VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Bowl
0319665
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Large, deep bowl on a foot ring, spreading sides. Decorated in underglaze copper-red, with variations in hue and somewhat greyish in places. The underglazed base is stained dark brown. On the sides, there is a continuous motif of chrysanthemum scrolls, the top finished with a scrolling band, below with a band of stylized lotus-leaf motifs. There is a meander band around the foot. In the centre there is a round panel with chrysanthemum sprays surrounded by a similar meander band. Inside on the sides thre is a continuous pattern of peony - and camellia sprays, finished at the top with a band of flower sprays. This bowl belongs to a very small group of underglaze-red pieces in Dutch collections dating from the Hongwu period (1368-98). It is one of the finest of its type. Porcelain manufactured during the reign of the first Ming emperor continued the traditions developed during the preceding Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), without much innovation. An exception is the use of copper oxide as a pigment for the red decorations under the glaze. While already applied during the Yuan Dynasty, its use increased dramatically during the Hongwu Dynasty, possibly because of changing political circumstances. Imported cobalt-oxide (which colours blue) became scarce and an alternative was needed for the lower-quality, local cobalt. Red is not an easy colour to work with. Temperature regulation is difficult and reduction firing - reducing the amount of oxygen in the kiln to alter the red colour - requires great care. Too much oxygen causes the red to turn grey or black. Firing a bowl as large as this is itself a technical feat; the quality of the decoration makes it even more remarkable.

History of the Object
In 1369, Hongwu decreed that all ceremonial vessels were to be made of porcelain, a return to an old Chinese tradition. This bowl was used for serving beverages and food and may have had a ritual function. Porcelain vessels were also given as funerary gifts.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
Porcelain decorated in underglaze copper-red 
Measurements
height 16.3 cm; diameter rim 40.5 cm; diameter foot ring 23.5 cm 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
China 
Geography
China 
Time period
AD 14th century ~ AD 14th century 
Creation date
14th Century; 1368-1398 (Ming dynasty, Hongwu) 
Function
decorative; bowl 
Acquisition
Purchased in 1933 at Sotheby's, London from the collection D.S. Winkworth 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
Lit..: B. Jansen, Chinese ceramiek, cat. Haags Gemeentemuseum, Lochem 1976, no 134. C. Jörg, Oriental Porcelain in The Netherlands. Four Museum Collections, Groningen 2003, p. 16-17, cat.no 1 
Owner
Gemeentemuseum Den Haag 
Museum
Gemeentemuseum 
Credit line
 

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