A very rare wucai and turquoise 'dragon' dish. Late Ming dynasty, Chong Zhen period (1628-1644). Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2010
Painted in the center with a green horned dragon rising from the waves in pursuit of a flaming pearl, surrounded by swirling clouds below a band of rocks rising from crashing waves, with two further dragons in iron red and green on the exterior racing amidst ruyi heads and babao as they pursue flaming pearls, the base painted in underglaze blue with an eight-character inscription, Jiaxu chunmeng Zhaofu zaoyong (Jiaxu year first Spring month, made for the use of the Zhao Mansion), within a double circle - 10 3/8 in. (26.5 cm.) diam. Est. $10,000 - $15,000
Provenance: Acquired in Hawaii in 1986.
Notes: Only four other dishes bearing this unusual mark appear to be recorded. One of these dishes is in the Percival David Foundation and illustrated by Ming Wilson, Rare Marks on Chinese Ceramics, Percival David Foundation, London, 1988, pp. 30-1, no. 5, where the author notes that two other dishes with this mark are in the Palace Museum, Beijing, and one is in a private Swedish Collection. The fourth known example would appear to be the dish in the Shanghai Museum illustrated in Zhongguo taoci quanji - 21 - Jingdezhen caihui ciqi, Shanghai, 1981, no. 50. According to Ming Wilson, op. cit., p. 30, "Zhaofu (Zhao Mansion) referred to the Princedom of Zhao, one of the 24 principalities set up by the Hongwu Emperor during the early years of the dynasty." The author proposes that the owner of this group of dishes could have been either Zhu Cigan, who inherited the title Prince of Zhao in 1617, or his successor, Zhu Changyu, who was captured by Qing troops in 1644.
Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Including Property from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections. 26 March 2010. New York, Rockefeller www.christies.com