A rare blue and white screen Zhengde six-character mark and of the period
Lot 37
A rare blue and white screen
Zhengde six-character mark and of the period
Sold for £73,250 (US$ 121,466) inc. premium
Auction Details
A rare blue and white screen Zhengde six-character mark and of the period
Lot Details
A rare blue and white screen
Zhengde six-character mark and of the period
The rectangular plaque shaped with two lobed corners at the top edge and two narrow flanges along the side edges at the bottom to fit into a stand, the front painted with bold brushstrokes in underglaze blue with a central medallion outlined by a double circle surrounded by eleven lotus blossoms issuing from a leafy meander, each corner filled with a formal design of foliate scrolls, all set within two double-lined borders, the outer lines following the lobed shape of the plaque, a six-character mark set within a double-rectangle at the bottom edge, the front and sides covered in a thick clear glaze of greenish-blue tint, the reverse unglazed.
42.5cm high x 35cm wide (16¾in x 13¾in)

Footnotes

  • 明正德 青花纏枝花卉紋開光插屏 青花「大明正德年製」楷書款

    Scholars have traditionally divided blue and white porcelain from the Zhengde reign into three distinct categories: those with Arabic or Persian inscriptions, those with dragon designs on a dense lotus ground, and finally the archaistic items imitating 15th century pieces; see the discussion by J.Harrison-Hall in Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001 p.190.

    The Zhengde Emperor came to the throne as a child, and has in general been viewed as a weak and easily-influenced ruler, for which defects the Muslim eunuchs at court have traditionally been blamed. Sir Harry Garner notes the records of Ali Akbar, a merchant from eastern Turkey, who travelled to China in 1505 and remarked that most of the officials at court were Muslim eunuchs: see Oriental Blue and White, London, 1970, p.29. The group of 'Arabic' objects produced in the Zhengde period surely reflects the influence of the Muslim eunuchs employed at the court, accounting in particular for the inscriptions and the experimentation with exotic forms. Their influence seems to have been sufficiently strong to allow for the affixing of the Imperial nianhao to these objects.

    Most blue and white Arabic-style pieces from the Zhengde reign are instantly recognisable. Despite their many and varied forms, such as 'mountain' brush rests, pen boxes, candlesticks, spherical hat stands and tripod censers, they are united by their stout construction of fine porcelain and their similar decorative style, often of extended foliate scrolls, painted with bright cobalt in outline and infilled blue wash, under a thick blue-green-tinged glaze. The present lot should clearly be viewed as belonging to this category of Zhengde pieces, and the large space in the centre seems undoubtedly intended for an inscription. A closely-related screen, also Zhengde mark and period, with similar scroll work surrounding an Arabic inscription of a passage from the Koran, is illustrated by S.Pierson, Percival Foundation of Chinese Art: A Guide to the Collection, London, 2002, no.50.

    There are pieces which do not exhibit all the features of this group of Arabic wares, the present lot is unusual for its lack of an inscription. Importantly, there is a related plain censer from the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (II), Hong Kong 2000, no.55. The stout potting and Imperial nianhao on the side suggest a categorisation within the 'Arabic' group, and the plain sides are a white expanse similarly devoid of decoration as found on the present lot. It is interesting to speculate why these rare pieces are so undecorated: there is the possibility that the spaces were designed for overglaze enamelling, perhaps including an inscription. Underglaze blue pieces with overglaze enamel were popular in both the preceding Chenghua and Hongzhi reigns and the later Jiajing and Wanli reigns, so the technology ought to have been available at Jingdezhen during the Zhengde reign also.
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