Blue and white kraak bowl with kylin design

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Wanli Period, 1579 - 1620
17 cm
37.2 cm

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This large Chinese blue and white ‘kraak’ bowl has deep rounded sides rising from a tapered foot to a subtly foliated rim. The bowl is painted in inky cobalt tones; the interior has a large medallion with a landscape with a crow perched upon a rock and a bird flying in the top left. On the inside are six wide bordered panels of stylised peaches alternating with six narrow panels with ribboned tassels beneath a geometric or dotted pattern. The exterior is painted with a similar decoration alternating with bordered panels of a duck sitting on a rock in a landscape and floral sprays. One of the wide panels on the exterior has a very unusual design of a kylin; a mythical creature, with dragon-like features such as a scaly body with a dragon head, hooves and horns. The kylin is a good omen, that appears with the birth of a sage or when an illustrious emperor sits on the throne.

This bowl is characteristic of the kraak wares produced for export in the Wanli period. These wares were the first to reach Europe in vast quantities, serving a growing market of European collectors. The Dutch VOC played an important role in the shipping and trade of the kraak wares.  The name ‘kraak’ was most likely derived from the large Portuguese ships, called carracks, that shipped these wares. Two of those ships were captured by the Dutch in 1602 and 1604, and their cargo, including a large quantity of porcelain, silk, spices and musk, was auctioned off in Amsterdam and Middelburg, fueling the Northern European interest in Chinese porcelain.


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