money in art

75. Chinese coins and reign/base marks on ceramics

Look underneath Ming and Qing dynasty ceramics, and you’ll often find a reign mark or another kind of mark on the base (Chinese: 底款 dikuan – base-mark). Sometimes these are presented in a way that references Chinese coin designs  –  some base-marks look like coins: some have a square mark in the middle of a round base (like the hole in a coin?), and/or two concentric circles (like the outer rim of a coin?). Some even have an inscription arranged top-bottom-right-left as on coins, although this is sometimes a good luck inscription, as found on coin-shaped charms. Chinese coins had reign periods as part of the inscription several centuries earlier than the Ming dynasty, but when do Chinese coin-shaped base-marks first start to appear on ceramics? Which came first – the reign-period base-mark or the Chinese coin-inspired base-mark? What is the earliest evidence of a Chinese coin-inspired base-mark?

Photo from Amelia (2)

Label text at the Bristol Museum. (Image source: Amelia Dowler)

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Blue and white ‘coin’ dish, 17th century (Sotheby’s, New York, 19-20 March 2013) 

Chinese coins were used decoratively and symbolically at least as early as the Han dynasty. And coin-designs featured on the body of Chinese ceramics long before the Ming dynasty, as in the Song dynasty vase below.

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 Yaozhou meiping vase incised with coin-pattern, Song dynasty. Photo Paragon International Auctioneers (image source: Alain Truong2014.wordpress.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

53. The Millenium Medal, by Marian Fountain

I came across “The Millenium Medal” by Marian Fountain last week. I’ve known her name and some of her work for a long time, but had never seen this medal before. Intrigued by the way it references East Asian coins, I asked if she’d tell us more about it. I’m very grateful to Marian for writing this post, and for sharing these images with us, and also to Dr Alexander Chang for agreeing to share his response to the medal. (more…)