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China, Jiangxi Province; Ming period (1368-1644), late 14th century
Porcelain with underglaze copper red (Jingdezhen ware)
H. 20 in. (50.8 cm); D. 16 3/4 in. (42.5 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection of Asian Art
This large jar in the guan shape provides an outstanding example of late-14th century porcelain painted with a copper-red pigment. The red color of the underglaze copper pigment is notoriously difficult to achieve during firing, and pieces decorated exclusively with this color are scarcer than the well-known blue-and-white types. This jar, which once had a cover and a slightly longer neck, was probably used for storage. The central section of the jar is painted with a traditional Chinese theme called the Three Friends of Winter (suihan sanyou): the pine, plum, and bamboo, which flourish under adverse conditions and are symbols of longevity, perseverance, and integrity, the virtues of the ideal scholar-gentleman. The camellias, roses, plantains, and strangely shaped Taihu rocks on the jar indicate that the Three Friends are growing within the confines of a traditional scholar-gentleman's garden. The high quality of the painting on this jar and its large size indicate that it was an expensive item, probably made for a wealthy scholar-gentleman or possibly for the court.
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