in calligraphy in a style consistent with Wanli in a horizontal white reserve panel under the lip in dark, vivid underglaze cobalt blue: Da Ming Wanli nian zhi (made in the Wanli reign of the great Ming Dynasty)
(S. Bing, Paris); James A. Garland [d. 1901/1902], New York; sold 1902 to J. Pierpont Morgan [1837-1913], New York; (Duveen Brothers, New York); sold 1915 to Peter A. B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A. B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; gift 1942 to NGA.
- Morgan 1904-1911, 1:17, no. 16, pl. 61.
- Bushell, Stephen, and William M. Laffan. Catalogue of the Morgan Collection of the Chinese Porcelains in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1907: 26, no. 19, repro.
- Hobson, R. L. Chinese Pottery and Porcelain. New York, 1915: 2, 79.
- Works of Art from the Widener Collection. Foreword by David Finley and John Walker. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 21.
- Christensen, Erwin O. Chinese Porcelains of the Widener Collection. Washington, 1947 (rev. ed. 1956): 23, repro. 28, 29; 1956: 24, repro. 28, fig. 11, 12.
- Jenyns, Soame. Ming Pottery and Porcelain. London, 1988: 139, repro. 190.
- Bower, Virginia, Josephine Hadley Knapp, Stephen Little, and Robert Wilson Torchia. Decorative Arts, Part II: Far Eastern Ceramics and Paintings; Persian and Indian Rugs and Carpets. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1998: 42-44, color repro.
The white porcelain body is covered with an emerald green glaze. Joint lines show prominently at the base of the neck and at mid-body, and faint indications of joints are visible at the waist and at mid-neck 1. The interior appears to have an opaque white glaze, as does the base, which is slightly recessed. The beveled low foot is unglazed and rough. There is an adhesion scar on the shoulder from crowding in the kiln, and some glaze skips are found on the mane of the dragon to the right of the inscription. The glaze is slightly streaked, with some dark flecks and a few blue drips. There are evanescent indications of the former all-over gold surface decoration in the form of iridescent marks caused by changes in surface gloss. Some traces of gold remain in small depressions.
1. Hajime Kato, a Japanese ceramist famous for his technical virtuosity, examined this piece in 1957. He noted that the piece is made from molds in five sections. He commented further that, contrary to some published descriptions, the design was not incised under the glaze, but had been painted in gold that has since worn off, and that the adhesive from the gold is what remains to be seen (conversation with the author, 27 August 1963, in NGA curatorial files).