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Bowl, circa 1455, China, Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644), Jingtai period (1449-1457), Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province, porcelain with underglaze blue decoration, 10.3 x 21.3 cm. Purchased 1975, 56.1975. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (C) Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Exemplifying the mature refinement of the classic Ming aesthetic, this bowl from the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen embodies the ideals of serenity and harmony. Although its eloquent form with a gently curled lip attests to the technical supremacy of the Ming potter, the real hallmark of the imperial Ming style is expressed in the harmony of form and decoration: the manner in which the lotus scrolls on the exterior – and the six lotus blooms around a peony spray on the inside of the bowl – flow seamlessly around the vessel. On the deeply recessed base the bowl carries the six-character mark of the Xuande reign drawn in underglaze blue. In spite of this mark, the undisputed quality of the bowl, and the characteristic bluish clear glaze with its ‘orange skin’ surface, a slightly later date of c. 1450-65 is suggested by a few anomalies: notably the specific design of the lotus scroll and the weight of the bowl relative to its size.

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg.253.

Reference should be made to a period of 30 years between the end of the Hsuan-te (Xuande) and the beginning of the Ch’eng-hua (Chenghua) reigns, often referred to by collectors as the ‘interregnum’. There are considerable gaps in our positive knowledge of ceramic history over these years, but we do know that it was an important period of transition during which there occurred a marked change in the body and glaze quality and in style of decoration, culminating in the more refined and delicate types of Ch’eng-hua (Chenghua) porcelains. Many pieces of excellent quality, some bearing the Hsuan-te (Xuande) reign mark, are thought on stylistic and other grounds to have been made during the ‘interregnum’. (Margaret Medley, ‘Regrouping fifteenth century blue and white’ in Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, London 1963-4; Sir Harry Garner, ‘Oriental Blue and White’ preface to the 3rd edition, London, 1970, p.xxi.) This is one such piece. (J.H. Myrtle, ‘A Fifteenth Century Ming Blue and White Bowl’, in Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual, Sydney, 1977.)

Hepburn Myrtle, ‘Chinese Porcelain of the Ming and Ch’ing Dynasties‘, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1977. p8.