Subject:Cabbage & Butterfly Porcelain Bowl
Posted By: Robin Thu, Jul 08, 2021 IP: 2600:1700:3af0:3530:
I would love input into my research on this bowl and thank you to all who contributed in advance! Let me start out by saying that I have no conclusions for this bowl, only the following observances.
The bowl is approximately 11 ¾’ wide and 6” high. It is weighty and has a beautiful ring to it when gently tapped.
Overglaze or underglaze: This bowl has no evidence of overglaze paint except for the red handwritten mark on the bottom and the gold gilt on the shou symbol. Close up, you can see the order in which the colors may have been applied due to which colors appear to have been slightly painted over the others. After hand etching the design into the porcelain bisque, the black outline was applied first, followed by white (stems), then yellow (and variations), then small amount of copper red in the deep color and the lighter wash red. Green seems to have been the last major color applied to the bowl. (Note: there are also minor splashes of cobalt blue wash in some of the butterfly wings.)
I would technically classify this bowl as “Famille Jaune” which is related to Famille Verte being the only difference is that Yellow is used as the predominant ground color. Famille Verte and Famille Jaune are decorated in green, yellow, manganese and white (for the most part). In this group, the enamel is applied directly to the unglazed or “biscuit” porcelain body.
Polychrome - the technique of onglaze enameling Jingdezhen porcelain began in the early Ming dynasty. The colors were derived from metallic ores, including iron, manganese, cobalt and copper.
Black - used mainly for outlining or detailing is a combination of manganese and iron.
Yellow - the color of yellow seen on this bowl is a brownish or dirty egg yolk color. (Note about colors: Bright lemon yellow was never seen on 17th century pieces. But this “dirty” yellow was. Also, this bowl lacks the rich emerald green derived from copper, iron red, and yellow that were seen on the later Qing revivals. This is important because it could potentially help make a case for this bowl being an earlier piece along with other attributes.)
Red - the small amount of red exhibited on the butterfly wings in this bowl may be underglaze copper red aka sacrificial red. Under glaze copper red was used during the Xuande reign. To a great extent, sacrificial red was abandoned later in the dynasty in favor of overglaze iron red, although it was used again during the reign of the Qing dynasty Kangxi (1662 – 1722) and Yongzheng (1723 – 35). Both copper red and blue were used as monochromes and, occasionally, together (as in this bowl); but since these pigments required slightly different firing temperatures, one or the other is usually deficient in quality (in this case, I believe the blue.) The use of oveglaze colors was rare, and the technique had by no means been fully mastered.
Green - the shading/coloration of the green may be influenced by yellow paint first applied underneath.
Shou (Longevity) Symbol: The symbolic character of Shou, longevity, decorates the center of the piece in green outlined in black and gold gilt (note: much of the gold gilt is gone). It is typical of the Famille Verte Cabbage Leaf design. And as an extension, Famille Jaune as is this bowl.
The handwritten red mark on the bottom is one character, 香, which means fragrance. This character is made up of two radicals, 禾 and 曰, which mean grain and sun. The combination and placement of the two create one character that means Fragrance. In my book, “Marks on Chinese Ceramics” by Gerald Davison, it is Mark 57 “Fragrance, scent, incense.” The known use of this mark was during Yuan, Xuande, and Zhengde reigns.
Provenance - About 8 to 10 years ago (time gets away from me), I answered an ad of a woman in her 50s who was downsizing her father’s assets. It was a sad situation. She was taking care of her 80+ year old dad who had Alzheimer’s. His beautiful home was full of antiques as he traveled the world non-stop for his job. She admitted to trying to research the bowl herself before deciding to part with it. She said she tried many times to ask her dad about the bowl but, unfortunately, it was too late for him to help. All he could say sometimes was “Old, old, old!” Since her father was still living in the home, she chose not to have an estate sale as she felt it would be too hard for him as he transitioned out of the house. Therefore, she began choosing items to liquidate slowly. She couldn’t find anything out about the bowl, and she had many antiques to sort, so she decided it would be one of the items that she’d part with. (Also, at the time, Asian antiques were not popular in our area. Several prominent Asian antique stores closed in the previous years which made it even more difficult for her). She knew she was taking a risk that the bowl was valuable, but she was truly overwhelmed with so many antiques to sort through and transitioning her father into full time care. She said the bowl had always been around “as far as she could remember.”
If you got to this point, thank you so much for reading all of this! I appreciate your time!