CATALOGUE NUMBER 0207
BLUE & WHITE YEN-YEN VASE
KANGXI PERIOD (1661-1722)
Height: 17 ½ inches
The Chinese Porcelain Company, Ltd., New York, 2000
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, no. 31
A blue and white yen yen vase with official receiving dignitary. Decorated with narrative themes in the tradition of seventeenth century Transitional wares, this superbly painted blue and white yen yen vase is decorated with dramatic episodes based on woodblock prints of popular novels of the period. Two similar scenes are painted on the body and the neck, both depicting a Chinese figure paying respect to a dignitary of Emperor. The use of parallel blue "slashes" on the backdrop behind the dignitary suggests that the original source of the scene was a woodblock print. Other stiffly rendered motifs such as the spiraling clouds and tall painted trees on the opposite side also relate back to the woodblock style. The scenes are unusual in that they are not enclosed within the confines of a panel and continue around the entirety of the vase. Distinguishing this vase from earlier seventeenth century transitional wares is the deep tone of cobalt and brilliant white porcelain that represent the apogee of blue and white porcelain that was reached during the Kangxi period. The double coin mark within a double blue line circle on the base indicates that this vase was made sometime after 1680 when Kangxi outlawed the use of his nianzhi.
Although the woodblock print flourished as an art form in the sixteenth century, its use as a design source for ceramics was not widely practiced until the seventeenth century. As the Ming Dynasty began to crumble in the beginning of the seventeenth century, many themes from antiquity were used on porcelain to promote exemplary morals.