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Bowl Carved with Design of Boys Among Peonies

Among the finest porcelain wares ever produced, qingbai (bluish white) constitutes one of the main groups of porcelain manufactured during the Song dynasty (A.D. 960–1279). It is characterized by a fine, white, pure clay body of sugary structure, surprisingly thin and highly translucent potting, and a glaze that varies from strong bluish green to pale blue or almost white. Designs were incised, carved, and molded; incised wares were often worked with a thin, pointed tool and a comblike instrument.

In this extremely fine bowl, the swirling decoration of the two bald-headed boys and peony scroll is cursively incised with great vigor and movement. Designs showing two or three small boys climbing among flowers are very common in qingbai wares. The peony symbolizes spring and is an omen of good fortune. The cherubic boys crawling on all fours probably allude to a wish for male progeny. An unusual feature is the Chinese character zhang carved in the center of the bowl, which probably denotes the surname of the family workshop that produced the piece.


(Luen Chai Curios Store, Hong Kong);

purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1995.