Ca. 1720s, early 18th century
Late Kangxi Period, Qing Dynasty
Porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue
D: 15.5 cm, h: 2.7 cm
Nearly perfect condition: one small chip and typical Kangxi fritting to rim
From an English private collection of 18th century blue and whites
This well painted dish belongs to a group of highly iconic Kangxi blue and whites illustrating scenes from Romance of the Western Chamber. In this dish, the hero Zhang Sheng is rushing on horseback to take the civil examination, all in order to win Cui Yingying's hand in marriage. His trusty manservant follows on foot to the right.
Round-faced and delicately featured, Zhang Sheng is one of the best-recognized faces in early Qing porcelain. In many portrayals, he is painted in deliberate contrast to his manservant, the two men's images juxtaposed in sociocultural distinction as the servant's bumbling maladroitness plays foil to Zhang Sheng's lithe sophistication. In this sense Zhang Sheng is the archetypical Chinese hero, marked by erudition, pedigree, and looks.
This dish has an excellent glaze and painting workmanship that's both imaginative and expressive.