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Artwork Details

porcelain with underglaze and glaze
3 3/4 in x 15 3/4 in (9.53 cm x 40.01 cm)
Gift of the William T. and Dora G. Hunter Collection

On Display

Not currently on display


Subject Matter:

A qinghua 清华 blue and white Swatow ware bowl of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Swatow ware is named after the port in which it was exported from, Swatow (Shantou in Mandarin) in Canton (Guangzhou in Mandarin, Guangdong in vernacular).  Today, the port is called Zhangzhou, thus the ware is sometimes but less commonly called Zhangzhou ware. Despite being exported from Swatow, the ware is thought to have been made at provincial kilns in Fujian, Hunan, and Sichuan provinces.  Swatow ware mostly consists of large shallow bowls of similar size, and the painting quality is looser and more gestural than what comes from the official Ming kilns at Jingdezhen.  While blue and white is popular, Swatow ware may also be painted in underglaze iron brown, and overglaze polychrome enamels.  The vast majority of Swatow ware was exported to the Netherlands, but also England, and Germany. 
The discovery of kaolin clay at Jingdezhen, Jiangxi led to the establishment of official kilns during the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), and the production of pure, white, hard paste porcelain and porcelain decorated with underglaze blue.  During the 13th century of the Yuan dynasty, with the establishment of Pax Mongolia, blue and white porcelains were exported to Europe and the Middle East, as both tribute gifts as well as for the overseas export market.  This continued through the Ming dynasty where porcelain was used domestically by all classes of society.  A vast array of forms and designs were made to appeal to a large and diverse overseas as well as domestic market.
One of the most popular forms of decoration was underglaze cobalt blue.  During the Yuan dynasty, the principal source of cobalt came from Persia, in the Ming, however, local sources were found. The domestic cobalt, high in manganese and iron, resulted in a deep blue color with dark specks that has become known as a “heap and piled” effect, a hallmark of Ming qinghua (blue and white) wares, that was imitated in the later Qing dynasty.

Physical Description:

A porcelain large bowl with gently curved interior and straight flaring rim, on a foot ring with kiln grit residue.  It is painted with underglaze cobalt blue to depict a duck in a landscape in the central image surrounded by a border of six groupings of plants, and around the rim eight foliate-shaped reserves frame a floral spray against a patterned ground.  It is covered in a clear glaze with fine crackle.

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