Chinese Blue and White Small Porcelain Vase



A small Chinese blue and white vase of Zhangzhou porcelain made in the early 17th century. Painted in underglaze cobalt blue, the vase is decorated across the top with a fishscale pattern. The main body features a beautiful bird and flower motif rendered in a typical calligraphic style.


Zhangzhou ware dates to the late Ming Dynasty (circa late 16th century to mid 17th century.) Beginning in the 17th century, Zhangzhou ware was popular in Southeast Asia and Japan as well as in the Netherlands. It is celebrated for the boldness of its potting and the spontaneity of its painting.

Sherds of Zhangzhou ware have been found in the first American colony at Jamestown. Zhangzhou wares were also among the ceramics that were found in the cargo of the Witte Leeuw, a Dutch ship that sank in 1613 near St. Helena.

What the Chinese call Zhangzhou ware is high fired stoneware. It  was produced in the Jiangxi, Fujian, Yunnan, and Guangdong provinces. At least one kiln producing this type of ware has now been discovered in Zhangzhou prefecture in Fujian province, which is why the name Zhangzhou ware is now preferred by many Chinese scholars.

In the West, these wares are sometimes referred to a “Swatow” ware. The name “Swatow” ware represents a large and diversified family of provincial ceramics that were made in southern China in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, although the precise place or places of origin are not known.

“Swatow” wares have been decorated in a number of ways. Some, are painted in underglaze blue; others have incised designs under whitish, blue, or celadon glazes. In one variety, painted slip designs have been used against pale grayish blue, light celadon, or brown grounds. Sometimes Zhangzhou/Swatow wares have been freely and vigorously painted in a combination of underglaze blue and overglaze enamels


Examples of Zhangzhou wares are in the British Museum, purchased in the former port of Shantou, or Swatow, in the 1930s.


H 4.75 in.


Excellent (A very short original firing line in the collar of the vase, see main image)



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