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A large blue and white 'Windswept' jar, guan, Ming dynasty, mid-15th century

A large blue and white ‘Windswept’ jar, guan, Ming dynasty, mid-15th century. Photo Christie’s Image Ltd 2014

Heavily potted and of baluster form, the jar is deftly painted around the sides in the ‘windswept’ style with Daoist imagery, with a scene of two men playing weiqi while an imposing figure with a halo around his head, possibly Laozi holding a ruyi scepter, sits between them observing. To one side Xiwangmu is seen holding a tray of peaches between two female attendants holding feather fans, and to the other side a scholar holding a gnarled staff looks back at two attendants carrying a box and a cloth-wrapped qin. All are in a landscape setting below a band of billowing clouds and above a band of breaking waves. The shoulder has panels of lotus sprigs reserved on a diaper ground below a band of further diaper on the short, tapering neck. 13¾ in. (35 cm.) high. Estimate $80,000 – $100,000

Provenance: The Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong.

The present jar belongs to a group of large blue and white jars and meiping of 14th-16th century date depicting figures in landscapes and garden settings, that are taken from traditional literature and popular drama. The panoramic landscape scene is comparable to handscroll paintings of the early Ming period, although on ceramics the painting required the joining of scenes by a series of stylized cloud scrolls to create an element of continuity.

The scene of the figures playing weiqi can also be seen as part of the decoration on a similar type of jar illustrated in Panoramic Views of Chinese Patterns, Tokyo, 1985, no. 50. The scene on both jars includes a figure seated between the players observing the game, who, because of his halo, may represent Laozi. He can also be identified by his distinctive topknot and his ruyi-shaped scepter. The other two gentleman may represent the frontier guardian Yin Xi, who became an immortal, and Zhang Ling, upon whom Laozi conferred the title tianshi, Celestial Master. Both of these immortals are usually shown flanking Laozi. All three are significant personages in Daoism, as is Xiwangmu depicted on the reverse.

Christie’s. FINE CHINESE CERAMICS AND WORKS OF ART, 18 – 19 September 2014, New York, Rockefeller Plaza.