PP 10 A Wucai-decorated bowl


17th century

The deep bowl with steep sides and slightly flaring rim is supported on a tapering foot. The exterior is freely painted in underglaze blue, iron-red and overglaze enamels with a floral scene of chrysanthemums and orchids. The interior is decorated with a single flower spray in the centre. The base is inscribed with a three-character hall mark Song Shi Zhai in underglaze blue.

11.6 cm diameter  

Provenance: Formerly in the Michael Butler Collection

                     Formerly in the collection of Richard S. Kilburn

Sold at Christie’s London, 16 June 1986, lot no. 68, as one of a pair Formerly in the collection of Robert Suermont  

Published: Kilburn, R. S., Transitional Wares and Their Forerunners, Hong Kong, 1981, pl. 168 (the right of the pair)  

The hall mark song shi zhai may be translated as ‘Pine and Rock Studio’. Pine, song, and rock, shi, symbolize longevity and were essential for the scholar’s garden architecture. Rocks also stand for reliability and strength, which were highly valued virtues among scholars.

Although the free style of painting may suggest that this bowl was made for the Japanese market, the studio mark indicates that these bowls were made for the internal market for the use of a scholar. The shape of the bowl with its thinly potted sides further suggests this, as porcelains for the Japanese market are often heavily potted. Other characteristics of polychrome porcelain for the Japanese market, lacking on the present bowl, are thick glazes, reign marks on the base, brown slip on the rim, and kiln grit adhering to the underside.  

Ceramics > Early Ceramics