Of octagonal form with everted rim, decorated in iron-red, blue, green and black enamels, slightly gilded and covered with a clear glaze with a ‘hob in a well’ scene, depicting Sima Guang rescuing a drowning companion from a large water jar as another child looks on, a ight of small birds overhead, the angled edge painted with stylized ‘kiku’ and peonies, the raised rim glazed in a brown iron-oxide glaze, four spur marks on recessed base.
Sima Guang was a statesman and historian of the Song Dynasty. This dish depicts a childhood anecdote, when he rescued his drowning friend from a large water jar by throwing a stone to smash the jar thereby release the water. A third boy pulls him from the jar by the arm. The story became popularised in the late 17th century in Japan. Sima Guang was one of few figure subjects created by the Arita enamellers. Appropriating the charm of the design over any didactic connotation, Chinese export kilns and the German factory Meissen reproduced the pattern around 1730. Dutch enamellers recreated it on porcelain red in China or Japan between 1710 and 1735. The English factory Chelsea released the pattern, known by the soubriquet “Hob in the well,” around 1755.
• A similar Kakiemon dish, from the Idemitsu Art Gallery, is illustrated, Hayashiya Seizo, Sekai Toji Zenshu, Vol. 8 no. 169. Another in Soame Jenyns, Japanese Porcelain, no. 766