Dish with Melon Design
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
early 15th century
Blue-and-white ware, porcelain, cobalt oxide pigment
H. 3 1/16 in. (7.7 cm); Diam. 17 1/16 in. (43.4 cm)
Currently On View
Porcelains of the Ming dynasty, namely the blue-and-white wares produced during the fifteenth century, begin a new chapter in the history of Chinese ceramic art. Although cobalt was used as a blue coloring agent earlier in China, the application of cobalt oxide pigment to plain porcelain wares before glazing is thought to have begun in the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368), using cobalt imported from the Middle East. Extant Yuan examples, however, are scarce, and the large-scale production of blue-and-white wares began with the establishment of the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen, in Jiangxi province, during the Yongle era (1403–24) of the early Ming dynasty. The precise, fluid decoration of this large dish is orderly and spacious, in contrast to more crowded designs on fourteenth-century wares. The flat rim is decorated with a pattern of rolling and cresting waves; the cavetto is filled with an open scrolling floral vine; and the center medallion contains an unusual and exceptionally well-painted design of melons, leaves, and twisting tendrils. The mastery of the artist is particularly evident in the modeling of the fruit and leaves, in which unpainted areas of white are skillfully transformed into highlights.