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An unusual underglaze-blue and green-glazed yellow-ground petal-lobed bowl, Kangxi six-character mark in underglaze blue within a double circle and of the period (1662-1722). Estimate $12,000 – $15,000Photo Christie’s Image Ltd 2015

The deep bowl is molded with lobed sides and conforming rim and foot. Each lobe is decorated in underglaze blue, and aubergine and green glazes with one of ‘The Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup’ as described in Du Fu’s Tang-dynasty poem, all set against a rich, egg-yoke yellow ground. The interior is also covered in yellow glaze and the center is decorated in underglaze blue with a robed figure, possibly the drunken poet Li Bai, reclining next to a wine jar. 7 ¾ in. (19.5 cm.) diam. Lot 3587


Provenance: Heirloom & Howard, Ltd., London, 1984.
Collection of Julia and John Curtis.

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Notes: The poem ‘Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup’ (Yinzhong baxian) was written by the famous Tang dynasty poet Du Fu (AD 712-770) who, like many Tang dynasty men of letters, derived considerable enjoyment, and, apparently, inspiration, from drinking wine. In his poem he chose to celebrate the drinking habits of other literary men of his time, including that of his great friend Li Bai (AD 701-62). This poem provided the subject for paintings at least as early as the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), and appeared as decoration on porcelain in the Qing dynasty Shunzhi reign (1644-1661), although it was particularly popular in the Kangxi reign (1662-1722). For a stem cup and a blue and white bowl also decorated with scenes from this poem see lots 3557 and 3588.

All of the Eight Immortals are pictured on this bowl. Of them, Du Fu said:

Li Jin, Prince of Ruyang:
‘Ruyang can drink three gallons [of wine] by daybreak,
But when a wine cart passes his mouth still waters,
He would prefer to take up an appointment in Jiuquan [Wine spring].’

He Zhizhang:
He Zhi-zhang sits crosswise in his saddle
as if he were riding across seas
in his befuddlement he seeks a cool well
to sink into a deep sleep.

Li Shizhi:
Minister Li Shi-zhi spends daily for his wine ten thousand cash
and he drinks as a whale drinks from the sea
each time his lips are so happy they burst into song
the eternal words, keep it straight, no diluting for me.

Cui Zongzhi:
Cui Zongzhi light-hearted and carefree, handsome young master, raising the wine cup, the whites of his eyes look toward the clear sky, he sways like a jade tree in the wind.

Su Jin:
Su Jin has made a vow to the Buddha embroidered on his vest
but for his drunkenness he takes care to forget all his rules.

Li Bai:
Li Tai-bo drinks a gallon of wine, writes a hundred poems
then sleeps it off in the back of a wine shop in Chang-an
when the emperor asked him to board the royal barge
he shouted back, I am a drunken immortal.

Zhang Xu:
Zhang Xu needs three full beakers for his art
then his brush brings fairy clouds down to the silk
his cap tossed aside in his frenzy, bareheaded before princes.

Jiao Sui:
‘Jiao Sui needs five gallons [of wine] before he can become erudite,
Then the loftiness of his rhetoric amazes those vigorously debating in the four halls.’