Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Meiping Bottle with Decoration of a Daoist Immortal and His Youthful Attendant in a Windswept Landscape
Work Type
Ming dynasty, perhaps Tianshun period (1457-1464)
Creation Place: East Asia, China, Jiangxi province, Jingdezhen
Ming dynasty, 1368-1644
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Blue-and-white ware: porcelain with decoration painted in underglaze cobalt blue
H. 33.4 cm (13 1/8 in.)
Richard Bryant Hobart, Cambridge, MA (by 1947–1963), by inheritance; to Mabel Hobart Wentworth Brandon Cabot (1963–2012), sold; [through J.J. Lally & Co., New York] to Harvard Art Museums, 2012.

1. Richard Bryant Hobart (1885–1963), Harvard College Class of 1906
2. Mabel "Muffie" Hobart Wentworth Brandon Cabot (b. 1936), daughter of Richard Bryant Hobart and Janet Elliott Wulsin (1894–1963)

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Purchase through the generosity of Alan J. and Suzanne W. Dworsky, Dorothy Tapper Goldman, Christina Marcove, Alan L. and Jacqueline B. Stuart and through the Louise Haskell Daly Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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The walls of this elegantly shaped meiping vessel descend from the short, vertical neck, curve around the bulging shoulders, gently constrict to form the narrow waist, and then flare lightly at the base. The neck’s subtly concave profile complements the shoulders’ bulging, convex profile; the slightly thickened lip at the vessel’s small mouth closes the form, as does the base’s lightly beveled outer edge. The decoration is divided into three horizontal registers, with a principal register of pictorial decoration around the vessel’s midsection and flanking registers of border decoration at top and bottom. The lower border (just above the base) sports cresting waves with whitecaps; the upper border (around the top of the shoulder) features descending stylized lotus petals. Bowstring lines, often doubled, separate one register from the next; a pair of bowstring lines encircles the lip and another pair the base, framing the decorative scheme. The principal register depicts a bearded Daoist Immortal standing on a mountain promontory overhanging an implied ravine; carrying a long-stemmed lotus seed pod, his youthful attendant appears some distance behind, standing on another promontory. The calabash gourd he carries over his proper right shoulder identifies the main figure as a Daoist Immortal, as do the scrolling clouds that occupy the upper portion of the composition. The continuous landscape in which the figures appear includes rocks, grasses, shrubs, and a tall pine that rises into the bank of swirling clouds. The wind that churns the clouds also animates the robes and sashes of Immortal and attendant. The underglaze cobalt painting exhibits a rich, royal blue hue (but without the so-called heaped-and-piled effect that typified the best pieces produced early in the fifteenth century). The base, which is unglazed, is slightly convex.

Despite the poetic name meaning “plum vase,” meiping vessels were not vases for the display of cut branches of blossoming plum but were elegant storage bottles for wine and other liquids, though later collectors admittedly did sometimes press them into service as vases on special occasions, particularly when inviting learned friends of refined taste. Most such bottles originally claimed a small, bell-shaped cover that protected the contents from dust and evaporation and that aesthetically reversed and complemented the vessel’s strong curves. The earliest meiping bottles—the elongated form likely was invented in silver and then imitated in ceramic ware—display bulging sides, the widest point occurring at the midpoint of the belly. By the late eleventh century such vessels had assumed the more stately form that we admire today, a form with broad shoulders and angled side walls that taper to a narrow foot.
Publication History

Fogg Art Museum, The Use of Blue on Chinese Porcelain of the Ming Dynasty 1368-1644, exh. cat., Harvard University Press (Cambridge, Mass., Spring 1947), no. 21 (not illustrated)

Jean Gordon Lee, "An Exhibition of Blue-Decorated Porcelain of the Ming Dynasty", Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin, Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, Autumn 1949), vol. 45, no. 223, pp. 1-72, p. 15, no. 80; illus. p. 50, fig. 80

Exhibition History

32Q: 2600 East Asian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/07/2019 - 01/13/2020

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at