Is this really a Ming Dynasty Vase?
February 26, 2016 4:03 PM   Subscribe

A friend's going to an estate auction and Ming vases are on offer! I don't think they're real. But that's based on gut feel. Can you give me something more substantial to go on before my buddy gets shellacked? :) Here's one pic and another.
posted by storybored to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Clearly they are not vases. You want to know if these are real Ming Dynasty plates. Is that correct?
posted by SLC Mom at 5:23 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Maybe try this link?

A google for 'recognising ming pottery' pops up a lot of useful seeming links - I'd think the auction house, if reputable, would be able to provide some form of authentication (or at least be happy to address the question).
posted by Sebmojo at 5:59 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ok, I'm not a full-blown expert on Ming pottery, but let me give you a few facts that I do know.

Firstly, really valuable Ming pottery is from the Imperial kiln, and is known as Ming Guan yao. This is the stuff people lay of thousands and thousands of dollars for. There of course were also places that produced lesser-quality porcelain which is known as Ming yao. Most of the common pottery has not changed much and is very hard to date. Those pieces are generally worth about $20-$250.

If you look at the pics you posted, you can see the glazing is applied very sloppily, and there are no 'marks' on the front or the back which would indicate without a doubt that they are from the Imperial kiln. Imperial pottery is much, much nicer than these pieces. Believe me, if they had Imperial marks, the auction site would fall all over itself pointing it out.

This does not mean they aren't from the Ming period. But if your friend is hoping to flip these for a much higher price he is likely going to be disappointed. If he's buying them because he likes them, and is willing to shell out a few hundred bucks for them, tell him to go for it.
posted by ananci at 6:07 PM on February 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

The value in the really high priced Ming-era porcelain is only partially because they are so old, a lot of their value is that they are exquisitely produced art pieces. It also represented the cutting edge in materials science at the time. Some examples of glazing techniques have been lost to time. The really high end pieces are unique; like Stradivarius violins that used European wood that had grown during a mini ice age, these pieces were likewise made from naturally occurring deposits of raw materials. For porcelain, there's a perfect storm of which minerals and in what combinations and in the particle size of each of those minerals that makes a really good porcelain.

There was also a lot of consumer stuff that by the 1500s was pretty commonly imported into Europe. Still, pretty old, but nothing terribly special. However, Europeans weren't able to natively manufacture porcelain until the 1700s so probably one of many sources of the cultural shorthand of ming porcelain = super $$$. Today, we can custom mix minerals to make porcelain with lots of different properties with extraordinarily high homogeneity and reproducibility.

There doesn't seem to be a link in your link to a certificate of authenticity or anything but items like this can be authenticated by licensed individuals/firms. From the low res images, these could very well be Ming-era but pretty mundane specimens. The glazing on the feet look really sloppy and the porcelain looks chalky and is thick.

I've seen some authentic high-end pieces where the glazing is very thin and even down to the soles of the feet and the porcelain itself was almost delicately thin and had a nice translucency; you could see shadows of your fingers through it. The decoration was also much finer.
posted by porpoise at 7:29 PM on February 26, 2016

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