Master of the Rocks Blue and White Jar, 17th century
Porcelain 13 3/4 in. x 10 in. (diam.) (34.93 cm x 25.4 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, gift of Anne and Malcolm McHenry1999.5.1
Court control of Jingdezhen, the imperial porcelain production center, was interrupted during the fall of the Ming and the rise of the Qing. Lack of court control led to a decline in the use of imperial symbols, such as the dragon and phoenix, and a con- current increase in iconography that reflected the ethical and political concerns of China’s educated and affluent, including reclusion, scholarly virtues, and loyalty to a fallen dynasty. Potters capitalized on these themes since they appealed to both the educated and the wealthy merchant classes. Once the Manchus consolidated their rule during the Kangxi Period (1662–1722), the manufacture of porcelain at the imperial pro- duction center at Jingdezhen resumed.
This jar features Master of the Rocks decoration, which is characterized by thick and curvilinear outlines with thinner, parallel lines used to create contours, a type of decoration that reached its height in the 1660s and 1670s. The attempt to cre- ate a third dimension by the use of diagonals, combined with the addition of poetry to accompany landscapes, suggests that these potters were borrowing from the literati tradition of Chinese painting.
The jar is inscribed with a poem that tells the story of Master Yan of Tonglu Prefecture Giving Up the Palace. Master Yan refers to Yan Ziling, a philosopher and scholar who was invited to serve the Han court by Emperor Liu Che. Fearful of being corrupted, Yan did not wish to accept the appointment and retreated to the mountains. This story may have espe- cially resonated with Ming loyalists attempting to cope under the new Qing regime. —EA