Explore highlights
Porcelain flask


Height: 12.000 inches
Diameter: 5.800 inches

Gift of Sir A.W. Franks

OA F.778.+

Room 46: Europe 1400-1800

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    In the absence of strong glass bottles, the flask form (originally made of leather) was copied in a variety of pottery techniques in various cultures: this example is made of Chinese porcelain.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


    Browse or search over 4,000 highlights from the Museum collection

    On display: Room 46: Europe 1400-1800

    Shop Online

    Retelling of exciting Chinese myths, £6.99

    Retelling of exciting Chinese myths, £6.99