Porcelain meiping vase with underglaze blue decoration. This heavily potted meiping has a straight narrow neck with thickened lip and a flat unglazed base. It is painted beneath the glaze in rich deep blue with two pairs of male and female mandarin ducks swimming among giant lotus plants and water weeds. Below this is a border of feathery plantain leaves. Around the neck are three individual flower sprays: a lotus and two different types of peony - one with smooth and one with spiky leaves.
- Made in: Jingdezhen
- (Asia,China,Jiangxi (province),Jingdezhen)
- Found/Acquired: China
- Height: 38 centimetres
Mandarin ducks, native to East Asia, live in pairs and are mistakenly believed to mate for life: thus they became a symbol of marital happiness. This misconception may result from the fact that the markings of female mandarin ducks are extremely hard to distinguish from those of the males, and one drake could in fact mate with a series of different but similar-looking female ducks. Although mandarin ducks decorate earlier sixth-to-seventh-century textiles, they are then usually shown as pairs of male ducks. For example, a printed silk fragment of the Tang period showing confronting male ducks was excavated from a tomb in Astana at Turfan, Xinjiang, in 1968 and is now in the museum in Urumuqi. During the Yuan dynasty the theme of male and female mandarin ducks first became a popular decorative motif on porcelain but was also used to ornament costume. For instance, a robe with a mandarin duck and drake design was excavated recently in a tomb in Inner Mongolia. Items decorated with mandarin ducks are often presented as wedding gifts. One may speculate that this meiping, filled with wine, was originally given in such a context.
This general type of meiping was made from the late Xuande to the Zhengtong period. A vase of identical form, also painted in this dark blue pigment with the same lotus-petal band and the same peony or composite flower scroll around the shoulder but with a design of peacock and peahen among giant tree peonies, is in the Palace Museum, Beijing. A covered guan jar with a similar design of mandarin ducks swimming among giant lotus plants, excavated from a royal tomb of the Zhengtong reign, is in the Wuhan City Museum. Later in the Tianshun reign meiping generally were made with slimmer form and more elaborate borders.
11 April 1997
Cleaned using a solution of Ariel automatic (anionic and non ionic synthetic surfactants,sodium tripolyphosphate) in distilled water, using cotton wool swabs on satay sticks. After cleaning the surface is rinsed with distilled water applied on cotton wool swabs or Kleenex tissue. Surface wiped wth a dry tissue to remove any remaining distilled water.
The Seligman Collection of Oriental Art
Porcelain meiping vase with two pairs of male and female mandarin ducks swimming among lotus plants and water weeds. Main body banded by an upper border of lotus and peony sprays, and a lower border of plantain leaves.
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Object reference number: RRC15213
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