Zhangzhou (Swatow) wares 1570-1650
Jingdezhen was the production centre of export porcelain, but smaller kilns in southern China competed on Asian markets. A group of factories in the south of Fujian province was particularly active. Their products are referred to by the old name of 'Swatow', which is derived from the harbour from where these wares were allegedly shipped. However, recent archaeological research has proved that in fact they were produced in the Zhangzhou area in a variety of kilns. Thick-bodied porcelain or stoneware dishes, jars, jarlets and covered boxes were made here from around 1570. Bowls, bottles, vases and kendis are more rare.
The output was exported to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan, but not to Europe, where this type was regarded as too heavy and coarse. The Portuguese – and later the VOC (Dutch East India Company, 1602–1799) – used Swatow as a commodity in their inter-Asian trade. The type is known in underglaze blue, in overglaze enamels and in combinations of the two. The decorations are largely derived from Jiajing and kraak porcelain made for export in Jingdezhen, but the quality of their painting is usually noticeably inferior. Landscapes with birds or deer, for instance, were sometimes drawn so quickly and sketchily that it is difficult to see what exactly is depicted. Dishes and jars often have much kiln grit adhering to their bases and their thick, milky glaze can be heavily crackled. Rather unusual are dishes with an underglaze monochrome brown or blue, decorated in white slib with dots and lines a technique only seen on Swatow wares. Also exclusive to Swatow are dishes decorated in green enamels with Arabic inscriptions that were made for the sultans in Aceh (northern Sumatra). The large jars were used to transport and stored dried fish, pickled vegetables, arak, oil, etc. Small jars contained cosmetic oils or magical fluids, while covered boxes held a paste, an ointment or whatever the owner wanted to keep in it. Swatow was highly regarded in Indonesia and for centuries pieces were cherished as family heirlooms (pusaka porcelain). Almost all Swatow in the Netherlands was collected in the former Dutch Indies and ended up here. The civil wars in China in the mid-17th century interrupted porcelain exports from Jingdezhen, but brought an end to Swatow production.
Zhangzhou (Swatow) wares 1570-1650 - Other wares
Storage Jar / Martavan
(Southeast) China, Zhangzhou (Swatow)
Height 265 mm (10.43 inch), diameter 233 mm (9.17 inch), diameter of rim 80 mm (3.15 inch), diameter of footring 140 mm (5.51 inch), weight 3.293 grams (116.16 ounce (oz.))
Baluster-shaped storage jar on low footring with a short neck, a rounded lip and four vertical strap-handles placed around the shoulder. The base is partially glazed. Crackled glaze. Decorated in underglaze blue with two rather burlesque dragons between cloud-scrolls and segmented waves. On the shoulder a lotus leaf pattern border and around the neck swirls and dashes.
For similarly decorated storage jars / martavans, please see:
Oriental Ceramics at the Cape of Good Hope 1652-1795. An account of the porcelain trade of the Dutch East India Company with particular reference to ceramics with the V.O.C. monogram, the Cape Market and South African Collections, (C.S. Woodward, Cape Town & Rotterdam, 1974), p.12, cat. 16.
- Seladon, Swatow, Blauweiss. Chinesische Keramik aus der Sammlung Ignazio Vok / Chinese Ceramics from the Collection of Ignazio Vok (U. Wiesner (cat.), Stadt Köln, 1983), cat. 146.
- Zhangzhou (Swatow) Ceramics. Sixteenth to Seventeenth Centuries Found in Indonesia, (S. Adhyatman, The Ceramic Society of Indonesia, 1999), p.109, cat. 125.
Condition: Chips to a strap-handle, the inner and outer footring.
Price: € 999 - $ 1.114 - £ 860
(the $ and £ prices are approximates and depend on the € price exchange rate)