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Subject:Assistance requested dating Ko-Imari bowl and identifying purpose
Posted By: Chris Sat, Jun 18, 2022 IP: 2600:8801:fb00:a16:f

Hello All,

Below are three photos of a Ko-Imari (Arita?) bowl I've had for some time. It measures just under 21 cm by 19 cm and stands just under 7.5 cm tall. Underglaze blue with polychrome enamels (the red/aubergine applied overglaze appear more matted, while the green and purple-black clouds appear to be a more vitreous enamel). While the dragon repeats on the other side, its pose is different (its head turned the other way and looking over its shoulder as if into the bowl), and the clouds are similarly asymmetrically positioned.

The mark on the bottom appears to be an apocryphal Chinese Chenghua mark; there is a very similar match on (#946), which states as follows:

"Mark: Tai Ming Chenghua Nian Zhi, meaning "Greatest (sic) Ming Chenghua make". Common mark on Arita "Imari" porcelain, a mixed-up and carelessly written Chenghua mark; the extra dot in the fist Da character changes the meaning from Da (great) to Dai (greatest). In Chinese this mark would read Dai Ming Chenghua Nian Zhi and in Japanese; Daimin seika nensei (太明成化年製) however it is usual to read these Japanese-Chinese marks in Chinese, to not add to the confusion. Date: Imari porcelain is difficult to date but being this mainly an 18th-19th century mark and considering the style of the bowl a suggestion for the date is end 18th century/early 19th century." (Link below)

Based on the above description, it would seem the style of the bowl is the best indicator of age. I have found published references to a four-lobed form dating from the late-16th century to the late-18th century. To my untrained (but not unexperienced) eye, this, taken into consideration along with the color palette, design, thickness of the porcelain, and apocryphal marking seem to indicate Ko-Imari Arita ware intended for domestic use, and likely dating to somewhere between 1680-1720.

The one aspect of the bowl I have not been able to uncover is the reason for the form - was this intended as a decorative item or was it meant to be used, and if the latter, for what purpose? FWIW, the pinched corners allow for a natural purchase in the hand.

Now that I have extended my neck on the chopping block, I humbly defer to the far more knowledgeable resident experts for your collective input and once again thank you (all) in advance for the same.

Link reference to Ko-Imari use of similar Chenghua mark | Associations | Articles | Exhibitions | Galleries |