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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Porcelain flask of baoyueping form with two cloud-shaped handles attached at the sides of the neck. Underglaze blue scene of a song bird on a flowering prunus branch on one side and a peach branch on the other. Stylised flower sprays on neck.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1403-1424
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 308 millimetres
    • Width: 254 millimetres
    • Depth: 150 millimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Published PDF date : Ming early 15th centuryRoom 95 label text:

    PDF A612

    ‘Moon’ flask with birds and flowering branches

    This 抱月瓶 (bao yue ping ‘moon flask’) has a flattened circular body, cylindrical neck and cloud-shaped handles. Under strict court supervision, potters painted a design of a bird perched on a winter-flowering prunus branch (without leaves) on one side and on the other side is a second bird on a different flowering branch accompanied by bamboo. Such designs appear on contemporary early Ming small format fan paintings and album leaves.

    Porcelain with underglaze cobalt-blue decoration
    Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province 江西省, 景德鎮
    Ming dynasty, Yongle period, AD 1403–24


  • Bibliography

    • Medley 1975 Colour pl. 41 and p. 310 (Reverse p. 276) bibliographic details
    • Medley 1976 p.36, no.A612, pl.V bibliographic details
    • Pierson 2004 p.54, no.A612, colour p.36 bibliographic details
    • Scott 1989A p.59, no.30 bibliographic details
    • Pierson 2002 p.62, no.46 bibliographic details
    • Scott 1989B p.73, no.61 bibliographic details
    • Krahl & Harrison-Hall 2009 pp 58-61, no.28 bibliographic details
  • Location


  • Exhibition history


    2014 Sep-2015 Jan, BM WCEC, 'Ming: Courts and Contacts 1400-1450' PROMISED

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    9 April 2009

    Treatment proposal

    Leave gold repair. Try to clean joins without dismantling. Refill area on the side to better colour match


    The object has been previously bonded with an adhesive that has now yellowed, possibly an epoxy resin. Filled area along join lines have also discoloured. Conservation records obtained from the Percival David Foundation indicate that this object was latterly repaired in the 1980's. An area of loss at the rim has been filled and is gold in colour. Gold extends to cover join lines lower down the neck. The object is covered in a general layer of dirt.

    Upon further examination it was evident that the gold area at the rim was not a traditional gold lacquer repair, as previously assumed, but a much later addition made from plaster and gold acrylic paint. This repair may have been part of the 1980’s conservation treatment but this cannot be confirmed. Dismantling would also be necessary as solubility tests prove the adhesive to be an epoxy resin. During dismantling the ‘gold repair’ would be removed. In depth discussions with the curator indicated that all earlier documentation referred to the object as having a gold repair. A black and white catalogue image from the 1920’s showed the object with an area which may or may not have been the current gold repair. Discussions concluded that the gold area at the rim should be replaced during treatment using current conservation materials and methods to create a fill which simulated but did not copy a traditional lacquer repair. This is the expected appearance of the object which for historic purposes should be retained.

    Treatment details

    The object was surface cleaned with deionised water and a few drops of Synperonic N (non ionic detergent, nonylphenol ethylene oxide condensate), using cotton wool pads. Surfaces were then rinsed with deionised water on cotton wool and the surface wiped with dry lab tissue to remove any remaining water. Gold paint was removed from both the fill and adjacent ceramic surfaces with acetone on swabs. The plaster fill underneath was softened with deionised water applied with a brush and removed manually with a scalpel. Fine plaster residues were removed with a steam cleaner. At this point three small fragments became loose and were dismantled.

    The first attempt to dismantle the object involved placing it in a Dichloromethane environment within a sealed desiccator. After three days no noticeable softening of the adhesive had occurred. As a final resort Nitromors (dichloromethane based water-washable paint stripper) was applied to all join lines. The object was covered in tin foil to reduce evaporation and covered in a second layer of tightly secured plastic bags, all within the fume cupboard. After two days the object was unwrapped and the Nitromors removed using dry lab tissue. The object was thoroughly rinsed under cold running water to remove remaining Nitromors. All break edges were steam cleaned to remove any softened resin and advance the failure of joins. This process was repeated a further three times, leaving Nitromors on overnight, until failure of all joins had occurred. The object dismantled in to 32 pieces. It was noticed that pieces of Sellotape had been left on the interior of the object from the previous reconstruction. This deteriorated and yellowed tape was removed. Nitromors was applied to break edges where necessary to swell remaining adhesive. This was removed in the same manner until break edges were clean.

    Staining around cracks near the base was reduced using a poultice of Laponite mixed using deionised water using ‘L’ tissue as a barrier layer. Steam cleaning was used to remove residues.

    Once thoroughly dry all pieces were taped together using pressure sensitive tape. Fynebond (epoxy resin) was introduced by capillary action to all joins from the exterior. After 24 hours excess was removed with a scalpel and swabs dampened with acetone.

    Areas of loss were colour gap filled with Fynebond (epoxy resin) bulked with Aerosil 850 (fumed silica). Detail was built up using artists dry ground pigments to closely match the original in all areas apart from that at the rim where no detail was introduced. A clear layer of resin was applied over the top of filled areas. Once dry the desired surface was achieved by polishing with increasing grades of Micromesh (Aluminium oxide abrasive cloth). To simulate a gold repair the plain coloured fill was coated in Japan Gold Size thinned with White Spirit (composition variable - petroleum distillate). Gold leaf was applied to the size once the right surface tack had been achieved. A small soft brush was used to remove excess and to lightly burnish the filled area.

    About these records 

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition notes

    Margaret Medley, 1975 records: From the Hon Mountstuart Elphinstone Collection. PDF card: Hon. Mountstuart Elphinstone Collection

  • Department


  • Registration number



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Object reference number: RRC39518

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