Ewer in the Shape of a Phoenix, about 1570–80, China, Ming dynasty (1368–1644), molded porcelain with silver-gilt mounts (Nuremberg, Germany, about 1600, with later additions)
Rare Chinese porcelains were highly prized by European nobility, who commissioned precious metal mounts to protect their fragile edges. Enameled on fired unglazed clay with soft lead-silicate glazes, the fanciful ewer is molded as the mythical phoenix, an emblem of the Chinese empress and symbol of beauty. The silver-gilt oval foot mount is attributed to Friedrich Hillebrand (German, d. 1608), a prominent goldsmith from Nuremberg. The silver-gilt cover and stopper attached to a chain around the bird’s neck are later additions.