With its foliated rim, unglazed base, and freely drawn wave motif, this plate from LACMA's collection is typical of early blue-and-white Yuan ceramics. The blue underglaze with white reserved areas emerged from innovative Yuan ceramic experiments. The platter hosts three additional concentric tiers of waves, which look as though they were spontaneously drawn. Six lobed cloud-collar patterns, seen on the largest plane of the plate, echo the gestures found on the rim. Within the six cloud patterns are illustrations of lotuses, abstract foliage, melons, grapes, bamboo, and morning glories.
The Yuan dynasty ushered in the popularity of blue-and-white ceramic ware, which was in high demand and whose export dominated the market. The design and size of this plate hint that it was probably made for the Near Eastern market and would have been used on formal or ritual occasions, given as a gift, or awarded for services. Some scholars believe the cloud-collar shape derives from designs in Persian metalwork or Mongol and Tatar embroideries; others suggest that it derives from Buddhist designs representing the four cardinal directions. While the overall program of the plate's design is Islamic in taste, its primary motifs are Chinese. For example, the center medallion's eight partitions contain auspicious Buddhist symbols and the medallion itself represents the Buddhist Wheel of Law. Underneath the rim is a Near Eastern scrolling floral design of lotus or aster blossoms alternating with pomegranates.
This foliated platter is not currently on view, however, given that this week is Chinese New Year, and we wanted to highlight a work that celebrates the season. Check out LACMA's Collections Online and download a high-resolution image.
This year marks LACMA's 50th anniversary. We're celebrating all that we've done while looking forward to what's in store for us in the next 50. Check back every week on Unframed to find a highlight of an artwork from LACMA's collection, which features over 120,000 objects that span time, the globe, and all cultures. This is 5/50 of the series.