Large flask with flat unglazed back, small round neck and two ring handles.
Clay: fine white porcelain, fired reddish on unglazed surfaces.
Decoration: in underglaze blue; floral scrolls, waves; a curious eight-pointed star.

Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, early 15th century
Porcelain with cobalt pigment under colorless glaze
Jingdezhen ware
H x W x D: 46.9 × 41.8 × 21.3 cm (18 7/16 × 16 7/16 × 8 3/8 in)
China, Jiangxi province, Jingdezhen
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 04: Engaging the Senses
Ceramic, Vessel


China, flower, Jingdezhen ware, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), porcelain

David de Pinna, London [1]

Probably from at least 1930s to 1947
Arthur de Pinna (d. 1947), London, by descent from his father David, probably from at least 1930s [2]

From 1947 to 1957
Clare de Pinna, Chiswick, London, by descent from her husband Arthur in 1947 [3]

Sale, Sotheby’s, London, “Fine Early Chinese Pottery and Porcelain…,” October 29, 1957, lot 166: “An Important 15th Century Large Blue and White Circular Flask” (ill.)

From 1958
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Sotheby’s Sale through John Sparks, Ltd., London [4]


[1] Information kindly relayed by Clare de Pinna’s family in an email communication, December 21, 2018. See also statement by John Sparks Ltd., dated November 1, 1957, according to which the canteen “descended to [Mrs. Clare de Pinna] from her husband’s side of the family and was a treasured possession of this Portuguese family before he had it.”

[2] See note 1.

[3] See note 1. Clare de Pinna’s provided a statement, dated October 31, 1957, in which she confirmed that the canteen had been in her possession prior to December 1950, copy in object file.

[4] John Sparks bid on the object and acquired it on behalf of the Freer Gallery of Art, see correspondence between John Sparks and John A. Pope, Assistant Director, Freer Gallery of Art between September 20, 1957 and March 14, 1958, copies in object file.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Sotheby's (London)
Mrs. Clare de Pinna
John Sparks, Ltd. 1890-1992


Large flask with flat unglazed back, small round neck and two ring handles.
Clay: fine white porcelain, fired reddish on unglazed surfaces.
Decoration: in underglaze blue; floral scrolls, waves; a curious eight-pointed star.


The large, flat expanses and sharp angles natural to a metal shape are difficult to translate into porcelain clay, which, when so forced, tends to warp and crack during firing. This porcelain canteen is one of a group of blue-and-white ceramics, that may have been made for a Chinese clientele fascinated by Islamic metalware forms. The hybrid decoration on this canteen combines waves, a common Chinese motif; Chinese floral scrolls that seem to reflect awareness of Islamic arabesques; and an Islamic eight-pointed star on the central boss. Like its metal counterpart, the back of this canteen bears a socket, but it is uncertain whether this porcelain vessel, far heavier than the metal version, was ever used. It may have been a purely ornamental piece.

Published References
  • Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art. Hong Kong, November 1, 1999. no. 311, fig. 1.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope. The History of Ming Porcelain: A Lecture on the Occasion of the 1st Presentation of the Hills Gold Medal, June 9th, 1971. Hills Gold Medal Lecture London. pl. 7a.
  • Oriental Ceramics: The World's Great Collections. 12 vols., Tokyo. vol. 10, pl. 94.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 97, vol. 1: p. 175.
  • Margaret Medley. At the Sales, Sotheby's: October 29, 1958. New Series, vol. 4 New York, Spring 1958. pp. 31-32.
  • Duncan MacIntosh. Chinese Blue and White Porcelain. Rutland, Vermont, 1980, c.1977. p. 38, ill. 20.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 71.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 78-79.
  • Wang Mei-sheng. Yongle qinghua si Xicheng [Blue-and-white Porcelains of the Yongle Reign Conferred Upon Western Regions]. no. 38 Taipei, May 1986. pp. 104-113.
  • Smithsonian Institution. Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1957-1958. Washington, 1957-1958. p. 110, pl. 6.
  • Jan Stuart. Guiding Luminaries Charles Lang Freer and John A. Pope: the Freer Gallery of Art's Chinese Ceramic Collection. vol. 85 London. p. 126, fig. 19.
  • Dr. Esin Atil, W. Thomas Chase, Paul Jett. Islamic Metalwork in the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington, 1985. p. 133, fig. 50.
  • Laura Schnieder. Freer Canteen. vol. 9 Washington and Ann Arbor. pp. 137-156, pl. 10, fig. 31.
  • Edwards Park. Treasures from the Smithsonian Institution., 1st ed. Washington and New York. pp. 344-45.
  • Richard Ettinghausen, Archibald Gibson Wenley. Aus der Welt der Islamischen Kunst: Festschrift fur Ernst Kuhnel. Berlin. pp. 358, 361,363.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.