This Ming dynasty stem bowl—a shape used in Buddhist ritual—exemplifies the finest blue-and-white porcelains of the early fifteenth century. The design is painted in underglaze cobalt blue. Leafy tendrils of a lotus scroll enframe eight blossoms, each topped with one of Buddhism's Eight Auspicious Emblems: a pair of fish, a lotus flower, a canopy, a parasol, a conch shell, the wheel of dharma, an endless knot, and a vase. These symbolize freedom, purity, righteousness, respect, the Buddha's voice, Buddhist law, compassion, and truth.
More information on this object can be found in the Gallery publication Decorative Arts, Part II: Far Eastern Ceramics and Paintings, Persian and Indian Rugs and Carpets, which is available as a free PDF https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/decorative-arts-part-ii.pdf
in standard script on the interior in underglaze blue in one column of six characters: Da Ming Quande nian zhi (made in the Xuande reign of the great Ming dynasty)
(C.T. Loo, New York); sold June 1941 to Harry G. Steele [1881-1942], Pasadena; his widow, Grace C. Steele [d. 1974]; gift 1972 to NGA.
The stem bowl is finely thrown from a smooth paste. The foot is hollow and glazed on the interior. The foot-ring is carefully beveled. Minute scratches are visible on the interior glaze surface. The underglaze cobalt oxide pigment has a smudged appearance due to slight overfiring in the kiln.
- 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: 36-37, color repro.
- National Gallery of Art Special Issue. Connaissance des Arts. Paris, 2000:62.