Jar with Dragon

Period: Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Xuande mark and period (1426–35)

Date: early 15th century

Culture: China

Medium: Porcelain painted with cobalt blue under transparent glaze (Jingdezhen ware)

Dimensions: H. 19 in. (48.3 cm); Diam. 19 in. (48.3 cm)

Classification: Ceramics

Credit Line: Gift of Robert E. Tod, 1937

Accession Number: 37.191.1


The painting of cobalt blue on a porcelain body, which first flowered in China in the fourteenth century, is arguably the most important development in the global history of ceramics. Produced for the court, this spectacular storage jar, an example of porcelain from Jingdezhen, is dated to the rule of the Xuande emperor by an inscription on the shoulder. The painting depicts a powerful dragon undulating through a sky defined by a few sparse clouds. The unusual monstrous faces on the neck of the jar may derive from the kirtimukha (face of glory) that is often found in Indo-Himalayan imagery and was popular in China in the early fifteenth century.