A medium size, well potted porcelain jar with wooden rid, round shoulder and neck. Floral designs are painted with blue underglaze and red and gold overglaze enamels. There are Chinese scholar and attendant boy with a fan on one side and Japanese lady in kimono on the opposite side, painted with enamels. Band of flowers on the neck, another broader band of chrysanthemums on the shoulder. There is also a band of leaf patterns on the bottom. A large crack from neck to the middle of the body; porcelain glaze has small cracks all over the body. The foot is unglazed; the eye is fully glazed. No glaze on the rim. The teak wood lid, a later addition, has a finial made of an ivory netsuke of laughing Hotei.
The Chinese sage with an attendant and flower maiden might be T’ao Yüan-ming, celebrated scholar and poet in Tang period. After his early retirement, he lived in his little estate where he planted many chrysanthemums and other flowers, and enjoyed drinking wine. The pot-bellied, half naked man Hotei is one of the “Seven gods of felicity,” the god of contentment and happiness. Partly Taoist and partly Buddhist origin, he is generally identified with the Chinese priest known as Pu-tai Ho-shang. The date is unknown; he is stated to have lived in the 6th, 7th, and 8th centuries. He carries a bag which is said to contain “precious things” (takaramono).
A medium size, shallow bowl with a semi-circular cut out on the rim. The bowl has flat surface on the rim and is concaved in the middle like a soup bowl. It has two holes on the opposite side of the cut out and a short foot. There is a blue band around the rim. There are two long-tailed birds in red, pale orange and yellow, perched on a blue pine tree which grows underneath the birds. Behind the pine tree trunk, there is a cherry tree in full blossom, its brunches extends in circle around the rim. The cherry tree and blossoms are in red, pale orange and yellow. More cherry flowers adorn the background of the birds. There are also red peonies on the left side of the pine tree; peony flowers also appear as spray on the four sides of the rim, backed by blue cloud design.
Combination of birds and flowers is popular motif called “bird-and-flower” painting in East Asian cultures. The two birds and cherry blossoms suggest that this is a spring scene. The cut out is where a person places his neck, and the two holes opposite the neck recess are used to string the cord around the neck during shaving. Pewter and silver shaving basins were common toilet articles in mid 17th century Europe and were ordered by the Dutch East India Company as early as 1662. (Reference: Imari: Japanese Porcelain for European Palaces from the Freda and Ralph Lupin Collection)