A ru-type ear-cup, Qianlong seal mark and period. Estimate 20,000 — 30,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby’s
the oval-shaped cup with rounded sides supported on a low footrim, flanked by a pair of elongated C-shaped ear handles, covered overall in an opaque greyish-blue glaze suffused with a network of faint golden crackle, the base inscribed with a six-character seal mark; 11.5cm., 4 ½in.
PROVENANCE: Lee Family Collection, formed in Shanghai in the 1920s.
Notes: This charming vessel takes its form from archaic bronze ear cups of the Warring States (475-221 BC) and Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). Covered in a ru-type glaze, the rarest of the Five Celebrated Wares of the Song dynasty, this piece demonstrates the Qianlong Emperor’s taste for archaism. The subtle curves of the vessel are accentuated by the luminous glaze to result in a piece that was both contemporary and steeped in tradition.
A related example, but without a reign mark, from the Edward T. Chow collection, was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 25thNovember 1980, lot 92; and another, covered in a guan-type glaze, was also sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 26th/27thNovember 1976, lot 118.
Ear-cups, known in Chinese as bei or yushang, are of this oval form with a pair of round ears serving as handles. Vessels of this type appear to have had a dual function and were used both as wine and food containers. The cup’s dual use is evident from the ninety ear-cups unearthed from the Han dynasty tomb site belonging to the first Marquis Dai and his family, located at Mawangdui near Changsha in Hunan province, where fifty cups were found inscribed with the three-characters jun feng shimeaning ‘to serve you food’ and the rest inscribed with the three-characters jun feng jiu which translates as ‘to serve you
Sotheby’s. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Londres | 05 nov. 2014, 10:00 AM