A superb blue and white Palace bowl, Mark and period of Chenghua. Estimation 40,000,000 — 60,000,000 HKD. Photo Sotheby’s
masterfully potted with smooth rounded sides, gracefully rising from a tapered foot to a slightly flared rim, superbly painted in characteristic soft tones of cobalt-blue in outlines infilled with wash, the exterior with a gently undulating meander of musk mallow, the four blossoms in full bloom with tender flaring petals, interspersed with star-shaped leaves, each bloom with a leaf delicately tucked and partially concealed behind, all between double line bands at the rim and foot, the interior with a central medallion enclosing a single flower head within a double circle, encircled by a similarly exquisite musk mallow meander to that on the exterior bearing five blooms and pointed leaves, beneath a double-line band at the rim, covered overall in a thick unctuous glaze fired to a waxy finish, the base inscribed with the four-character mark within a double circle; 14.7 cm., 5 3/4 in.
PROVENANCE: Christie’s Hong Kong, 20th March 1990, lot 523.
Christie’s Hong Kong, 27th April 1997, lot 73.
Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 7th October 2006, lot 908.
Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 8th October 2009, lot 1692.
LITTERATURE; Li Zhengzhong and Zhu Yuping, Taoci yanjiu jiansheng congshu [Studies on the connoisseurship of ceramics], vol. 3: Zhongguo qinghua ci [Chinese blue and white], Taipei, 1993, fig. 101.
Muted Elegance A Superb Musk-Mallow Palace Bowl
The porcelains of the Chenghua period (1465-87) can be considered the epitome of the unceasing efforts of the Jingdezhen potters at the imperial kilns to prove their originality in design and their outstanding craftsmanship. They represent the peak of material refinement and artistry, and are among the most idiosyncratic and distinct creations in terms of their decorative style.
The porcelain stone and glaze used for Chenghua imperial porcelains are arguably the finest ever achieved at Jingdezhen. The sensual pleasure of the touch of a Chenghua porcelain vessel is unmatched by porcelains of any other period, as the smooth, pleasing surface texture is unrivalled in its tactility. The ‘softness’ of the hard material can be gleaned even from a photograph. After a beginning where the Xuande period still supplied the main inspiration, the potters of the Chenghua reign arrived at their own distinctive style towards the latter part of the period. Palace bowls were made for only a few years towards the end of the Chenghua reign – opinions still vary between late 1470s to early 1480s, or just the 1480s.
Unlike the crisp and glossy glazes of the best Xuande wares, those of the Chenghua reign are more muted, covering the blue design with a most delicate veil. The cobalt pigment is much more even than it was in the Xuande period, without any ‘heaping and piling’. After decades of importing cobalt from the Middle East to achieve a deep and intense colour, native cobalt was deliberately chosen in the Chenghua reign – either on its own or in combination with imported pigment – to create a very different effect. The decoration is of a striking artlessness and immediacy, again in a deliberate move away from earlier models, focusing special attention on the material.
With such new goals and high specifications at the imperial workshops, it is not surprising that Chenghua porcelains are extremely rare, in fact, the rarest Chinese Imperial porcelains. Liu Xinyuan graphically describes the volume of fragments recovered from the site of the Ming Imperial kilns, where the Chenghua (1465-87) fragments equal less than half those unearthed from the Xuande stratum (1426-35), even though the latter period was so much shorter (Liu Xinyuan ‘Reconstructing Chenghua Porcelain from Historical Records’, The Emperor’s Broken China: Reconstructing Chenghua Porcelain, exhibition catalogue, Sotheby’s London, 1995, p. 11). The scarcity of sherds at the kiln site is mirrored by the rarity of surviving examples. Of those by far the greatest number is preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taiwan. Of the remaining examples most are today in museum collections. Only some two dozen Chenghua pieces of any type are recorded to be in private hands (see Julian Thompson’s ‘List of Patterns of Chenghua Porcelain in Collections Worldwide’, ibid., pp. 116-129).
What is generally known as ‘palace bowls’ are bowls of fine proportion, painted in underglaze blue with a flower or fruit design of apparent simplicity. Bowls with flower scroll decoration were of course also made in the Yongle (1403-24) and Xuande periods, but those of the Chenghua reign are unique in the deliberate irregularity introduced to a seemingly regular pattern. In the present design, blooms basically alternate with leaves, but on the inside one sprig of leaves appears behind a bloom rather than beside it, and on the outside an added bud similarly interrupts the regular rhythm. The stems therefore do not undulate in a predictable manner, but deliberately break up any symmetry. It is this slight deviation from the orderly arrangement – a daring and unique concept for imperial works of art, where any individual touch was generally shunned and machine-like precision and perfection were required – that makes this and other palace bowl designs vibrate, as if pervaded with some quiet motion. In this respect Chenghua palace bowls like the present example are quite unlike any earlier or later imperial designs.
The musk-mallow design with its combination of softly rounded, multi-lobed flower petals and contrasting pointed, serrated finger-like leaves is perhaps the most spectacular design among the various palace bowl patterns, many of which have a plain inside. Only three other patterns exist of palace bowls painted both inside and out, one showing scrolling lotus stems, one lily scrolls, and one a gardenia scroll outside and a mixed flower scroll inside. The musk mallow is easy to identify through the classic botanical literature (fig. 1). It was used already on some Yongle vessels, but extremely rarely, for example, on a ewer in Topkapi Saray, Istanbul, illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, ed. John Ayers, London, 1986, vol. 2, no. 617, and an identical one sold in these rooms, 30th October 2002, lot 271 (fig. 2). The depiction of the flower at that period was very different, lacking the clear distinction between darker outlines and paler washes, as well as the white rims of the petals seen on the present bowl.
Fig. 1. Huang Shukui, Abelmosehus Manihot, Mask Mallow. After: Bencao gangmu, vol. 1, p. 102 bottom left
Fig.2. Blue and white ewer, Ming dynasty, Yongle period, private collection. Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 30th October 2002, lot 271
The present pattern exists in two slightly different variations, one with the scrolling leaf stems on the inside crossing, as in the present case, the other with the stems not crossing. The central flower-head is also derived from flower-scroll bowls of the Xuande period, see Mingdai Xuande guanyao jinghua tezhan tulu/Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsüan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1998, cat. no. 61. Its unusual seven-petalled form again displays the peculiar Chenghua tendency towards diversity.
The present bowl is one of only two bowls of this design still remaining in private hands, while eleven examples are in museum collection, six of them in Asia and five in Europe; none are preserved in mainland China or in the United States. Beside this piece only three such bowls have ever been offered at auction, one for the last time in 1951, another in 1973 and the third in 2013. Examples of this design have been recovered in fragments from the waste heaps of the Ming Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen, and one reconstructed example was included in the exhibition The Emperor’s Broken China: ReconstructingChenghua Porcelain, Sotheby’s London, 1995, cat. no. 69 (fig. 3).
Companion pieces in Asia are four bowls preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, recorded in the Museum’s porcelain catalogue Gugong ciqi lu, part II: Ming, vol. 1, Taipei, 1962, p. 214, three of which have been published with illustrations, two in the Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Ch’eng-hua Porcelain Ware, 1465–1487, Taipei, 2003, cat. nos. 33 and 34; the third in the exhibition catalogue Ming Chenghua ciqi tezhan [Special exhibition of Ming Chenghua porcelain], Taipei, 1976, no. 80.
One bowl from the collections of Lindsay Hay and R.E.R. Luff, later in the Ataka collection and now in the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, sold in our London rooms in 1946 and 1973, was included in the Museum’s exhibition Imperial Porcelain: Recent Discoveries of Jingdezhen Ware, Osaka, 1995, pl. 229; another bowl from the collections of C.M. Woodbridge and Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Bernat, now in the Umezawa Kinenkan, Tokyo, sold in our London rooms 8th May 1951, lot 62, formed part of the Special Exhibition of Chinese Ceramics, Tokyo, 1994, pl. 263; and one from the Cunliffe collection, still remaining in a private collection, sold twice in these rooms, 20th May 1981, lot 689, and 8th October 2013, lot 101, is illustrated inSotheby’s: Thirty Years in Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2003, no. 248, and was included in the Exhibition of Ancient Chinese Ceramics, Kau Chi Society of Chinese Art in association with the Art Gallery, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1981-2, catalogue p. 73.
In Europe, a pair of bowls of this design from the collection of Axel and Nora Lundgren is in the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm, see Jan Wirgin, Ming Porcelain in the Collection of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities. Hongwu to Chenghua, Stockholm, 1991, cat. no. 35; two similar bowls are also in the British Museum, London, one, from the collection of Sir Percival David, was included in the exhibition Flawless Porcelains: Imperial Ceramics from the Reign of the Chenghua Emperor, Percival David Foundation, London, 1995, cat. no. 1; the other from the collection of Mrs. Winnifred Roberts, given in memory of A.D. Brankston, is published in Jessica Harrison-Hall, Catalogue of Late Yuan and Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, no. 6:4; and a similar bowl in the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, in the Netherlands, is illustrated in Daisy Lion-Goldschmidt, Ming Porcelain, London, 1978, pl. 66.
Chenghua porcelain remained greatly treasured throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties. Ts’ai Ho-pi relates many anecdotes recorded in the historical literature attesting to the value and esteem of Chenghua wares in later periods (Ts’ai Ho-pi, ‘Chenghua Porcelain in Historical Context’, Sotheby’s London, 1995, op.cit., p. 16 ff.). The rulers most interested in collecting ancient ceramics, the Wanli (r. 1573-1620) and Yongzheng (r. 1723-35) Emperors both had copies commissioned from the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen, the former with his own reign marks, the latter with a spurious Chenghua mark. A bowl of this design of Wanli mark and period in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, was included in the Museum’s 1976 exhibition together with an original piece, op.cit., cat. no. 79; a Qing copy in the Percival David Foundation, is illustrated in Oriental Ceramics. The World’s Great Collections, vol. 6, Tokyo, New York and San Francisco, 1982, no. 252.
Sotheby’s. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art. Hong Kong | 08 oct. 2014, 03:00 PM
‘Dragon’ Jar, ‘Yangcai’, “Fish” Stemcup, “Peach” Bowl, Blade, Blue-and-White, Bowl Stand, celadon-glazed, Cinnabar Lacquer, Copper-Red, doucai, Dragon-Handled Vase, Gold and Silver-Inlaid Bronze, Gold-Splashed Bronze, Hongwu Period, Imperially Inscribed, Incense burner, Liding Ming Dynasty, Liding Song Dynasty, Mark and Period of Chenghua, Mark And Period Of Kangxi, Mark And Period Of Xuande, meiping, Ming Dynasty, Palace Bowl, Seal Mark And Period Of Qianlong, The Chunzaizhai Collection, The Fonthill ‘Dragon’ Jar, Tripod Incense Burner, White Jade, Xuande Mark, Yellow-Ground, Yongle Mark, Yuan dynasty, Yuan-Early Ming dynasty, Yuti Mark And Period Of Qianlong, Zun
The Fonthill ‘Dragon’ Jar. A Magnificent Carved Celadon-Glazed ‘Dragon’ Jar, Seal Mark And Period Of Qianlong, 34.4 cm. Expected to fetch in excess of HK$80 million / US$10.3 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Autumn Sales 2014 will take place on 8 October at Hall 3, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The sales will offer selected properties from various private collections, led by the Fonthill ‘Dragon’ Jar from the Qianlong period (Expected to fetch in excess of HK$80 million / US$10.3 million). Other highlights include a Xuande ‘fish’ stemcup from the Chunzaizhai Collection, Chinese art from the Hosokawa clan (separate press release available on request), the Baoyizhai Collection of Chinese lacquer, later Chinese bronzes from the collection of Ulrich Hausmann and porcelain from the collection of legendary Japanese dealer Sakamoto Gorō, as well as a yellow-ground yangcai vase from the Qianlong period from the Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art various-owner sale. Altogether, the seven sales will offer around 420 lots with a total estimate of approximately HK$530 million / US$68 million*.
Nicolas Chow, Sotheby’s Asia Deputy Chairman and International Head of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, said, “This season, it is our privilege to present a wonderful selection of some of the world’s most celebrated collections – Hosokawa, Hausmann, Baoyizhai – spanning a diversity of fields such as Imperial porcelain, later bronzes and lacquer. Besides, we will also offer a number of masterworks of Chinese Imperial porcelain, including the magnificently carved celadon jar decorated with dragons formerly in the Fonthill collection.”
The Fonthill ‘Dragon’ Jar. A Magnificent Carved Celadon-Glazed ‘Dragon’ Jar Seal Mark And Period Of Qianlong 34.4 cm Expected to fetch in excess of HK$80 million / US$10.3 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
Throughout its 4,000-year history, the production of ceramics with celadon glazes has seen constant innovation. With the present jar, the classic jar form was rendered in a larger format unseen in previous examples, whereas the eternal subject of dragons among waves and clouds are portrayed in an exceptional style. With its superbly harmonious combination of form, carving style, design and glaze colour the present jar is a characteristic product of the period, when Tang Ying (1682-1756) was supervisor of the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen and the expectations on a piece of porcelain were set to the highest level ever.
The Chunzaizhai Collection – A Xuande ‘Fish’ Stemcup. An Important And Fine Copper-Red “Fish” Stemcup, Mark And Period Of Xuande, 8.8 cm. Est. HK$40 – 60 million / US$5.1 – 7.7 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
The superb Xuande stemcup from the Chunzaizhai Collection is the only example of this particular type and size ever to come to the market. The radical simplicity of this three-fish and related three-fruit designs is without par in the history of Chinese porcelain decoration and testifies to both the innovative approach to painting at the Imperial kilns in Jingdezhen and the technical progress in the firing of the copper-red, a notoriously fickle pigment. The admirable, jewel-like colour and texture of these silhouettes was achieved only in the Xuande reign and was not matched since. Numbers of very well executed examples with red glaze decoration such as the present piece remained very small. This piece has an illustrious history, having come to the market for the first time at Sotheby’s in 1956 from the collection of Allen J. Mercher, and since spent two decades in the Chang Foundation in Taipei.
Chinese Art Through the Eye of Sakamoto Gorō – Porcelain Following the previous success of offerings from the Sakamoto Gorō collection, Sotheby’s Hong Kong is delighted to present a selected group of porcelains from the famed collection of the legendary antique dealer. Sakamoto’s career as an antiques dealer, collector and connoisseur has spanned almost 70 years.
A Brilliantly Painted and Extremely Rare Blue and White Narrative Fragment of a Meiping, Yuan Dynasty. Diameter 24.3 cm. HK$2 – 3 million / US$260,000 – 380,000. Photo: Sotheby’s.
The present piece is a fragment of a meiping delicately painted in vivid shades of cobalt-blue with a continuous narrative scene alluding to the Yuan dynasty zaju (‘variety plays’), Baihuating (‘Pavilion of a Hundred Flowers’). The Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) is the only period when witty illustrations of popular scenes from contemporary theatre found their way onto porcelains. The superbly painted, complex stories represented on less than two dozen vessels that are preserved are among the most magnificent examples of Chinese porcelain painting ever achieved. This genre of porcelains made to evoke romantic or patriotic sentiments like contemporary drama developed in the relative freedom in porcelain production under the Mongol regime and was quickly abandoned again due to the subsequent submission of the Jingdezhen kilns under imperial control in the early Ming dynasty (1368-1644).
The Baoyizhai Collection of Chinese Lacquer, Part 2
As ritual bronzes fell out of vogue in the late Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-256 BC), lacquerwares began to take their place as one the most coveted luxury items one could own. Since that time, lacquer has continued to hold its place among highly esteemed collected objects like ceramics and jades. Hailed as one of the world’s top Chinese lacquer collectors, Dr. Hu Shih-chang (1924-2006) assembled a comprehensive collection which includes pieces from the Warring States period (475-221 BC) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and has been widely published and exhibited.
An Exceptional and Important Carved Cinnabar Lacquer Bowl Stand, Ming Dynasty, Hongwu Period, Yongle And Xuande Marks, 21.4 cm. Est. HK$10 – 15 million / US$1.3 – 1.9 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
Made to support bowls of hot tea, bowl stands were incorporated into the repertoire of the imperial workshops in the Ming dynasty. Ming (1368- 1644) emperors typically commissioned their own porcelains and relegated wares from previous reigns to storage. However, as carved lacquer was far more precious and laborious to recreate, this teabowl stand passed from ruler to ruler: produced for the Hongwu Emperor (r.1368-98), it was appropriated by the Yongle Emperor (r. 1403-24), whose reign mark was thinly engraved, before the Xuande Emperor (r. 1426-35) had his magnificent gilded mark carved on top.
Later Chinese Bronzes from the Collection of Ulrich Hausmann
Passionately collected over 45 years by the German architect Ulrich Hausmann, the Wei Liao Qing Yuan is the definitive collection of later Chinese bronzes. Encompassing all the major categories, the sale includes incense burners, archaistic vessels, water droppers, hand warmers and religious figures, reflecting the refined taste of the official scholar elite from the Song to Qing dynasties.
A Gold-Splashed Bronze Tripod Incense Burner, Liding Ming Dynasty, 17.5 cm. Est. HK$500,000 – 600,000 / US$64,000 – 77,000. Photo: Sotheby’s.
A Large Bronze Dragon-Handled Vase, Zun, Yuan-Early Ming Dynasty, 28 cm. Est. HK$40,000 – 60,000 / US$5,000 – 8,000. Photo: Sotheby’s.
A Partially Guilt-Bronze ‘Duck’ Water Dropper Late Ming Dynasty 6 cm Est. HK$40,000 – 60,000 / US$5,000 – 8,000. Photo: Sotheby’s.
A Gold and Silver-Inlaid Bronze Incense Burner, Liding Song Dynasty, 19 cm Est. HK$300,000 – 500,000 / US$38,000 – 64,000. Photo: Sotheby’s.
Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art
A Magnificent Yellow-Ground ‘Yangcai’ Vase, Seal Mark and Period of Qianlong, 29.3 cm. Est. HK$30 – 40 million / US$3.8 – 5.1 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
The current yangcai decorated yellow-ground bottle vase is representative of the advanced technical innovation as well as the successful synthesis of classical Chinese taste and Western decorative technique and palette in porcelain manufacture during the reign of the Qianlong emperor (r. 1735-96), who is known for his love for yangcai pieces. It also marks the innovative combination of ‘flowers on brocade’ sgraffiato with yangcai colours that result in a most pleasing arrangement. The present yangcai vase is truly exquisite, in a fine state of preservation, and the quality of its enamelling compares favourably with the finest examples from the Imperial Collection still preserved in Taipei and Beijing. That it has been possible to find its original entry in the Qing imperial court archives makes it a truly magnificent legacy of the Qianlong reign.
A Superb Blue and White Palace Bowl, Mark and Period of Chenghua, 14.7 cm. Est. HK$40 – 60 million / US$5.1 – 7.7 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
Chenghua palace bowls are regarded as the most refined blue and white porcelains ever made and rank among the rarest wares ever produced at the Imperial kilns. Porcelain of the period remained greatly treasured by later Emperors, particularly Emperor Wanli and Emperor Yongzheng, who both had copies commissioned from the Imperial kilns. Both the interior and exterior of the bowl are decorated with gently undulating meanders of musk mallow, a flower design that appears for the first time in early 15th century blue and white porcelain. The present bowl is one of only two bowls of this design still remaining in private hands, while eleven examples are in museum collection, six of them in Asia and five in Europe.
A Fine And Rare Pair Of Doucai “Peach” Bowls, Marks And Period Of Kangxi, 14.6 cm. Est. HK$8 – 10 million / US$1 – 1.3 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
These bowls are notable for the elegant and unusual design which has been restricted to a narrow band. The refined composition is accentuated by the variation of colours and delicacy of the enamelling which illustrate carefully observed details. With its highly auspicious decoration, this pair of bowls was possibly part of the large production for the Kangxi Emperor’s sixtieth birthday celebrations in 1713 for which peaches symbolic of longevity featured as the main motif.
An Important Imperially Inscribed White Jade Blade, Yuti Mark And Period Of Qianlong, 18.1 cm. Est. HK$8 – 10 million / US$1 – 1.3 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.
The present blade pendant is an excellent reflection of the passion of Qianlong Emperor for creative archaism in jades. Its form and decorative motifs are clearly based on the face-like motifs of Neolithic jades, but at the same time differ from the latter in execution. Pure and warm in material, subtle and profound in form, antique and refined in decoration, with an inscription of praise by the emperor himself, the present jade blade pendant is a perfect fusion of various cultural elements.