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Wine Jar with Fish and Aquatic Plants

Asian Art

On View: Asian Galleries, West, 2nd floor (China)
This masterpiece of Chinese porcelain is an important example of early blue-and-white ware from the imperially sponsored kilns of Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province. Four fish—mackerel, whitefish, carp, and freshwater perch—are depicted swimming along the hip of the vessel; their Chinese names form a rebus for the phrase “honest and incorruptible” (qingbai lianjie). The visual wordplay suggests that the jar may have been made for an elite clientele who, it was hoped, would be inspired by the rebus’s message of rectitude while drinking their wine. The twisting leaves and stems of the eelgrass, blossoming lotuses, and other flora elegantly frame the fish and evoke the teeming pulse of the ocean. The mineral cobalt for the rich blue color was imported from western Asian sources, and similar porcelains were often made for the Middle Eastern export market.

The wine jar was part of a large bequest of Chinese ceramics from the Hutchins family collection in Long Island. The Brooklyn Museum curator George Lee (active 1949–59) described finding the vessel when he went to survey the collection in 1952: After other ceramics were loaded onto the Museum’s truck, he went to the garage to wash his hands. There, he found this wine jar below the sink, catching water drops. It was put on the truck and would become one of the Museum’s greatest treasures.

MEDIUM Porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue decoration
  • Place Made: China
  • DATES 14th century
    DYNASTY Yuan Dynasty
    PERIOD Yuan Dynasty
    DIMENSIONS 11 15/16 x 13 3/4in. (30.3 x 34.9cm)  (show scale)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Asian Galleries, West, 2nd floor (China)
    CREDIT LINE The William E. Hutchins Collection, Bequest of Augustus S. Hutchins
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
    You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
    CAPTION Wine Jar with Fish and Aquatic Plants, 14th century. Porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue decoration, 11 15/16 x 13 3/4in. (30.3 x 34.9cm). Brooklyn Museum, The William E. Hutchins Collection, Bequest of Augustus S. Hutchins, 52.87.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 52.87.1_side1_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE side, 52.87.1_side1_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2014
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Oviform jar, heavy porcelain body with transparent glaze and underglaze painting in cobalt blue of four fish amid lotus blossoms and aquatic plants. Unglazed base with broad foot rim. Waves encircle the neck. Except for small firing imperfections, condition is excellent. Jingdezhen ware porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue decoration.
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