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c1830 Chinese Export Blue and White Porcelain Bowl (vines, sacred fungus, fruit, etc.)
Antique Late Qing (Ch’ing) Chinese Blue & White Export bowl from the early to mid 1800s (c1810 to 1850, hence the c1830 mid date). The potting is moderately thin and the bowls rings true like a bell. The glaze has a slight grayish blue-green tint that seems to soften the hand painted cobalt blue decoration (see first 8 Photos). Under magnification, one can see that the glaze contains thousands of tiny bubbles that blur and cover the blue painted lines and that these lines lie deeper down in the glaze. The hand painted floral decoration consists of two basic compositions that alternate. The first motif is a large fruiting flower pendant that is visible up close in Photo 3. The second motif is composed thin leafy vines shown up close in Photo 2. The leafy vines enclose what appears to be the symbol for sacred fungus and which is visible in the center of Photo 2. The fungus motif can be described as a two conjoined sworls and also goes by the label ‘Ling-zhi’ or ‘Ling-chih.’ These two alternating motifs are repeated five times around the exterior circumference of the bowl (see Photo 4).
A single blue line forms the top border just under a slightly protruding rim. All the decoration begins along this upper blue line and then descends downward before stopping about three quarters of the way down the bowl (see Photo 1. Three fine blue concentric lines encircle the footring and perfectly complete the undecorated lower section of the bowl. Under the base and centered within the tall foot ring is a blue hand painted ‘chop’ mark (see Photos 4 and 5), a common practice on some Chinese wares produced in the 1800s (e.g., somewhat more common during Jiaqing, Daoguang, Xianfeng and Tongzhi Imperial reigns). This square chop mark is very carefully painted and has a central lozenge adorn by fretwork like internal extensions running to each corner (see Photos 4 and 5).
Below and next to the chop mark are some very tiny fine lines scratched into the surface of the glaze that are not readily visible unless viewed up close using reflected light and magnification. Some of the scratches display an uneven brownish copper tinge or stain and this effect is captured in Photo 5. The area scratched is about 5/8 inches long by 3/8 inches wide and the scratches are not deep but simply penetrate the very top or surface of the glaze.
The glaze itself is comparatively thick and contains a few small black specks as well as pin holes that are noticeable only upon very close inspection. Major production defects are not present although there are three small inclusions of brown clay (or fine sand) visible on the interior of the bowl just below the rim (see Photos 6 and 7). A pencil points to these inclusions in Photo 7 and they can also be felt by your finger tip since they create small depressions or dents in the glaze.
The quality of the underglaze blue painting on this bowl is above average especially for Chinese export porcelain exported after 1800 and the brush work is not smeared or distorted. The painting is rendered with a pencil, the term given to a brush with few brush hairs so that it produces a thin line. The decoration on this bowl was completed quickly with both skill and dexterity. This is evident in the mirrored repetition of the pattern where each panel is bilaterally symmetrical. And as already noted, the decoration is repeated around the circumference five times but the segment centered around the sacred fungus symbol also has horizontal symmetry, too, in addition to bilateral symmetry. The stylized sacred fungus motif consists of a double whorl with just the vestiges of buds whereas some Sacred Fungus renditions also display sprouting leaves of grass (see Jean McClure Mudge’s ‘Chinese Export Porcelain in North America’, page 234, Fig 394, and published in 2000 by Riverside Book Company, Inc., NY).
The style of decoration found on this Chinese Export porcelain bowl is not well represented in the fragments of porcelain excavated from historic house sites in the United States. Cheaper Canton export wares with crudely rendered riverscapes dominate the Chinese porcelain imported in the United States after 1820 and archaeological excavations conducted along the east and west coasts have recovered thousands for fragments of these cruder Canton wares. And before 1820, finer riverscapes with greater detail were commonly marketed as Nanking wares and were popular among the more affluent classes in America’s growing urban areas in both tea wares and dinner services. In contrast to these export wares, the decoration on this bowl represents a shift in decoration. Leafy vines with large pendant clusters of fruiting flowers offer a simple contrast to the busier riverscapes. Then after about 1840, another blue and white floral design seems to be grow in popularity among Chinese export porcelains. The hand painted pattern consists of curling and spiraling leafy vines covering the entire exterior of jars and bowls with a simple sweat pea flower prominently placed and repeated three or five times around the exterior and frequently alternated with double happiness symbols (see Esten, Fischell and Wahlund’s ‘Blue & White China: Origins / Western Influences’ for examples on page 143, published in 1987 by Little Brown & Company, Boston). These later wares are also referred to as ‘blue and white ‘Nonya’ or ‘Shanghai’ ware and seem to become popular in the decades after 1850 on up to about 1900.
The last photo shows another example of the same pattern as the bowl offered here but rendered on a small plate. In order to adapt this same motif to flatware, a 12 point star occupies the center of the plate around which the same pendant fruiting flower and leafy vines are repeated (see Photo 9). This small plate is not for sale here, and only the bowl shown in the first eight photos is available for purchase under this listing. However, the plate indicates that this particular pattern was produced on table and dessert wares in the early 1800s, most likely during the 1800 to 1850 period (e.g., Jiaqing and Daoguang reigns). And if any viewer knows more about this particular leafy vine and fruit pattern, do kindly drop me a note - - thanks, Doc.
So if you are looking for a nice 1800s Chinese Blue & White bowl in excellent condition, then make sure you seriously consider this one while it is still available. And as always, this antique bowl also comes with my Docs Antiques 100% satisfaction guarantee or you may return it using my return policy for a refund (see full Return Policy details farther below). You also have the option to request a customized lay-away plan for purchasing this item (and others when combining orders) by simply requesting the terms you wish to use and then let Doc take care of setting it up and combining any Docs Antiques items together under a single order. Payment installments are flexible and may be modified at any time should the unexpected ever arise, just let me know by email and I’ll alter the due dates.
SIZE & CONDITION: This bowl stands 3 inches tall and measures 6 5/8 inches across at the rim (diameter). It sits on a tall foot ring that has a diameter of about 2 3/8 inches across. The foot ring measures about 1/2 inches tall along its interior face and is slightly shorter along it exterior face indicating that the interior center of the bowl has been thinned when finishing the footring. The bowl weighs just under 3/4 lbs when empty and is in excellent condition with no damage, hairlines, chips, cracks, major scratches, stains or heavy wear (see all eight Photos). The glaze is shiny and exhibits no crazing and there are no repairs or restoration. Of course, if the buyer is not completely satisfied, then she/he may return this antique bowl for a refund (see our complete return policy for all details as noted below).
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