Bottle of King Philip II
Vila Viçosa, Alentejo, Portugal
Museum and Library of the House of Braganza
White porcelain decorated with cobalt-blue underglaze
H: 26.5 cm; w: 15.1 cm
In 1580 Portugal came under the rule of the Spanish Kings, giving rise to a new political situation that altered the traditional commercial relationship with both Portugal's European trading neighbours and the Far East. A deep political and economic crisis emerged and the pottery workshops of Lisbon searched for new markets. Blue Chinese porcelain, common during the Wanli period (1573–1619), was an inspiration for Portuguese faience. The wares were then exported via existing Portuguese trade routes to overseas colonies and north and north-western Europe.
This bottle – with a flattened circular body – has a cylindrical neck and a trapezoidal foot. The neck is finished in copper. It has a lid, indicating that it would have been used as a drinking vessel. The shape, which was rare in China, is probably based on a metal model from western Asia.
Painted in several shades of blue, the front bears the coat of arms of Philip II of Spain: a medallion with flowers sprouting out from a border of dots. On the reverse are more blooms and insects. Both sides have a blue border with dots in a darker shade, probably imitating the nails used in the metal models that inspired it.
According to Howard and Ayers (1978), the coat of arms of King Philip II was copied from a coin. It is not clear how the piece was commissioned, however, because Spain had limited access to China via the Philippines through Formosa in the 1570s and, in around 1580 for a year, via some land granted in Pinal near Macao. Michel Beurdeley (1962) believes that Philip II had a collection of almost 3,000 Chinese porcelain objects.
A porcelain bottle with the coat of arms of King Philip II of Spain. It was inspired in both shape and decoration by a pilgrim’s flask, a precious and much coveted object of the 16th century that was used to hold drinking water when on pilgrimage.
João Gonçalo do Amaral Cabral
On permanent loan by João Gonçalo do Amaral Cabral
Beurdeley, M., Porcelaine de la Compagnie dês Indes, Fribourg, 1962.
Howard, D., Ayers, J., China for the West: Chinese Porcelain and other Decorative Arts for Export, 2 vols, New York, 1978.
Matos, M. A., de, Azul e Branco da China. Porcelana ao tempo dos Descobrimentos, Lisbon, CMAG/IPM, 1997.
Catálogo Caminhos da Porcelana. Dinastias Ming e Qing, Lisbon, 1998.
Maria de Jesus Monge "Bottle" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverbaroqueart.org/database_item.php?id=object;BAR;pt;Mus11_A;31;en
Prepared by: Maria de Jesus Monge
Translation by: Maria de Jesus Monge, Lili Cavalheiro
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PT 34