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Ming Wanli Kraak porcelain copy

From Simon Ng, Hong Kong, I got these interesting pictures of a modern Ming Wanli period Kraak porcelain copy.

I found it charming and not really intended to deceive.

This brought up the question - When is a copy a "fake" - which I have published under its own head line.

For you who ask - Why is this not a "Ming" bowl then - I will walk you through the pictures.

At first glance, it looks ok. The panels look ok and you can readily identify it as a Dutch market Kraak style bowl and put a general Wanli date to it. Double panel border lines on the outside, single panel border lines on the inside - ok - it should be from around 1580-1600. But, then suddenly everything looks wrong :-)

First, the rim is too neat. This kind of porcelain was very well made by competent and sure handed professionals, but with all signs of haste. They should really have missed at least something on this complicated rim and, what is it on the sky above the scholar - seagulls? Moreover, in the left panel - Lingzhi funguses - on a Wanli bowl? Not likely, or very rare indeed.

Inside the panels, the flowers are clearly symmetrical. This did occur on Kraak bowls of the period but not this pronounced. If mirror symmetry is typical of anything, it is of the Guangxu period. The grass bouquets are out of style for a Ming bowl and the "bird on the rock" motif is if known, clearly painted by someone who have never thought about the possibly connection to the very serious Chinese late Ming artist Zhuda or Badashenren.

Then, the bird actually looks lonely. Ming birds never looks lonely. On all Ming porcelains there is a clear "kick *ss" feeling to the decoration. I cannot explain it, but we all miss it when it is not there. Maybe that is exactly what makes Ming porcelain "Ming".

Finally, we have the base, foot rim, and mark.

Regarding the base as such, we have to remember that these pieces were made in haste. Maybe by Fujian potters having been forced to leave the coastal areas because of the military unrest and Japanese piracy, bringing new ideas to the inland city of Jingdezhen. We should therefore expect radial chatter marks on the flat base or at least some grit stuck in the glaze from the bowl being fired on a grit strewn support, similar but less expressed, as the Swatow practice.

As for the mark, some collectors feel we should not put too much stress on marks and their calligraphy - even if I personally find this well justified - but everybody would probably at least agree on that they have never seen a Wanli Kraak bowl, with an Imperial Wanli mark before, and never a Ming mark at all of the period, without it being surrounded by double rings.

Finally, from Werner Troesch in Jakarta, one of the worlds foremost experts on Kraak porcelain, I got high praise on this analysis of the various points which reveals that this bowl is a copy, with the addition that when looking at the very first picture the shape is not quite correct, a bit too plump towards to bottom of the body, not as elegant as a period piece and on top of that, the bowl seems a bit heavy. For more information specifically on Kraak porcelain you are welcome to visit Werner Troesch's site, which is easily found through the address on my Links page.

Sincerely,
Jan-Erik Nilsson



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