A rare blue and white baluster jar, Guan 嘉靖六字底款青花罐


50.000 - 80.000


5 December 2023


Jiajing six character mark to the base and of the period (1522-1566)
Richly painted in intense shades of cobalt blue. Decorated with a continuous scene of figures in a garden, possibly alluding to Luo Guanzhong's classic work, "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". The shoulder is adorned with lotus flowers and lions. The foot is encircled with a band of petals, and the neck features six characters inscribed within shaped panels, alternated with stylized flowers, and set against a diaper background.

32,5x31x31 cm


Asian Art

Additional Information

Oriental Ceramic Society, 'Loan Exhibition of Chinese Blue and White Porcelain 14th to 19th Centuries', London, December 16th, 1953 - January 23rd, 1954, represented in the catalog as no. 161;

Raymond F.A. Riesco Collection, no. 237 (with collection label).

Delicious Wine for the Officials: A Blue and White Porcelain Jar from the Riesco Collection

Asian & Islamic Art Historian

This rare jar, painted in underglaze blue, is a magnificent example of blue-and-white porcelain produced in the kilns of 16th-century Jingdezhen. The shape, the decorative structure and the treatment of the motifs are characteristic of the porcelain made in the second half of this century. Most of all, the dark, thick blue colour is a quintessential trait of the period. The mark appearing on the glazed central medallion of an otherwise unglazed base reads 'Jiajing xinyou nianzhi 嘉靖辛酉年制', “Made in the Xinyou year of the Jiajing era”. 'Xinyou' indicates a year of the sexagenary cycle, in this case the fourtieth year of the Jiajing era, that is to say 1561 (1). The rim of the jar tells us that this object was, highly likely, used to store alcoholic beverages, probably rice or millet wine. The inscription made of six characters, each of them individually framed by a cloud-collar shaped medallion, reads: 'zhijiu baihu jinshen 旨(2)酒百壶缙绅', “a hundred pots of delicious wine for the officials”. The term 'jinshen' indicates the attire of high-ranking officials; literally, it is a reference to the belt, a symbol of status and power. By extension, this term indicates the officials themselves. Depicted on a dark blue background with geometrical patterns, the medallions framing the characters alternate with white flowers, probably stylized chrysanthemums. Below the rim, a register of auspicious 'ruyi' heads introduces the decoration on the jar’s shoulder. Another reference to rank is given by the motifs of this section, three lions divided by three lotus flowers with their scrolls. On Ming dynasty rank badges, the lion indicated the First and Second Military Rank since the imperial decree of emperor Hongwu in 1391 (3). This was to be the case until 1662, when the First Rank was replaced by the 'qilin' and the lion became the symbol of the Second Military Rank. The main decoration is constituted by human figures in a garden landscape with rocks, bamboo and pine trees. By turning the vase, the pictorial scene unfolds before the eyes of the observer and ends with a stylised cloud pattern. It is possibly a scene from the 14th-century historical novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", which was popular during the Ming dynasty and appears on woodblock prints and other porcelains of this period. The scene could represent the last of the three visits of the warlord Liu Bei (161-223) to the strategist Zhuge Liang (181234) in his hut, also known as the “Three Visits to the Cottage” (三顾茅庐). On this occasion Liu Bei finds the wise man in his hut, but he is told by the servant that he is asleep. Liu Bei is generally accompanied by his loyal friends Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, the latter being usually depicted with a large beard. The lower and last decorative register of the jar is filled by lotus panels, where the framed, floral scroll is left white on a dark blue background. This jar was part of the collection of R.F.A Riesco (1877-1964), who collected Chinese ceramics since at least 1935 and was a council member of the Oriental Ceramic Society from 1951 to 1961 (4). During this period, this porcelain was presented at the 1954 Oriental Ceramic Society Exhibition "Chinese Blue and White Porcelain, 14th to 19th centuries" as the lot number 161 (5), as confirmed by the label applied on the unglazed part of its base. Through its rim inscription, the depiction of lions and the main decorative scene, this outstanding jar gives multiple references to power and rank. The delicate treatment of the colour and of the rich motifs offers us a glimpse into the beauty and refinement of mid to late 16th-century blue and white porcelain.

(1) Although Jiajing marks were often used apocryphally by later periods, the stylistical analysis of the jar points towards an attribution of the second half of the 16th century and the cyclical year seems to correspond.
(2) This character appears on the jar with an ancient variation of zhǐ 旨, constituted by a上 above a ⽇.
(3) 3 “洪武 […] 二十四年定 […] 武官一品、二品狮子” Mingshi 明史 (History of the Ming), juan 67, section 43.
(4) Harry M. Garner, “R.F.A Riesco (Obituary)”, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, vol. 35, 1963-64, p. xxv. 5 Loan Exhibition of "Chinese Blue and White Porcelain, 14th to 19th centuries", London, The Oriental Ceramic Society, 1953, pl. 12, lot 161.

Closed Auction