Porcelain flask

From Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, China
Ming dynasty, around AD 1573-1620

'Export' porcelain, decorated with the arms of Spain

In the absence of strong glass bottles, the flask form (originally made of leather) was copied in a variety of pottery techniques in various cultures: this example is made of Chinese porcelain.

The brilliant white body of porcelain was unknown in Europe and it became much sought after by princely collectors. The Portuguese, who had developed extensive trading links with India and the Orient from the mid-sixteenth century, were the first to export it in any quantity to Europe. The 'export' porcelain, that is, made specifically for export markets and not for home consumption, was transported in Portuguese ships known as 'Carraks' (Carraca), and is usually known as 'Kraak' ware. The porcelain was supplied by flourishing workshops based in Jingdezhen, which was transported down river to the Portuguese settlement at Macau, where it was loaded onto ships.

Spanish trade routes were concentrated on the Americas and the New World rather than to the east, but when in 1580 Spain annexed Portugal and her outposts, Spanish trade with the Orient gained momentum. The arms on this bottle were probably copied from a Spanish silver coin minted during the reign of King Philip II (reigned 1556-98).

Find in the collection online

More information



Height: 12.000 inches
Diameter: 5.800 inches

Museum number

OA F.778.+


Gift of Sir A.W. Franks


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore