a mountainous landscape. One scholar is depicted with his arm raised and pointing towards the other, who is looking back over his shoulder. The two figures are surrounded by water, rocks, flowers, a pagoda and an egret, all below a distant moon. The interior is covered with glaze. The recessed base is inscribed in underglaze blue with a four-character Tianqi reign mark within a circle. With silver pierced cover.
Japanese wooden box
10 cm diameter
The present bowl was most probably made for export to Japan. The style of the decoration combined with a Tianqi mark on the base is more often seen among dishes than bowls, and no similar examples appear to be published. The shape is somewhat similar to a small group of ‘bell cups’ which were excavated from the ‘Wanli shipwreck’, dated circa 1625 (2). These were originally decorated with overglaze enamels and bear Chenghua reign marks. The shape is also related to the largest of a set of so-called ‘nesting’ cups, for instance a set from the Wanli period (3) and a set salvaged from the ‘Hatcher Junk’, dated circa 1643 (4).
Provenance: Formerly in a Japanese private collection