A blue and white bowl

Daoguang mark and period (1821-1850)

The bowl with rounded sides and flaring rim is supported on a slightly tapering foot. The exterior is painted on one side with eight boys taking part in a procession whilst playing instruments, the other side with eight further boys playing a game at a simulated water course. The scene is divided by two zigzag fences. The base is inscribed with a six-character seal mark.

15.4 cm diameter

 

Provenance:

Formerly in the Weishaupt Collection, inventory no. 575

 

Published:

Avitabile, G., From the Dragons’ Treasure: Chinese Porcelain from the 19th and 20th centuries in the Weishaupt Collection, London, 1987, pl. 98

 

The scene featuring sixteen children on this finely painted bowl is found on blue and white porcelain of the Yongle period (1403-1424), which was the forerunner of the motif known as ‘sixteen boys’ in later periods of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

This subject typifies the Chinese desire for many sons; according to Confucian philosophy, abundant male offspring were considered essential to perform the duties of the family in society and the rituals and sacrifices for the deceased ancestors. The literature source of ‘the sixteen boys at play’ is the legend of the Prince Wen of the Zhou dynasty chronicled in the Zuozhuan. The design became more popular during the reign of Emperor Jiajing, whose great desire to sire a son during the early years of his reign resulted in the production of large amounts of porcelains decorated with boys. The subject was revived in the mid-Qing dynasty.

An identical bowl from the Simon Kwan Collection was exhibited in the Art Gallery of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.


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