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Artist/maker unknown, Chinese

Made in China, Asia

Yongle Period (1403-1424) or Xuande Period (1426-1435)

Early 15th century

Porcelain with underglaze blue decoration of bamboo, pine, and plum (Jingdezhen ware)

3 5/16 x 8 11/16 x 8 3/4 inches (8.4 x 22 x 22.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
East Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Henry B. Keep Fund, the Joseph E. Temple Fund, the Bloomfield Moore Fund, the John T. Morris Fund, and with funds contributed by Mrs. Walter H. Annenberg, The Beneficia Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. J. Welles Henderson, Mrs. Howard H. Lewis, Mrs. William F. Machold, Mrs. Donald Petrie, Meyer P. Potamkin, Hugh Scott, and Mrs. William L. Van Alen, 1984

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Dubbed the “Three Friends of Winter,” the bamboo, pine, and plum that ornament this bowl remain green and blossom during the winter months. Collectively they symbolize fortitude and resilience in adverse conditions, moral qualities associated with the gentleman scholar. Imperial blue-and-white wares from this early period were decorated with cobalt imported from Persia that produced a deep, inky blue hue. The dark specks are from excess cobalt in the glaze.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    When the use of cobalt as a pigment for painting ceramics was introduced to China from the Middle East in the fourteenth century, it opened a new world of decorative possibilities. Instead of relying on different colored glazes to create patterns, Chinese artists could achieve pictorial results on ceramics comparable to those found in ink paintings on paper and silk. The subject illustrated on this bowl is the Three Friends of Winter: two plants that remain green in the winter, a sturdy pine branch and a stalk of bamboo, along with the flowering plum, which is the first to bloom as a harbinger of spring. The brushwork is from the hand of a master who met the challenge of working on the curved surface with confidence and dexterity, creating a composition that transcends mere decoration to become the focus for the graceful rhythms of the sloping sides of the bowl itself. Felice Fischer, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 30.

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