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A small blue and white beaker vase, 17th century. Estimate $10,000 – $15,000Photo Christie’s Image Ltd 2015

Of elongated, cylindrical form flaring towards the neck, the vase is painted on one side with a leaf-shaped panel containing a four-clawed dragon emerging from waves in pursuit of a flaming pearl. The reverse is decorated with a stylized rock formation and a berry branch. 8 in. (20.3 cm.) high – Lot 3558. Price Realized $8,125

Provenance: Jan van Beers, London, 1984.
Collection of Julia and John Curtis.

Notes: The dragon had long been a favored motif in Chinese art, and it continued to be used as a decorative motif on Transitional wares. A symbol of imperial power, the dragon appeared on Chinese porcelains as early as the 14th century. Its meaning shifted slightly through China’s different political periods. In reference to a Ming dynasty leys jar in the Lenora and Walter F. Brown Collection decorated with a five-clawed dragon, illustrated by Julia B. Curtis in “Tales told in Porcelain: Jingdezhen Blue-and-White Wares at the San Antonio Museum of Art,” Orientations, April 2005 (p. 48, illustrated p. 49, fig. 8), Dr. Curtis notes, “During the Han dynasty, the dragon was the symbol of the east and thus associated with sunrise and spring rain which bring fertility and fecundity. The dragon was always related to water… Thus the dragon came to signify the power of creation, and to be embraced as the giver of life and the life force, and as such, to symbolize the person, power and benevolence of the emperor. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, use of the five-clawed dragon as an imperial decorative device was strictly enforced by sumptuary laws”.

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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