A blue and white octagonal vase and cover

Chongzhen, circa 1635-1650

The vase is of octagonal baluster shape with a short neck and slightly flaring foot. The exterior is painted with Wang Xizhi seated below a sun or moon in a rocky landscape, flanked by two attendants, one carrying a goose, the other a wrapped qin. The scene is divided by rocks and swirling clouds. The shoulders are painted with overlapping reserve-decorated ruyi-shaped panels containing flowerheads and scrolling foliage. Stylised downward-pointing leaves encircle the foot and a tooth border the neck. The flat base is left unglazed. The cover is painted with a lotus scroll and a flowerhead on the knop.

34 cm high


A Dutch private collection

The figure depicted on the present vase is Wang Xizhi, the famous calligrapher who lived during the fourth century. He admired geese because of their S-shaped neck, which inspired him, and is therefore often depicted being offered a goose, as on the present vase. Wang Xizhi wrote the Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion, a literary masterpiece which has inspired calligraphers throughout Chinese history. 

Vases, or covered jars, of this type were certainly exported to the Netherlands as they appear in Dutch VOC records. “Pots for Preserves” are first mentioned in 1635, while specific “Octagonal pots for Preserves” first appear in the records in 1643. This year corresponds with dated pieces found by Hatcher in the ‘Chinese Junk’ shipwreck, which contained a large number of similar octagonal jars. Most of the ‘Hatcher’ jars, however, are painted with floral designs rather than figures. A similar vase is illustrated by Little.

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