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Bottle Vase Made for a Portuguese Trader
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Bottle Vase Made for a Portuguese Trader


Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Inscription Credit
Description Trading and exchange between China and the Portuguese began after Manuel I established an embassy at Beijing in 1517. From then on, blue and white porcelain was exported to Portugal and more broadly Europe. Chinese wares produced specifically for the purpose of export also included personal commissions. This bottle is one of six known "Jorge Álvares bottles," named for the Portuguese naval captain and merchant that purchased them. Álvares was also known to be a friend to St. Frances Xavier, a Jesuit missionary in China and throughout the Asian continent. The inscription around the shoulder of the bottle, written upside-down in imitation of a Portuguese model, is translated as "Jorge Alvrz (Álvares) had this made at the time of 1552 [reign of King John III]." The base reads "wan fu you tong" translated roughly as "may infinite happiness come to this place." The cobalt blue painting in the outline and wash technique depicts the 16th century Buddhist motif of lions playing with brocaded balls. Beneath, along the curved base, are more balls with waving tassels. Ornamental chains and geometric flowers adorn the lower half of the neck while the flared mouth is painted with pointed plantain leaves. Other examples of the Álvares bottles include paintings of aquatic, terrestrial, and fantastic flora and fauna. Blue and white porcelain was popularized in China by the Mongol emperors during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). Trade along The Silk Road meant access to Middle Eastern imports, including Persian and Central Asian cobalt ore that facilitated the porcelain production from the 14th to the early 15th century. The kilns of Jingdezhen were the center for export and Imperial porcelain.
Conservation
Date Description Narrative
11/04/1974Treatmentcleaned
4/18/1983Examinationexamined for loan
Exhibitions
  • World of Wonder. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1971-1972.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese Porcelain. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1980-1981.
  • Portuguese Discoveries and Renaissance Europe. Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon. 1983.
  • Saint Francis Xavier: His Life and Times. Kawasaki City Museum, Kawasaki; Yamaguchi Perfectural Museum of Art, Yamaguchi-shi; Tobu Museum of Art, Tokyo; Kagoshima Prefectural Museum of Art, Kagoshima City; Okazaki Mindscape Museum, Okazaki-shi; Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum, Nagasaki City. 1999.
  • Encompassing the Globe. Freer Gallery of Art, Washington. 2007.
Provenance Laffan Sale, 1911, lot 75; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1911 [mode of acquisition unknown]; by bequest to Walters Art Museum, 1931.
Inscriptions Portuguese inscriptions: "Jorge Alvrz n egeo nam dou - a era de 1552 reina." Translation: "Jorge Alvarez ordered this to be made in the year 1552 of the reign [of King John III]."
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, 1911

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Creator
Period
1552
Medium
porcelain with underglaze blue
(Ceramics)
Accession Number
49.1616
Measurements
H: 10 in. (25.4 cm)
Geographies
  • China (Place of Origin)
Location Within Museum
Not On View

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