Emperor Xuande ascended the throne of China in 1426: his reign is celebrated amongst Chinese connoisseurs for the superior quality of its porcelains, bronzes and lacquers. Xuande himself reportedly took a personal interest in the 58 kilns at Jingdezhen which were occupied with filling the Imperial orders for porcelain, and the blue and white porcelain of this period is considered the finest ever made. The style and decoration of Xuande blue and white was much copied in succeeding reigns.
This stem cup would have been an Imperial ware made for the use of the court. While stem cups were used at the court as either wine vessels or ceremonial cups in Buddhist rituals, during the Xuande period they were almost solely used for Buddhist rituals intended to be placed on an altar before the image of a Buddha or Bodhisattva and filled with clear water. The decoration confirms this vessel to have been used in Buddhist rituals - the decoration is the Eight Buddhist emblems resting on lotus blossoms, a Buddhist symbol of purity. The decoration illustrates the 'heaped and piled' effect, the unevenness of colour which results from the heavier application of the underglaze blue in some parts, an effect esteemed by connoisseurs of Chinese ceramics, partly as proof of authenticity.
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, 14 November 1979.
Stem cup with design of eight Buddhist emblems and lotus flowers
porcelain with underglaze blue decoration
10.0 x 11.9 cm
Not on display
Where the work was made
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Buddhist Art from the Collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 May 1995–10 Sep 1995
Conversations through the Asian collections, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Oct 2014–13 Mar 2016
Glorious, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 May 2017–06 Jan 2019
Referenced in 6 publications
Edmund Capon, The Connoisseur, 'Far Eastern Art in the Art Gallery of New South Wales', pg. 22-29, London, May 1980, 25 (colour illus.).
Karen Mazurewich, Qantas The Australian Way, 'Ancient China', pg. 78-81, Sydney, Jan 2007, 79 (colour illus.). The colour illus. on page 79 is a detail of this work.
Jackie Menzies, Three years on: a selection of acquisitions 1978-1981, 'Asian Art', pg. 85-103, Sydney, 1981, 89 (illus.). cat.no. 4
Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The Marvel of Porcelain', Sydney, 2003, 116 (colour illus.).
Jacqueline Menzies, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian', pg. 72-93, Sydney, 1988, 75 (illus.).
Julian Thompson, Orientations, 'Chinese Porcelain in the Collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales', pg. 96-103, Hong Kong, Sep 2000, 96 (illus.; colour illus.). fig.1 and 1a (mark)