Of compressed baluster form, boldly carved, relief-moulded and decorated in underglaze-blue with a design of two ferocious dragon's chasing a flaming pearl amongst cloud scrolls, their bluish-white bodies crisply carved accentuating the sinuous scaly flesh, their eyes simply picked out in blue, against a ground of crashing waves all within blue-line borders enclosing a crashing wave and lotus-petaled border around the neck and lower body, the base partially unglazed revealing the burnt orange body\nWith its powerful white dragons reserved on a turbulent sea of blue waves, the present jar represents an unrecorded and particularly early design of Yuan blue-and-white porcelain. The relief carving of the animals, with incised details for face and body – only the eyes are painted in blue - , was employed on white wares before, but remained very rare on blue-and-white. The complicated and time-consuming process of such reserve decoration in relief was soon abandoned in favour of painting in blue and white only, which yielded faster results and started a proper series production.\n\nPieces such as this jar were individually made and highly precious already at the time. A pair of vases similarly decorated with four white dragons in different attitudes, also raised in shallow relief and with incised details, and reserved on a ground of blue waves, was buried for safekeeping in a hoard at Baoding in Hebei province, not far from the Yuan capital Dadu, modern Beijing, most likely when the troops of the following Ming dynasty (1368-1644) invaded the area. One of the two vases is now in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red I, Shanghai, 2000, pl.1; the other is in the Hebei Provincial Museum and was published in Zhongguo taoci quanji, vol.II, Shanghai, 2000, pl.138\n\nWhile these vases had been transported from the kilns of Jingdezhen, south of the Yangzi river, northwards to the Yuan capital, another related jar or vase was shipped some 5,000 miles to the west, ending up in North Africa. A fragment depicting part of a similar white dragon in relief among blue waves was excavated together with other Yuan sherds from the site of the Arab settlement of Fustat, modern Cairo in Egypt, and is now in the Idemitsu Museum of Art, Tokyo; see the Museum’s exhibition catalogue Inter-Influence of Ceramic Art in east and West, Tokyo, 1984, pl.189, fig.102.\n\nOnly one other comparable Yuan vessel appears to be recorded, a taller guan with fish-dragon handles, painted in a paler cobalt-blue with white dragons on blue waves in a band among other designs, sold in these rooms, 10th December 1991, lot 230. For a plain white prototype compare a Yuan jar carved with two dragons, in the Shanghai Museum, published in Shanbai Hakubutsukan, Tokyo, 1976, pl.114.\n\nThis strong and highly successful design is one of the very few Yuan dynasty patterns which found echoes in Imperial porcelain of the early Ming dynasty, when porcelain styles otherwise had changed. Large globular vases (tianqiuping) and flasks of oval section (bian hu) of the Yongle and Xuande periods were decorated with very similar designs of large white three-clawed dragons among blue waves, but at that time, the animals were no longer carved in relief; compare Ming vases of this design in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, op.cit., pl.88 and pl.97; and a tianqiuping sold in these rooms, 8th July 1975, lot 131.