Bottle with Daoist Immortal Zhongli Quan, Ming dynasty (1368–1644), second half of 15th century
Porcelain painted with underglaze cobalt blue; H. 13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm), Diam. 7 7/8 in. (20 cm), Diam. of rim 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm), Diam. of base 5 in. (12.7 cm)
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2010 (2010.312)
This bottle, which was probably used as a container for wine, shows the leader of the so-called Eight Immortals, Zhongli Quan, identifiable by his two topknots, exposed belly, and fan. With its narrow foot, expansive body, and small mouth, this vessel type, known as a meiping, became very popular in the Yuan and Ming dynasties. The decoration, painted with a cobalt-based blue pigment under a transparent glaze, complements its shape with a scrolling band of camelia around the shoulder and upright banana leaves encircling the foot, serving to frame a central panel that features Zhongli Quan in a landscape defined by a garden rock, a pine tree, and a grove of bamboo. As with many images of transcendent beings, he is shown encircled by a halolike cloud, while the hem of his robe and scarves trail after him as if blown by a breeze. Daoist immortals, as well as pine trees and bamboo, are symbols of longevity, befitting a vessel used as a wine bottle.