Frog-shaped Kendi

Wanli Period (1573-1620), Ming Dynasty


H: 21.0 x W: 18.0 x D: 12.5cm

Porcelain, Cobalt blue pigments, Silver

This zoomorphic looking object is made of porcelain decorated under the glaze with a blue pigment, cobalt blue. The appearance of this particular object clearly shows that it is a vessel created for holding liquids as it has a long neck and a lid. It is easily recognised as a “Kendi” from other pouring vessels such as a pitcher or jug by the absence of a handle. The word “Kendi” is a Malay term derived from the Sanskrit word “kundika”, a small ritual pouring vessel.

The vessel is modelled as a crouching frog and it naturalistically painted. Frogs are valued in China because they keep down insect pests on crops and they are famous in Chinese culture as a sign of prosperity. The details painted by the potters on the vessel were spectacular, the little floral patterns were added on the fine dots to mimic the texture of a frog skin. It is coupled with a silver mount which is connected by two chains to a flower-like stopper at the spout. The style of the silver mount is distinctively different and it has a hint of middle east influence. This could suggest that this particular vessel has travelled out of china and reach the hands of patrons of another culture.

Porcelain alone was already a highly sought after ware type that was expensive to buy and consider a status item by many elites. With the additional attachment of silver mount on top of porcelain, indicate that this is a precious vessel that only aristocrats will be able to afford it.


  1. A fascinating object–the shape and the additional silver piece! Nice visual analysis. Now for some contextual analysis. Are there similar pieces that combine porcelain and silver? Also, what is the market for these types of objects?

Leave a Reply