A magnificent and large olive-green-glazed slender oviform vase and cover with applied decoration, Northern Qi Dynasty. Estimate on request. Photo Bonhams.
Raised on a waisted spreading foot encircled with a band of overlapping lotus petals, the lower half of the ovoid body finely decorated with slender chicken-headed columns below intricately moulded roundels containing various motifs, including lotus blooms, phoenix, dragons and flowers, all below two large lotus-lappet bands in high relief, applied with three strap handles and interspersed with tiger heads and leafy sprays, the neck applied with monster-mask roundels, cartouches containing Buddhas, and leafy floral medallions, covered overall in a yellow-green glaze, the similarly-glazed domed cover decorated with eight acanthus leaves radiating from the bud-shaped finial. 65cm high (2).
Notes: The ornate applied decoration on this vase reflects an aesthetic strongly influenced by the Sassanian Persians and Central Asians. During the 6th century, trade with countries to the West of China grew, with many foreigners settling into Northern Chinese cities. Ceramics found in Northern Qi tombs often display Sassanian or Khotanese-style figures and motifs, including sprig-moulded stylised lotus blooms, tasselled palmettes, imitations of cabochon jewels in beaded settings, floral beaded medallions and monster masks. The appliqué decoration in horizontal registers creates a more complex silhouette, an effect that recalls the rich decoration of some Sassanian or Sogdian gold and silver with figural and floral friezes in relief.
In her published research monograph, Cultural Convergence in the Northern Qi Period: A Flamboyant Chinese Ceramic Container, New York, 2007, Suzanne G. Valenstein discusses the decorative motifs on Northern Qi vessels as an aesthetic that converged in China, but had roots from early Eurasian nomads and numerous cultural centres including Egypt, Greece, India, and other parts of Central Asia. Valenstein discusses the history of various motifs that are typical on Northern Qi wares like those on the present lot, including monster masks, lotus petals, feline heads etc.
Compare with equally ornate related vases, one in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, and another in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, both illustrated in ibid, p.94 and 95, no.5 and 6. Both the Nelson-Atkins and Ashmolean examples are of similar shape with very similar lotus lappets. A Northern Qi jar also with lotus lappets, from the Tomb of Feng Shihui, Jing County, Hebei, now in the National Museum of History, Beijing, is illustrated by Robert L. Thor and Richard Ellis Vinograd, Chinese Art and Culture New York, 2001, p.174, no.5-22. Another jar with comparable lotus lappets is in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Ceramics Gallery of the Palace Museum Part 1, Beijing, 2008, p.108-109, no.55. The waisted neck of the Palace Museum vase is also decorated with dragons, but these are less well defined than the motifs on the present lot.
The present lot is particularly distinguished by its exceptionally well defined and finely moulded appliqué decoration. Each roundel above the unusual chicken-headed columns contains a clearly visible intricate motif of flowers or mythical creatures. The tiger heads, each of the same size, are carefully incised with striped fur marks, and modelled with tiny ears and beady eyes. The monster-masks on the neck are crisply moulded, each detailed with a ferocious expression, large horns and bulging cheeks. A related vase with very similar monster masks and Buddhas to the current lot, was sold at Sotheby’s New York, 27 March 2003, lot 37.
The result of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test no.C109g14 is consistent with the dating of this lot.
Bonhams. THE FENG WEN TANG COLLECTION OF EARLY CHINESE CERAMICS, 9 Oct 2014 10:00 HKT. HONG KONG, ADMIRALTY