Stoneware with underglaze cobalt–blue decoration; Diam. 17 1/2 in. (44.5 cm)
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1989 (1989.157)
The use of cobalt blue for underglaze decoration on porcelain began in Vietnam during the fourteenth century, about the same time as its beginnings in China. Blue-and-white porcelain, whether Chinese or Vietnamese, probably originated as a trading commodity, intended for the overseas market in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. The forms and decoration of early Vietnamese blue-and-white ware closely followed contemporary Chinese models, from which evolved an international style in trade ceramics. However, there were distinctive traits in the decoration of Vietnamese ceramics. During the fifteenth century, one of the distinguishing characteristics was the use of pencil lines that served both as shading and as a means of depicting the leaf veins and flower petals of plant motifs. This technique is well demonstrated in the dish illustrated here. Vietnamese porcelain of this period can also be identified by the finely levigated clay and the slightly uneven flow of the warm white glaze.
Given that most blue-and-white porcelain was exported, it is not surprising that some of the best surviving Vietnamese pieces are found outside the country. One of the finest examples is in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul: a vase decorated with peony scrolls and dated by the underglaze blue inscription to 1450, the eighth year of Dai Hoa. The vase also bears the name of the artist who painted it. The Metropolitan's dish is decorated in the same style with identical peony flowers and scrolls, and it also bears the name of the artist, Nôt, but not a date. It is likely that the Metropolitan's dish is contemporary with, or slightly later than, the Istanbul vase.