China; Ming dynasty; 16th/17th c.
In the centre is an underglaze pattern in cobalt blue of a stylized dragon among clouds, surrounded by blossoming branches and a band of four petalled flowers within rhombs. Other even more stylized flowers are painted on the rim. Painting before glazing demanded great skill because the unfired clay immediately absorbed the colour and once a brush stroke had been made it could not be changed. For this reason patterns in underglaze colours were usually sketched in light, free strokes.