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Fish on Porcelain

Related Images

  • Fig 1: An extremely rare large blue and white ‘carp’ fishbowl - [Sotheby’s](
  • Fig 2: A Chinese famille rose ‘goldfish’ bowl - [Christie’s](
  • Fig 3: A Chinese Enameled Porcelain “Goldfish” Cup - [Heritage Auctions](
  • Fig 4:  An iron-red porcelain ‘nine goldfish’ snuff bottle - [Bonhams, ](

The shard shows the abstract image of a goldfish surrounded by marine plants, a motif found on cups, bowls, plates and so-called “fish bowls”, jar- or pot-like containers used to breed fish for Chinese garden ponds.

The goldfish we see on the shard has a red body and large protruding dark eyes which reveal that it belongs to the Celestial Eye breed, which also frequently appears on fish bowls. Figurative and relatively abstract goldfish decorations also appear on bowls, plates, cups and other types of ceramic vessels.

Here they imply an auspicious wish for wealth, as the Chinese term for goldfish (jinyu) is a homonym of “gold and jade”, materials that historically stood for affluence as they were at the very top of the material hierarchies in China. Regardless of whether the goldfish on our shard originally belonged to a fish bowl or another kind of ceramic object, we can, based on its modern abstract design, safely assume that it was made during the twentieth century. Nevertheless, it still evokes positive connotations as a traditional symbol of prosperity.