A moulded Dingyao twin-fish and chi-dragon pattern washer

金   定窰印雙魚蟠螭紋洗

The washer is of well potted shallow form with a wide central field and steep rounded sides, supported on a shallow footrim.  The interior is crisply impressed with a design of two large scaly fish leaping amid cresting waves. A pair of chi-dragons with scrolling foliate tails encircle the well, below a border of key fret. The washer is applied inside and out, and over the footrim, with a fine ivory-coloured glaze, leaving only the mouth rim unglazed to reveal the fine white ware.

Bonhams New York, 9th September 2019, lot 857

It is interesting to compare the ‘twin-fish’ theme on the present washer with the more well-known version seen on the slightly later Lonquan celadon wares. In the latter the fish, which circle each other endlessly, are taken as a symbol of a happy marriage. Perhaps the same meaning attaches here also, but the determined character of the fish as they battle through the foaming waves brings to mind also the carp that leap the Dragon Gate falls of the Yellow River, denoting success in the civil service examinations, a meaning perhaps better aligned with the function of the vessel as a brush washer.

No exact match for the pattern appears to have been published, but for a Ding washer of the same shape and with a scene of swimming fish with a key fret border, but lacking the chi-dragons, in the Qing Court collection, see Porcelain of the Song Dynasty (I), The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum no. 83, p. 92; and for a washer with swimming fish and key fret design, in the collection of the Palace Museum, see Selection of Ding Ware, no. 106, p. 248.

Dimensions: Diameter: 11.5 cm, 4 ⅝ inches

Date: Jin dynasty (1115-1234), 12th century

Stock No. 2326

Price: On Request