Only Chinese version is available
Pear-shaped vase painted in underglaze red with the three friends of winter
Ming dynasty, Hongwu period (1368–1398)
Height: 32cm, Diameter (mouth): 8.5 cm, Diameter (belly): 20.7 cm, Diameter (foot): 11.6 cm
This pear-shaped vase was made in three parts and joined horizontally. Starting from the mouth with a classic scroll design and then moving down to the neck are three bands of patterns respectively delineated with banana leaves, a linked “cash” motif and stylized waves. Painted around the body in underglaze red is the “Three Friends” design — pine, bamboo and prunus — in a continuous garden scene, with banana plant and camellia filling in the empty spaces. Below this main design and around the foot are two bands decorated with lotus panels and classic scrolls. The spatial arrangement of the decoration reveals a transitional style between early pieces intended for export, as exemplified by the large dishes in Near Eastern collections that feature a very crowded, compartmentalized décor, and those to be found in the 15th century that reflect a thoroughly Chinese taste.
The decoration of this piece was painted in underglaze red derived from copper. A layer of transparent glaze would have been applied before the vessel was fired at a high temperature. Copper oxide proved a very volatile material, and the chances of misfiring were quite high, with the result that many pieces such as this one turned out greyish or mud brown in colour. This difficulty explains why good underglaze red pieces are rare.
—The K.S. Lo Collection, Hong Kong Museum of Art