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Dragon Dish




Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Hongzhi period (1488-1505)


Dragon Dish


Porcelain, incised reserve decoration enamelled green on the biscuit (anhua)


4.5 x 20.1 cm


Purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest (in replacement of a gift of F. Cleveland Morgan), inv. 1998.54.1-2 (1949.50.Dp.10)


Archeology and World Cultures

This dish is decorated with the five-clawed dragon, symbol of the Chinese emperor, emblem of the East, and dispenser of fertility, water and rain. The decoration is known as anhua, or secret. The motifs were incised and then covered with wax. The dish was then given a coat of clear glaze and fired at about 1,350 degrees Celsius, a temperature high enough to vitrify the glaze and fuse it with the porcelain body. At the same time, the heat melted the wax, exposing the unglazed motifs to the heat of the kiln. The motifs were then painted in green enamel, and the bowl was fired again, at a lower temperature, to vitrify the enamel without damaging it. Coloured enamel decoration fired at a lower temperature was an innovation of mid-fifteenth-century China. This innovation, which made possible more naturalistic and permanent polychrome decoration on porcelain, was to change the course of ceramic production both in China and elsewhere.

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