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Porcelain chicken cup in doucai painted enamels, Chenghua reign (1465-1487), Ming dynasty

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Porcelain chicken cup in doucai painted enamels
Chenghua reign (1465-1487), Ming dynasty
H. 4 cm;Diam. 8.3 cm;Diam. of base 3.7 cm


Late Ming collectors prized blue and white porcelain from the Xuande reign above all other ceramics, followed by wucai porcelain from the official kilns of the Chenghua reign. In the eyes of collectors at the time, wucai refers to this type of doucai porcelain. Of the Chenghua doucai works in the collections of the National Palace Museum, the decorative patterns on the cups are the most varied, including cups with grape patterns, cups with babies playing together, cups depicting great scholars, tall-footed cups with flower and bird patterns, and of course, the renowned chicken cups. In his work, "Rongcha lishuo," the late Ming to early Qing scholar Cheng Zhe stated that doucai chicken cups were highly regarded, and a pair of these had already reached a price of one hundred thousand cash during the reign of Emperor Shenzong of Ming. This small cup has a wide mouth, short walls, and a flat base with a short ring foot. The exterior walls are painted with two scenes of a rooster and hen accompanying their three chicks. The two scenes are divided by painted China roses and orchids. Around the mouth and base, three blue lines have respectively been painted. The inner surface is pure white and unadorned. On the underside of the base, six characters in blue and white glaze stating, "Da Ming Cheng Hua Nian Zhi (Made in the Chenghua Reign of the Great Ming Empire)," have been inscribed in standard script. Previously from the Chenghua official kiln archaeological site at Chushan in Jingdezhen, a half-completed blue and white chicken cup with only the cobalt glaze applied was excavated, and a comparison of this with existing works suggests that doucai porcelain was made by first painting the outlines with cobalt glaze, and then using glazes of other colors to fill in the outlines, after which the works were fired in the kilns. From the Imperial Workshop Archives of the Qing Court, the provenance of this doucai chicken cup can be traced to the Yongzheng reign at least, and the accompanying box with silk embroidery was made at the behest of the Qianlong Emperor.


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