- Museum number
Porcelain Qizuo [stand] painted in underglaze blue. This hollow qizuo [stand] has a cylindrical body with bowed sides, a raised double ridge in the middle and no base. Both the large mouth and foot spread away from the body. It is decorated outside in very dark blue blurred cobalt tones. The upper and lower halves of the body are painted with calligraphic Arabic lettering immersed in ornamental leafy scroll work. Both of these bands are punctuated on either side by leafy scroll medallions. These, if positioned to north and south on the upper band, are then at east and west on the lower band. Around the central ridge is a double band of blue petals, the lower band inverted, outlined in white and with white details inside. The rim and foot are painted with elongated petals and with rosettes and palmettes on the underside of the top rim. The inside is glazed.
- Production date
Height: 17.40 centimetres
Width: 18.40 centimetres
Depth: 17.20 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Harrison-Hall 2001:
Prior to its acquisition by the British Museum, this porcelain stand was owned by Dr Joseph Aractingi who bought it in the sūq in Damascus, Syria. Its form and decoration are modelled after a silver-inlaid brass stand for a tray. Such a stand made in Mamluk, Egypt, c. 1300-50, inscribed with the name and titles of the Mamluk sultan Muhammad ibn Qalaun (r.1293-1341), is in the British Museum (BM 1897.0510.1). The fact that the proportions of the present stand are so much smaller may suggest that the design was copied from a drawing rather than from the original metal work. However, the consistency of decoration and accurate placement of the roundels may indicate that an original metal stand was copied. Very often the inscriptions on such stands are illegible, written presumably by a porcelain decorator who was unable to read the original Arabic inscription which he was copying and commissioned by an emperor for whom legibility was a secondary concern to aesthetics. Arabic lettering was used to ornament later porcelains made during the Zhengde and Wanli eras. Some of these have inscriptions which can be easily understood (see BM Franks.147B, BM 1973.0726.366, BM 1973.0726.363, BM Franks. 147A or BM 1957.1216.4). Only a few letters are decipherable.
Shards of blue-and-white stands of this type, with much brighter cobalt-blue decoration, were unearthed at Dongyuan, Zhushan, in 1993. One of these has a Xuande imperial reign mark. We know that many of the designs for porcelains of Middle Eastern form or decoration were introduced in the Yongle period and that they were continued in the Xuande era. The dark, almost black cobalt blue used here is more characteristic of the Yongle than the Xuande era. Although extremely rare, at least three other stands of this type survive without marks. One is in the Tianjin Museum, another is in the Beijing Palace Museum and a third was in the Hebei Provincial Cultural Relics Shop in 1980.
Porcelain with underglaze blue decoration
Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province
Ming Dynasty, Yongle Period, 1403 - 24
- On display (G42/dc8)
- Exhibition history
2014 Sep-2015 Jan, BM WCEC, 'Ming: 50 years that changed China'
- Acquisition date
- Registration number