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Chinese Bronzes of the Shang and Zhou Periods
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China, Jiangxi Province; Ming period (1368-1644), early 15th century (probably Yongle era, 1403 - 1424)
Porcelain painted with underglaze cobalt blue (Jingdezhen ware)
H. 18 1/2 in. (47 cm); D. 14 in. (35.6 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection of Asian Art
This early 15th century flask is notable for the fluidity of design seen in the scrolling lotus arabesques surrounding the two striding dragons that decorate the front and back. The style of painting is characteristic of ceramics produced during the rule of the Yongle emperor (1403 - 1424), the third emperor of the Ming dynasty. Works decorated with three- or four-clawed dragons, such as this, were used at the court as gifts from the emperor to his attendants and were also presented to foreign rulers and dignitaries. The large size of this flask suggests that it may have been intended for use in countries such as Iran or Turkey, and similar examples are found in the famous collections in Tehran and Istanbul. The black spots found in the underglaze pigment used to paint the flask are typical of blue-and-white wares of this period. They are caused by the cobalt spreading into the overlying glaze during firing. The bluish tinge found in the otherwise transparent glaze is also typical of ceramics of this period.
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