Dimensions: 3 1/2 × 12 in. diameter(8.9 × 30.5 cm)
Marks: Seal on bottom reads: made in the years of the Ming Dynasty
Classification: Decorative Arts, Metal
Credit Line: Gift of Lois W. Greene Irvine and Alice Jean Irvine Webber. In memory of their father and grandfather, Rev. William Ellsworth Greene. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
With the exception of a few rare isolated examples, high quality enameling has been developing in China only since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The most predominant enameling technique used by the Chinese to decorate metalwork is "cloisonne." Enamel is powdered glass and pigment mixed with a flux to promote melting. In cloisonne, enamel is placed within small wire cells, providing the artist greater control over the medium, then fired. Although their brilliance of color and gilding never enjoyed widespread popularity in china, cloisonne wares did find admirers among the upper class, some religious institutions and the imperial court, whose patronage endured throughout the Ming Dynasty and later Qing dynasty (1644-1912).
The highly traditional Chinese imagery of this bowl features the dragon with a flaming pearl. Symbolically, the dragon chasing through the clouds after a flaming jewel causes thunder and rain and represents the divine power of cosmic regeneration. The dragons, depicted with five claws, are symbols implying an association with the imperial family.