Ming & Earlier

Perhaps the most well-known of all Chinese ceramics, Ming dynasty porcelain benefitted from China’s return to Han Chinese rule in 1368 after 97 years of the foreign Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. As the internecine struggles abated, Ming pottery flourished in the world-famous ‘porcelain town’ of Jingdezhen and beyond.

Out were the old tastes of Song dynasty monochromes and in were the new appetite for Ming dynasty blue and white porcelain. Not without coincidence, the desire for Ming dynasty ceramics was exacerbated both by China’s economic upturn in the fifteenth century as it shifted towards a market economy and at the same time the European renaissance led to thousands of pieces of spectacular Ming porcelain making their way from China to become prized possessions in Europe’s royal palaces and stately homes.

As Ming dynasty porcelain continued its journey of refinement, there were significant innovations that became benchmarks in the rich and detailed history of Ming pottery including jihong under the Xuande emperor (a blood-red glaze of which it is believed there are fewer than 100 remaining examples in museums), doucai (contending colours) under Chenghua, jiaohuang (yellow glaze) under Hongzhi and wucai (five colour) under Wanli. It was also during the reign of Wanli (1572 – 1620) that production techniques, including mixing kaolin clay and pottery stone in equal proportions enhanced the whiteness of the vessel body, enhancing Ming dynasty blue and white porcelain.

Available Pieces
  • M5426

    £15,000

    Chinese porcelain blue and white kosometsuke incense burner modelled as a rectangular box, the cover with a reclining Buddhist lion splashed with fukozumi on the body, the raised rectangular plinth form base painted on the wide side in reverse technique with a flowerhead and scrolling branches on a blue ground, the ends with a precious double lozenge, all between double lines in underglaze blue.

  • R1325

    £5,850

    Chinese miniature bronze rectangular two-handled censer with sloping shoulder and flat demi-lune handles, the underside with a three-character mark of qin shu lü, companion of qin (musical instrument) and books.

  • M5291

    £2,250

    Chinese porcelain blue and white moulded Kraak saucer dish painted in the centre with a stylised flowerhead medallion with a bird perched on rockwork, amongst flowering camelia and other plants, encircled by ten petal-shape moulded medallions of aster between different panels of precious objects including scrolls and music stones.

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  • M5295

    £2,250

    Chinese porcelain blue and white moulded Kraak saucer dish painted in the centre with a grasshopper perched on rockwork amongst flowering camelia and daisies, encircled by ten petal-shape moulded medallions of aster between different panels of precious objects including scroll, leaf and gourd.

  • M5282

    £17,500

    Chinese gold-splashed small vase of hu form with two mask handles between an incised keyfret band, all on a slightly everted foot with flat rim, decorated overall in bright gold splashes.

  • R1347

    £9,850

    Chinese porcelain blue and white and underglaze copper-red thinly potted shallow bowl, painted on the interior with a central flowering lotus plant with leaves, bud and arrowhead, surrounded by sprays of prunus, lily and chrysanthemum, beneath a single underglaze blue line at the rim, the exterior with two stylised branches beneath two rings at the rim, the base with a six-character mark of Xuande within a single ring.

  • R1340

    £8,500

    Chinese porcelain blue and white octagonal bowl with pierced ‘reticulated’ roundels on each facet in pairs of honeycomb, wave, fretwork and cash, set within trapezoid windows, above a scroll and pearl pattern above a keyfret band, the interior glazed white, the base and foot rim unglazed.

  • 24. M4752

    £25,000

    Chinese ceramic green and amber glazed ingot-form pillow, zhen, moulded on the four sides with a quatrefoil reserve depicting four fish on an aquatic leaf ground, all reserved on an interlaced floral diaper ground within incised borders, the plain flat ends incised with a stylised flowerhead and a green glazed cross on an amber ground, one end pierced for the firing, the other with three original spur marks.

  • 25. M4750

    £48,000

    Chinese ceramic moulded sancai, three-colour glazed pillow, zhen, of rectangular form with concave headrest and flat sides, the top striped in green, amber and cream glaze with an incised double border, the wide ends with high relief camellia flowers on a continuous scrolling branch with leaves, the sides with flowerheads within a lozenge-shaped panel, all covered in a rich amber glaze, the smaller sides with spur marks, one with a small air hole from the firing, the base flat.

  • 27. M4754

    £48,000

    Large Chinese ceramic white and brown glazed inscribed pillow, zhen, of octagonal section, the gently concave top incised with a nineteen-character poetic verse flanked by incised foliage, the lip gently overhanging the flattened sides, covered in a rich cream glaze, the base predominantly unglazed with natural drip marks, the side pierced with an air hole from the firing.

  • 29. M4751

    £9,500

    Chinese ceramic green glazed monochrome pillow, zhen, of ruyi-head form, incised on the gently concave top with outlines following the form, with further incised lines beneath the sloping shoulder, the fluted body covered overall in a rich and even deep apple green glaze, the flat predominantly unglazed base revealing the buff-coloured body, with an air hole from the firing beneath the ruyi-head point.

  • 30. M4747

    £35,000

    Chinese ceramic Ding ware ingot-form pillow, zhen, moulded on the exterior, the gently sloping concave top incised and glazed in white with flowers forming a cash motif on a clear-glazed tan ground, each larger side with a relief recumbent stag between branches of buds, one side within a jewelled border, the other within a cross-hatched border, the smaller sides with stylised flowers, buds and leaves, the unglazed flat biscuit base pierced with an air hole revealing the high-fired body.

  • 31. R1075

    £28,000

    Chinese ceramic Ding ware cream glazed dish, pan, with flat base, short inverted foot and gently rounded sides, carved with a single lotus flower spray on a branch with leaves fitting neatly in the well with an incised outline, the flower and leaves with double and single outlines creating a three-dimensional effect, covered overall in a pale cream glaze gently pooling above the foot and creating a tear mark, the rim bound in copper.

  • 37. M5212

    £POA

    Chinese ceramic Jun ware lotus-bud form waterpot, jixin’guan, covered overall with a rich and even lustrous lavender sky-blue glaze, extending overall to the interior and the base thinning towards the light brown rim, all on a slightly splayed short unglazed brown knife-cut foot rim.

  • M5238

    £3,250

    Chinese small jade carving of a recumbent Buddhist lion with two horns and head turned back, holding in its mouth an openwork ruyi-cloud supporting a book, with upright trefoil tail, the four feet neatly tucked underneath, the stone pale celadon and slightly mottled on one side with russet hind quarters and tail.

  • M4241

    £18,000

    A rare and large Chinese porcelain blue and white bowl painted on the exterior with a dragon and phoenix bird amongst stylised flames, waves and flower sprays, the interior painted with a bird perched on rockwork amongst flowers encircled by a wide band of different flower sprays beneath butterflies in flight, blue glazed washed rim.

  • M4738

    £42,000

    Chinese porcelain wucai four-tiered square picnic box and cover with indented corners, the cover painted with five crane medallions amongst clouds, each side with two chrysanthemum blooms and foliage and each section interior with two orchids, three bases with a six-character mark of Chenghua in iron-red, the flat white biscuit base unglazed.

  • M1373

    £10,500

    Blue and white two handled tripod incense burner painted in a continuous mountain river scene, each side with two fisherman in boats heading towards viewing pavilions with a willow amongst rockwork beneath further viewing pavilions at the shoulder, birds in flight amongst stylised clouds and the moon, the interior of the handle painted with a yang symbol of three unbroken lines, the exterior of the handles with a single line beneath a dot, covered overall in a rich blue tinged glaze continuing on the interior, the rim and feet with mushikui.

Further information on Ming & Earlier

Early Ming dynasty ceramics took inspiration from the intricate but busy Islamic styles of the outgoing Yuan Mongols but it wasn’t long before the Han started to exert their own influences on design. From the 15th century onwards, Ming porcelain decoration became more subtle and restrained but as demand grew from Japan and Europe, it once again became more elaborate. It was one of China’s major exports and was often exchanged for Spanish silver. By the sixteenth century, Ming dynasty porcelain included vibrant colours such as blues, reds, greens and yellows.

By the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, it was becoming increasingly common for producers of Ming pottery and Ming porcelain to add imperial reign dates to their wares and there started a trend for artists to sign their wares. A signature on a Ming vase of one of the most highly respected Ming dynasty porcelain artists could dramatically affect its price, such was the reputation of some of the artisan craftsmen of the era, not unlike the European painters of the day.

You should also check

Blue & White

Blue & white pieces, synonymous with Chinese porcelain.

Doucai

Doucai ceramics, where parts of the design and some outlines, are painted in underglaze blue, the piece is then enamelled, glazed and fired.

Famille Verte

Objects containing underglaze blue with enamels of red, green and yellow.