- Museum number
Square porcelain bottle with underglaze blue decoration. This bottle has four flat sides with slightly curved tops, a tubular neck, a stepped collar and a flat base. Two sides are painted with a cross with a crown of thorns and a ladder leaning against it in a garden setting where banana plants are growing. A cockerel, a whip and a dog are in the foreground. On the other two sides are a host of cherubs playing horns and beating drums among the clouds, and on the ground below are a Chinese house and pagoda. Each side is bordered by flowering scrolls and the neck of the bottle is painted with Western-style flowers.
- Production date
- 1620-1644 (circa)
Diameter: 22.50 centimetres (corner to corner)
Height: 39.30 centimetres
Weight: 4.65 kilograms
Width: 16.70 centimetres
Depth: 16.70 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Harrison-Hall 2001:
These design elements symbolically depict the death of Christ and his resurrection. The empty cross and the ladder evoke Joseph of Arimathaea's night rescue of Jesus's body after the crucifixion and the plants refer to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was entombed. The cockerel symbolizes Peter's triple denial of Jesus before the cockerel crowed, as predicted by Jesus at the Last Supper. The whip symbolizes the torture of Jesus before execution. The dog turning to look at the crow is holding a lighted candle in its mouth; this is a seventeenth-century symbol for the religious order of the Dominicans based on the Latin origin of their name, 'Domini canes', meaning 'dogs of the Lord'. The jubilant angels on the other two sides above the Chinese landscape possibly herald the resurrection of Christ and his ascent to heaven or may represent the choir of angels at the inn of Bethlehem on the morning of the nativity.
The bottle's shape has a European prototype, although here it has become rather exaggerated. Dutch square-section glass and stoneware bottles were used in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to transport by sea alcoholic beverages and oil for lighting lamps. Another bottle of this type is in a grand eighteenth-century private house, now the Musee Orbigny-Bernon, La Rochelle, France. In its overall style, this bottle is more closely related to wares made for the Dutch than for the Portuguese market. A comparable bottle with Chinese designs only fitted with a late seventeenth-century Dutch silver mount, is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
This bottle was acquired from the collection of a French Canadian, M. Pelland. Prior to ownership by Pelland, the bottle formed part of the William Cummins Collection. Cummins was a railway engineer on the Bombay-Calcutta line. He collected this bottle in India between 1864 and 1886. On his retirement, he settled in Canada.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1994, Taiwan, National Museum of History, Ancient Chinese Trade Ceramics
1995 27 Jan-26 Mar, London, BM, G91, East Meets West: Chinese Trade Ceramics in the British Museum
2012 22 Jun-2013 6 Jan, Beijing, National Museum of China, ‘Passion for Porcelain’
- Associated events
- Associated Event: Passion
- Acquisition date
- Registration number