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A wucai gu-form vase, Shunzhi period, circa 1650. Estimate $40,000 – $60,000. Price Realized $106,250. Photo Christie’s Image Ltd 2015

The tall slender vase, of cylindrical form flaring toward the mouth, is brightly enameled and decorated on the upper register with a scene set against an iron-red diaper ground, depicting a fierce tiger standing in a blue-wash pool, and a sinuous dragon emerging from clouds above in pursuit of a flaming pearl. The scene is set above a band of flowers and rocks and a lower border of pendent lappets, both set on an iron-red diaper ground. The interior of the mouth is enameled with green and yellow rocks with small iron-red flowers. The flat base is unglazed. 15 ½ in. (39.4 cm.) high – Lot 3549

Provenance: Collection of Uno Ranch, Sweden.
Acquired from S. Marchant & Son, Ltd., 2001.
Collection of Julia and John Curtis.

Notes: Images of the dragon and tiger, two of the Four Divinities in Daoism, are known in China since at least the Zhou dynasty (c. 1050-256 BC). (Stephen Little with Shawn Eichman, Taoism and the Arts of China, Chicago, 2000, p. 130) Representing two of the four cardinal directions, East (dragon) and West (tiger), they also symbolize the elements fire and metal. As explained by Little and Eichman, ibid., “In Taoist chemical alchemy (waidan, or “outer” alchemy), the tiger and dragon also represent two of the most powerful elixir ingredients known, lead and mercury, while in the Inner Alchemy (neidan) tradition, the two animals symbolize yin and yang as they are brought together in the inner (human) body through visualization and transformed to create a divine embryonic form of the practitioner. »

For a blue and white Shunzhi period jar from the Curtis Collection on which these two animals also appear, see lot 3551 in the present catalogue.

CHRISTIE’S. AN ERA OF INSPIRATION: 17TH-CENTURY CHINESE PORCELAINS FROM THE COLLECTION OF JULIA AND JOHN CURTIS, 16 March 2015,New York, Rockefeller Plaza

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