|Tianqi Blue And White Ko-Sometsuke Plate (WBW091408)|
ca. 1600 – 1630, early 17th century
Tianqi period, Ming Dynasty
Porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue
Diameter: 21.5 cm / 8.5 in
From a Lyon, France private collection
A late Ming dynasty Tianqi blue and white plate, drawn in the center field with “three friends of winter” in a rough and compelling calligraphic style. The underglaze cobalt is a deep blue, while the glaze is brilliant and shiny.
In 1605, the Tianqi emperor assumed the throne as a boy of 15. Amongst other shortcomings he was illiterate and wholly under the influence of palace eunuchs. The Ming regime by this time was doomed to fail, and Jingdezhen kilns could no longer rely on imperial orders to finance its operations.
Far from the aggressive vigor of early Ming wares, Tianqi porcelain has a certain quality of lightness and detachment. Potters created this affect through an extensive use of white space, against which designs are sparsely drawn and often asymmetrically placed. This aesthetic can be seen as an embodiment of late Ming literati society’s obsession with spiritual isolation, eremitism, and escapism. “Up in the mountains there is nothing to do,” scholar-artist Li Rihua once wrote, “sitting on a rock I watch the autumn water. The water is still; clouds cast shadows. My heart is exactly like this.”