A blue and white bowl
Kangxi, circa 1662-1680
The bowl stands on a high straight foot, the rounded sides spreading towards the rim. The outside is painted in underglaze blue with a large blossoming prunus tree, a fruiting pomegranate tree and lychee tree, all between two double-line borders. The foot is painted with a further double-line border. The interior is painted with a central panel enclosing a peony spray, rocks and a leafless tree, below flowering branches bordering the rim. The recessed base is inscribed with a six-character mark shen de tang bo gu zhi.
19.7 cm diameter
Formerly in a Dutch private collection
The present bowl is sturdily potted and painted with a strong blue under a very fine glaze. The shape, characterised by its high foot and deep sides, is probably inspired from Jiajing-period (1522-1566) imperial bowls. The mark, shen de tang bo gu zhi, translates to ‘Made in the antique style for the Hall for the Cultivation of Virtue’. This hall mark appears on porcelains from the early Kangxi period and on imperial porcelains from the Daoguang period.
The combination of lychee, pomegranate and prunus is rather unusual. Lychee, lizhi, is a pun for clever and symbolises the birth of a son; pomegranate, shiliu, is a symbol of fertility and prunus, mei, represents perseverance, purity and old age. Lychees are rarely depicted on porcelain but appear frequently among lacquer wares from the Ming dynasty(1368-1644). Very few bowls of this type and with this mark appear to be recorded. There is a bowl of similar shape with the same mark, painted in underglaze blue with a floral pattern against a coral-red ground, formerly in the collection of Evelyn Annenberg Hall and sold at auction in New York. Another bowl of this shape and decorated in a very similar style, bearing a Kangxi mark on the base, is illustrated by Chen Runmin.