A blue-ground Ko-Sometsuke “Lotus pond and cranes” dish, Tianqi or Chongzhen period

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This petal-lobed dish is reverse-decorated with lotus plants, four cranes and water surrounded by different flowers, the upright barbed rim is dressed in iron oxide and the base is unglazed. Some high-quality products made for Japan during Chongzhen are referred to as “Shonzui” wares. They often have barbed rims dressed in iron oxide like this dish (see below for more information).

Period: Late Ming dynasty, Tianqi or Chongzhen (1621-1644)

Size: Height 3.5 cm, diameter 17.5 cm

Condition: Excellent condition with minor wear, firing defects and minor loss of glaze. Rim slightly uneven (see profile pictures).

Provenance: From a Swedish private collection

SKU: 16

References: There is a related dish in the Butler Collection illustrated in Leaping the Dragon Gate – The Sir Michael Butler Collection of Seventeenth-Century Chinese Porcelain, Teresa Canepa & Katharine Butler, Ad Ilissvm 2022, Plate 1.64.

There is a Shonzui style dish from Kyoto National Museum of similar shape and size.

Additional information

Ko-sometsuke, or “old blue-and-white” in Japanese is a type of Chinese porcelain made for the Japanese market in the early seventeenth century. These products often feature relatively coarse bodies and glazing as well as “naive” pictorial designs. Such “imperfections” were intentionally created to achieve a natural, even a humble aesthetic effect that was highly appreciated by the Japanese.

Shonzui wares are items of Chinese porcelain, made at Jingdezhen during the Chongzhen period (and therefore later than the ko-sometsuke wares), for export to Japan in a distinctly Japanese style. They tend to be well-potted of good export quality, often with brown-dressed rims, and decorated in a distinctive manner with rich brocade-like patterns. The word Shonzui itself is a Japanese word. The origin and meaning of this term is the subject of much debate in Japan. There are examples known of these wares with an 8-character inscription which, it has been suggested, can be read in Japanese as meaning 'Made by Gorodaiyu Wu Shonzui'. The Japanese identify a number of sub-types of Shonzui wares, including the basic Shonzui wares, 'Hon Shonzui' wares, and 'Iro-e Shonzui' or coloured Shonzui.