Alain.R.Truong

04 mars 2015

Vente par Sotheby's de 150 pièces de haute couture de la collection personnelle de Didier Ludot en juillet à Paris

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Collection Didier Ludot

PARIS - Pour la première fois à Paris, Sotheby’s aura l’honneur, avec le concours de Kerry Taylor Auctions, de mettre en vente la collection personnelle de Didier Ludot le 8 juillet à la galerie Charpentier.

Doit-on encore présenter Didier Ludot ? Le plus grand, si ce n’est le seul, « antiquaire de mode » français. Les vitrines magiques de sa galerie du palais-royal sont une visite parisienne incontournable pour tout amoureux de la mode. Depuis plus de quatre décennies et parallèlement à son activité de marchand, Didier Ludot a collectionné une à une les pièces de Haute Couture les plus rares. C’est ce jardin secret qui nous est aujourd’hui dévoilé : Didier Ludot confie le soin à Sotheby’s France de vendre aux enchères une partie de sa collection personnelle. 

De Paul Poiret à Yohji Yamamoto en passant par Madame Grès, Christian Dior, Cristobal Balenciaga, Azzedine Alaïa, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, John Galliano ou Comme des Garçons, Didier Ludot nous offre ici un panorama complet de l’histoire de la mode au XXe siècle. Les 150 pièces que composent cette vacation sont un vibrant hommage à la haute couture française et au savoir-faire ancestral de ses artisans, couturiers, brodeurs, plumassiers, peaussiers, dentelliers, etc. 

Chaque pièce a été sélectionnée avec soin pour sa technique, sa singularité, la spécificité du couturier qui l’a créée ou l’originalité de la femme qui l’a portée. C’est à ces femmes, célèbres ou anonymes, que Didier Ludot doit sa vocation. Cette vente lève le voile sur leur garde-robe : la petite robe noire pailletée Chanel ayant appartenu à Romy Schneider, la pochette Jacques Fath de la duchesse de Windsor et le chapeau Yves Saint Laurent de Loulou de la Falaise, le manteau Balenciaga de Mona Bismarck, les robes sculpturales d’Alaïa créées pour Bettina, l’impeccable veste de Monsieur Dior conçue pour Josette Day, le coffret à bijoux Cartier de Barbara Hutton, etc… Elégantes d’hier ou d’aujourd’hui, ces femmes n’en finissent pas de nous faire rêver.  

Sotheby’s est fière aujourd’hui d’accompagner ce collectionneur passionné et inconditionnel qui s’érige désormais en passeur et s’inscrit dans un rôle de transmission. Grâce à cette vente, Didier Ludot offre à ses robes une nouvelle vie, un nouveau propriétaire et se fait le héraut d’un monde où le raffinement rencontre l’intemporel. 

La collection réservera de belles surprises parmi les 150 vêtements et accessoires, réalisés entre 1924 et le début des années 2000. Ces pièces uniques, conservées dans leur état original, toutes porteuses d’histoire, toutes emblématiques d'un moment de mode, du style d’un créateur, composent un ensemble d’une qualité rare. 

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Christian Dior – Hiver 1957. Robe en ottoman bleu lavande modèle « Louveciennes ». 

Dernière collection de Monsieur Dior. 

Christian Dior – Winter 1957. "Louveciennes" dress.

This model came from Dior's last collection.

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Yamamoto – Hiver 2006. Bustier cage en jersey noir. 

Modèle porté à quasiment chaque passage du défilé hiver 2006. 

Yamamoto – Winter 2006. Cage corset in black jersey.

This model worn at nearly each moment of the Winter 2006 show.

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Pierre Balmain – Hiver 1953. Robe de cocktail en velours noir, entièrement brodée de roses en mousseline par la Maison Lesage

Pierre Balmain – Winter 1953. Black velvet cocktail dress embroidered with chiffon roses by the Lesage Company.

Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent – Automne / Hiver 1968. Robe de cocktail en daim entièrement brodée de pierreries par la Maison LesageYves Saint Laurent – Fall / Winter 1968. Buckskin cocktail dress embroidered with precious stones embroidered by Lesage.

Modèle porté par Marisa Berenson, photographié par Irving Penn pour le magazine Vogue en 1968. Un modèle identique figurait dans l’exposition rétrospective consacrée à Yves Saint Laurent au Petit Palais du 11 mars au 29 août 2010, reproduit dans le catalogue de l’exposition L'intégrale Yves Saint Laurent, Haute Couture 1962-2002 aux éditions Lamartinière. Un autre modèle est conservé au Kobe Museum. 

This piece was worn by Marisa Berenson, photographed by Irving Penn for Vogue magazine in 1968. A model was shown at the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective at the Petit Palais, 11 March to 29 August 2010 and reproduced in the exhibition catalogue. Another model is kept at the Kobe Museum.

Balenciaga - 1960

Balenciaga - 1960. Robe du soir en satin noir au bustier brodé d’œillets

Balenciaga - 1960. Black satin evening dress embroidered with carnations on the bodice.

Schiaparelli – Eté 1938

Schiaparelli – Eté 1938. Robe en twill de soie collection « Circus ».

Une veste issue de cette mythique collection reprenant le même motif de petits chevaux est conservée au Victoria and Albert Museum de Londres.

Schiaparelli – Summer 1938 Silk twill dress from the "Circus" collection.

A jacket from this legendary collection, with similar iconography forms part of the in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Paco Rabanne - 1969

, Paco Rabanne - 1969 Mini robe en métal et plumes de marabout. Provenance : Mademoiselle Dani.

Robe spécialement créée pour la chanteuse Dani à l’occasion de son spectacle à l’Alcazar en 1970.

Rabanne - 1969. Mini-dress in metal and ostrich feathers. Provenance: Ms Dani.

This dress was especially designed for the singer Dani for her show at the Alcazar in 1970.

Marc Vaughan – 1973

Marc Vaughan – 1973 Robe du soir carrée en organdi peint à la main de cercles multicolores. Provenance : Madame Marc Vaughan, muse du couturier.

Il s’agit d’un prototype, témoignage des recherches menées par le couturier sur la coupe et l’architecture dans ses vêtements.

Vaughan - 1973. Square evening dress in organdie with hand-painted multicolour circles. Provenance : Ms Marc Vaughan, the couturier’s muse.

This was a prototype, reflecting the couturier's experiments with the cut and architecture of his garments.

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Balenciaga - 1965. Robe du soir en tulle point d’esprit de Brivet entièrement appliquée de plumes roses par Albert. Provenance : Madame Francine Weisweiller

Cet exceptionnel exemple est le fruit d’une collaboration entre les artisans de la mode les plus célèbres de l’époque. Il fut prêté pour l’exposition rétrospective consacrée à Balenciaga au Musée des Tissus de Lyon en 1986 et reproduit dans le catalogue. Elle a appartenu à l’une des parisiennes les plus élégantes de son temps, muse de Cocteau et grande amie du couturier, Madame Francine Weisweiller.

Evening dress in point d’esprit tulle by Brivet, entirely covered with appliqué pink feathers by Albert. Provenance : Ms Francine Weisweiller.

This remarkable piece arose from a collaboration between the most celebrated craftspeople in fashion at that period. It was loaned for the Cristobal Balenciaga retrospective at the Musée des Tissus in Lyon in 1986. It belonged to Cocteau's muse, Francine Weisweiller: one of the most elegant Parisian women of her time.

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Didier Ludot.

PARIS - For the first time in Paris, Sotheby’s, in association with Kerry Taylor Auctions, announces the sale of fine haute couture from the renowned Didier Ludot collection on 8 July at the Galerie Charpentier.

Didier Ludot, France's greatest "fashion antiquarian”, surely needs no introduction. The magical showcase of his legendary Palais-Royal gallery is a must for any fashion-lover visiting Paris. Specialising and dealing in vintage fashion for more than forty years, he has carefully selected and set aside for his own personal collection many of the most important pieces he has handled. 

With designs by Paul Poiret, Yohji Yamamoto, Madame Grès, Christian Dior, Cristobal Balenciaga, Azzedine Alaïa, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, John Galliano and Comme des Garçons, Didier Ludot’s collection provides a comprehensive overview of 20th century fashion. The 150 items in the sale are a vibrant tribute to French haute couture and the time-honoured expertise of its craftspeople, who include tailors, embroiderers, leatherworkers, feather merchants, and lace makers. 

Each piece was carefully chosen by Monsieur Ludot for its technical skill and beauty, sometimes to reflect the trademark style of the couturier who created it, or the elegance of the woman who wore it. It is to these women, famous and anonymous alike, to whom Didier Ludot owes his vocation. 

This sale unveils their wardrobes and individual style: the Chanel “little black dress” with sequins owned by Romy Schneider; the Duchess of Windsor's psychedelic 60’s dress; Loulou de la Falaise's Yves Saint Laurent hat; Mona Bismarck's Balenciaga cape; the sculptural dresses Alaïa created for Bettina; the impeccable Dior jacket designed for Josette Day; Barbara Hutton's Cartier jewel box – and so the list goes on. These elegant women of past and present are an endless inspiration for our fantasies. 

There are some stunning surprises among the 150 garments and accessories, produced between 1924 and the early 2000s. These unique pieces still in their original condition – all redolent with history, all emblematic of a moment in fashion, or a designer's style – make up a collection of extraordinary quality. They will appeal to private collectors, museums and stylish women the world over who buy vintage fashion to wear. 

Today, Sotheby’s and Kerry Taylor Auctions are proud to assist a passionate, wholehearted collector who has now decided to pass on his treasures. Through this sale, Didier Ludot gives new life and new owners to his dresses, as the harbinger of a world where the exquisite meets the timeless. 


03 mars 2015

Argyle pink diamonds

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Cerrone pink diamond ring in rose gold, set with princess cut and round brilliant Argyle pink diamonds. Available at www.cerrone.com.au.

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Linneys Argyle pink diamond ring in platinum and rose gold with white diamonds. Available at www.linneys.com.au.

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J. Farren-Price Trilogy ring, set with a trio of step-cut Argyle pink diamonds. Available at www.jfarrenprice.com.au.

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James Thredgold Pink Prosperity ring, featuring an 0.85ct radiant-cut Intense Pink Argyle diamond set within a white diamond halo. The hero gem is nestled within two pear-shape diamonds surrounded by a halo of pink Argyle diamonds in white gold. Available at www.jamesthredgold.com.au.

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Cerrone diamond drop earrings in white and rose gold with pear-shaped white diamonds and Argyle pink diamonds. Available at www.cerrone.com.au.

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Cerrone Insieme Argyle pink diamond ring in white and rose gold with an oval Argyle pink diamond and oval white diamonds. Available at www.cerrone.com.au.

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Musson's Lowanna pink diamond ring ring is set with a 1.27ct Fancy Vivid Argyle pink diamond, complemented by a pair of 1.78ct blush pink diamond shoulders set in a white and rose gold bespoke Musson design. Available at www.musson.com.au.

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Mondial Pink Diamond Atelier Charisse pink diamond ring, set with a Vivid purple pink Argyle pink diamond in platinum and surrounded by 3.67ct oval-shaped diamonds. Available at www.mondial.com.au

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Mondial Pink Diamond Atelier Cathedral pink diamond ring in platinum featuring an emerald-cut 0.83ct natural Argyle pink diamond. Available at www.mondial.com.au.

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Linneys Argyle pink diamond tiara encrusted with 178 Argyle pink diamonds. Available at www.linneys.com.au.

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Linneys Argyle pink diamond ring in white and rose gold with white diamonds. Available at www.linneys.com.au.

A small blue and white wine cup and stand, Kangxi marks and period

A small blue and white wine cup and stand, Kangxi marks and period1

A small blue and white wine cup and stand, Kangxi marks and period2

A small blue and white wine cup and stand, Kangxi marks and period3

A small blue and white wine cup and stand, Kangxi marks and periodEstimate 4,000 — 6,000 USDPhoto Sotheby's.

the cup thinly potted with upright sides springing from a narrow foot, penciled on the exterior with a band of interlaced trefoil scrolls encircling the base, the stand with shallow flared sides centered with a stylized floret enclosed by a raised rim and bordered by a band of tightly drawn lotus scroll, the cup interior and the stand rim with silver mounts, six-character marks in underglaze blue within a double circle (2) - Height of cup 3 1/2  in., 8.8 cm; Diameter of stand 4 3/8  in., 11.1 cm

ProvenanceSotheby's London (according to label on base).
George Bartram Kiddell (1933-2013), Toronto, Canada and thence by descent.

NotesThere are very few examples of this type with the cup and stand together. For an example in the Palace Museum see Chen Runmin, ed., Gugong Bowuyuan cang Qingdai ciqi lei xuan [Qing porcelains from the Palace Museum Collection Selected by Type], vol. 1: Qing Shunzhi Kangxi chao qinghua ci [Blue-and-white porcelain of the Shunzhi and Kangxi reigns of the Qing], Beijing, 2005, no. 165. A cup with its stand was purchased by T.Y. Chao in our Hong Kong rooms, 22nd May 1979, lot 164 and then subsequently sold in Part II of the Collection sale, 19th May 1987, lot 267. A similar cup formerly the Percival David Foundation sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 11th April 2008, lot 3053 and another sold in our London rooms, 15th May 2013, lot 28.

Sotheby'sImportant Chinese Works of Art, New York, 17 mars 2015, 02:00 PM

A blue and white 'Lion' dish, Jiajing mark and period

A blue and white 'Lion' dish, Jiajing mark and period2

A blue and white 'Lion' dish, Jiajing mark and period3

A blue and white 'Lion' dish, Jiajing mark and period. Estimate 5,000 — 7,000 USDPhoto Sotheby's.

he shallow, rounded sides rising to an everted rim, the interior painted in vivid tones of cobalt blue with two Buddhist lions playing with a be-ribboned ball amidst auspicious emblems enclosed within concentric lines, the exterior with two further pairs of Buddhist lions centered by a ball trailing ribbons divided by ruyi-form clouds - Diameter 4 7/8  in., 12.5 cm

A blue and white 'Lion' dish, Jiajing mark and period1

together with a 17th century blue and white bowl with convex center painted with auspicious Buddhist symbol, the exterior with plants and insects, the base with an apocryphal Xuande mark (2)

A blue and white 'Lion' dish, Jiajing mark and period4

A blue and white 'Lion' dish, Jiajing mark and period5

ProvenanceCollection of Henry Bar, Shanghai, 1940's. 
Oriental Fine Arts, Inc. New York, 1950s.
Mr. and Mrs. Mario Belloso and thence by descent.

Sotheby'sImportant Chinese Works of Art, New York, 17 mars 2015, 02:00 PM

A blue and white 'Eight Trigrams' jar, Late Ming dynasty

A Blue and white 'Eight Trigrams' jar, Late Ming dynasty

A blue and white 'Eight Trigrams' jar, Late Ming dynasty. Estimate 5,000 — 7,000 USDPhoto Sotheby's.

of ovoid form, painted with the Eight Trigrams alternating with flaming ruyi heads with a band of breaking waves below and a leafy meander above, all divided by double lines, wood cover (2) - Height 7 1/2  in., 19.2 cm

ProvenanceThe Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia.
Christie's New York, 2nd December 1985, lot 243.

Sotheby'sImportant Chinese Works of Art, New York, 17 mars 2015, 02:00 PM



A blue and white 'Floral' basin, Late Ming dynasty, circa 1620s

A blue and white 'Floral' basin, Late Ming dynasty, circa 1620s1

A blue and white 'Floral' basin, Late Ming dynasty, circa 1620s2

A blue and white 'Floral' basin, Late Ming dynasty, circa 1620s3

A blue and white 'Floral' basin, Late Ming dynasty, circa 1620s. Estimate 8,000 — 10,000 USDPhoto Sotheby's.

painted in vibrant tones of underglaze blue, the interior with a square-form vase holding a large bouquet of flowering peony stems, flanked to either side by smaller jars containing lotus blooms, butterflies fluttering above, the everted rim encircled by further blooms emerging from rockwork, the exterior with three clusters of lotus alternating with pairs of herons, butterflies and florets along the rim, the base with an apocryphal Chenghua mark, Japanese wood box (2) - Diameter 11 1/4  in., 28.3 cm

ProvenancePrivate Japanese Collection.

Notes: A closely related basin, bearing a Tianqi mark and of the period, from the Butler Family Collection, is illustrated in Sir Michael Butler and Prof. Wang Qingzheng, Seventeenth Century Jingdezhen Porcelain from the Shanghai Museum and the Butler Collections, Beauty's Enchantment, Shanghai, 2006, pp. 66-67, cat. no. 3 where it is proposed that this particularly form of basin was only made during the Tianqi period and that it may have been used as a dice bowl.  Three other examples are in Japanese museums; the Nezu, the National Museum Tokyo and the Idemitsu. 

Sotheby'sImportant Chinese Works of Art, New York, 17 mars 2015, 02:00 PM

A blue and white 'Ming style' bottle vase, Daoguang seal mark and period

A blue and white 'Ming style' bottle vase, Daoguang seal mark and period

A blue and white 'Ming style' bottle vase, Daoguang seal mark and period 2

A blue and white 'Ming style' bottle vase, Daoguang seal mark and period. Estimate 30,000 — 50,000 USDPhoto Sotheby's.

the globular body rising from a short spreading foot to a tall waisted neck, finely painted in rich cobalt-blue tones with a composite floral scroll between a band of lappets and a frieze of pendent ruyi at the shoulder, the neck with plantain leaves above a key-fret border, further decorated with ruyi and a band of tumultuous waves around the mouthrim, the base inscribed with a six-character seal mark in underglaze blue - Height 14 7/8  in., 37.7 cm

ProvenanceHugh Moss Ltd., London, 10th May 1978.

Sotheby'sImportant Chinese Works of Art, New York, 17 mars 2015, 02:00 PM

A fine blue and white sleeve vase, Ming dynasty, Chongzhen period

A fine blue and white sleeve vase, Ming dynasty, Chongzhen period 1

A fine blue and white sleeve vase, Ming dynasty, Chongzhen period 2

A fine blue and white sleeve vase, Ming dynasty, Chongzhen period 3

A fine blue and white sleeve vase, Ming dynasty, Chongzhen periodEstimate 30,000 — 50,000 USDPhoto Sotheby's.

the cylindrical body rising to gently curved shoulders surmounted by a waisted neck, painted to the exterior with aspiring scholars and attendants offering prayers to the god of literature Wenchang accompanied by an attendant, with constellations nearby, the neck encircled by upright plantain leaves, the base unglazed - Height 17 3/4  in., 45 cm

ProvenanceA.J.B. Kiddell (1894-1980) a former director of Sotheby's London, and thence by descent. 

Sotheby'sImportant Chinese Works of Art, New York, 17 mars 2015, 02:00 PM

A blue and white brushpot (bitong), Qing dynasty, Kangxi period

A blue and white brushpot (bitong), Qing dynasty, Kangxi period1

A blue and white brushpot (bitong), Qing dynasty, Kangxi period2

A blue and white brushpot (bitong), Qing dynasty, Kangxi period3

A blue and white brushpot (bitong), Qing dynasty, Kangxi period4

A blue and white brushpot (bitong), Qing dynasty, Kangxi period. Estimate 60,000 — 80,000 USDPhoto Sotheby's.

well-painted on the exterior with a continuous narrative scene depicting the meeting between Xu You shown tending oxen who famously declines the offer of the mandate of heaven extended by Emperor Yao, standing beneath a parasol with guards and servants in attendance, all within a landscape of trees, rockwork and scudding clouds above, the recessed base with an artemisia leaf - Diameter 8 in., 20.4 cm

ProvenanceBerwald Oriental Art, London, 18th September 1997.
Collection of Dr. Lowell S. Young, San Francisco, collection no. 42.

Literature: Marchant, The Dr. Lowell Young Collection: Ming and Qing Blue and White Porcelain, London, 2012, no. 23.

NotesThe scene depicted on the brushpot depicts Emperor Yao in a meeting with Xu You, a minister who had left official life to become an oxherd, living life as a recluse. Emperor Yao had wanted to abdicate and sought out Xu, a former minister, in a bid to get Xu to return to the capital and take over the reins of the country.

A brushpot with similar subject matter from the collection of Mrs. Eugene L. Garbatty on extended loan to the Norton Gallery of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, is illustrated in Stephen Little, Chinese Ceramics of the Transitional Period: 1620-1683, New York, 1983, no. 20. Another from the Collection of Peter and Nancy Thompson was sold in our London rooms, 7th November 2012, lot 39.

Sotheby'sImportant Chinese Works of Art, New York, 17 mars 2015, 02:00 PM

A rare and important blue and white 'Dragon' bowl (bo), Xuande mark and period

A rare and important blue and white 'Dragon' bowl (bo), Xuande mark and period 1

A rare and important blue and white 'Dragon' bowl (bo), Xuande mark and period 2

A rare and important blue and white 'Dragon' bowl (bo), Xuande mark and period 3

A rare and important blue and white 'Dragon' bowl (bo), Xuande mark and period 4

A rare and important blue and white 'Dragon' bowl (bo), Xuande mark and period. Estimate 2,500,000 — 3,500,000 USDPhoto Sotheby's.

the deep rounded sides stoutly potted and well-painted in intense and varying tones of cobalt blue on the exterior with two spiritedly drawn five-clawed striding dragons in mutual pursuit amidst scattered clouds wisps, all between a border of upright lotus petal lappets and a band of cresting waves, the interior with a double lines around the rim and a six-character mark in underglaze blue within a double circle at the base - Diameter 10 1/8  in., 25.8 cm

ProvenanceCollection of General Haughton; Bluett & Sons (acquired from the above 6th August 1948 for £ 25).
Collection of Gertrude and Otto Harriman (1948 -1970), acquired from Bluett & Sons, 30th August 1948 for £ 65 and thence by descent.
Bainbridge’s Ruislip, 17th May 2012, lot 29. 

ExhibitionMostra d’Arte Cinese/Exhibition of Chinese Art, Palazzo Ducale, Venice, 1954, cat. no. 647. 
Chinese Blue and White Porcelain: 14th to 19th Centuries, Oriental Ceramic Society, London, 1954, cat. no. 81.
Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, Bristol, U.K. (on loan 1970-1989).
Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Nottingham, U.K. (on loan 1989-2012). 

NotesThe Yongle (1403-24) and Xuande (1426-35) reigns were perhaps the greatest periods of China’s porcelain manufacture and certainly the best time for blue-and-white. The common quality and yet diverging emphasis of the imperial production in these two reigns could hardly be better illustrated than by the two exceptional pieces included in this catalogue, the Mahin Banu Grape Dish of the Yongle period, lot 264, and the present Xuande 'Dragon' bowl. It was the Yongle Emperor who initiated an unprecedented command of the court over a ceramic manufactory by giving the imperial administration in Beijing, high up in the north, complete control over the kilns at Zhushan in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, south of the Yangzi River. Refinement of body and glaze materials seem to have been stipulated, high-grade cobalt provisioned, acceptable standards of workmanship and firing increased, forms and patterns pre-designed, and the output of both A-grade items and seconds requisitioned by the court, in order to distribute the former through official channels and destroy and bury the latter. 

This strict supervision of Jingdezhen porcelain continued through the Xuande reign, but not beyond, as the manufacture of imperial porcelains was low on the imperial agenda in the three short reigns of the following ‘interregnum’, a period of political instability. When the court took up its interest in fine table wares again in the Chenghua period (1465-87), materials, shapes and styles had changed. 

But whereas the Yongle Emperor appears to have used Jingdezhen’s blue-and-white porcelains predominantly for diplomatic purposes, for trade, and as imperial gifts rather than to furnish his palaces, the Xuande Emperor began to appropriate them as emblems of his imperial power. Thus, unlike many Yongle pieces that found their way into foreign lands, sent there on the Emperor’s orders, most Xuande pieces where retained in the palace and many are still remaining in the imperial collection today, either in the Palace Museum, Beijing, or the National Palace Museum, Taipei. Generally, they were inscribed with the imperial reign mark and thus display their imperial descent in eternity, a marking that was used extremely rarely in the Yongle reign. And although many forms and designs continued to be made almost identically over both periods, there is a clear domination of large sizes and motifs suitable for export in the Yongle era, whereas in the Xuande reign the dragon, as well as the phoenix, as symbols of imperial authority, became very prominent. Compared to the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), where dragons were also a popular motif of porcelain, the imperial animals of the Xuande period were depicted as less fierce and more majestic, with their mouth closed, their powerful body evenly built and their legs showing five claws. The dragons on the present bowl are prime examples of the Xuande species, a type that became the classic dragon image of China. 

The present bowl, of which there are fewer than twenty known examples, is an iconic representative of one of the most famous eras of porcelain production. Because of its distinctively robust form, this type of bowl has traditionally been referred to by Western scholars and collectors as a ‘dice’ bowl; assuming that the dense walls were made to endure the inevitable wear and tear of flying dice. Throwing six dice in a bowl during the Moon Festival remains indeed a popular tradition. However, Chinese reference sources propose a different usage and describe this particular form as bo, a term associated with Buddhist alms bowls. For instance, the example in the Palace Museum (pl. 124 cited below) is accompanied by a note discussing the specific use of the word bo and relating it to the devote Buddhist practice of the Xuande emperor and his court.  

Although associated with Buddhism, these outstanding bowls bear the quintessential imperial emblems of five-clawed dragons and a prominently positioned six-character reign mark on the base of the interior. Dragons are frequently featured on Xuande imperial ware; obviously a deliberate choice and one that left no doubt as to the singular authority of the emperor. On the present example, the powerful mythical beasts are remarkably well drawn; the finer details such as scales, claws and waves are executed with a masterful precision that is cleverly juxtaposed by dynamic poses and playful expressions. The intense, rich blue derives from the use of the higher quality cobalt, imported to the East from Islamic regions, its high iron content causing separation during firing and giving rise to the famous ‘heaping and piling’ effect. The harmonious composition is further strengthened by the perfectly proportioned use of positive and negative space. The evident technical skill speaks to the high standards expected from the imperial kiln workers of the Xuande era. An accomplished artist himself, the Xuande emperor was an active patron of the arts.  His close interest in porcelain wares inspired numerous commissions during his brief ten year reign; a fact borne out by the variety, innovation, success and quantity of remaining imperial wares and the large number of shards from smashed inferior examples that have been excavated at Zhushan in Jingdezhen, the site of the Xuande imperial kilns. 

Blue and white dragon bowls of this thickly potted type and of Xuande mark and period are in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (I), Shanghai, 2000, pl. 124; in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsuan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1998, cat.no. 37; in the Nanjing Museum, illustrated in Xu Huping, Treasures of the Nanjing Museum, Hong Kong, 2001, no. 45; in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, illustrated in John Ayers, Far Eastern Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1980, pl. 148; and from the Sir Percival David Collection at the British Museum, London, and in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., published in Oriental Ceramics. The World's Great Collections, vol. 7, Tokyo, 1976, monochrome pl. 97, and vol. 10, Tokyo, 1976, monochrome pl. 104, respectively. Additionally, a similar fragmentary bowl was excavated at the imperial kiln site of Zhushan in 1983 and in the exhibition Xuande Imperial Porcelain Excavated at Jingdezhen, Chang Foundation Taiwan, 1998, cat. no. 16.1, col. pl. 25 and p. 199. 

Blue and white bowl

Xuande Blue and white 'Dragon' bowl. Image © Palace Museum, Beijing

Blue and white bowl excavated in Zhushan, 1983

Xuande Blue and white 'Dragon' bowl excavated in Zhushan, 1983. Image © Jingdezhen Institute of Archaeology.

Remarkably few of these distinctive thick-walled ‘dragon’ bowls have come up for auction over the years. A similar example from the Wu Lai-Hsi Collection was sold in our London rooms 26th May 1937, lot 52 and again in our London rooms from the Collection of C.M. Woodbridge, 8th May 1951, lot 69 where it was acquired by Bluett & Sons, London. Another from the Collection of Major Lindsay F. Hay was sold in our London rooms, 16th June 1939, lot 84, then again from the Collection of Lionel Edwards, 8th February 1945, lot 84 and for a third time, listed as from the Estate of Major Lindsay F. Hay 25th June 1946, lot 60. Another example, possibly the latter, in the Collection of Roy Leventritt was lent to the Ming Blue and White Exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Museum, 1949, no. 58.  A bowl of this form included in the exhibition Ming Blue and White, M.F.E.A., Stockholm, 1964, cat.no. 31 and on loan at the M.F.E.A. between 1964 and 1974, was sold in our London rooms, 6th April 1976, lot 116 and a similar bowl was sold in these rooms 7th December 1983, lot 292. Three further examples were sold in our London rooms, one 11th May 1965, lot 27 and later again at Christie's New York, 9th November 1981; a second on 26th June 1973, lot 236 now in the Matsuoka Museum of Art, Tokyo and illustrated in Nakano, The Panoramic Views of Chinese Patterns, 1985, pl. 13; and the third on the 13th December 1977, lot 472 was sold again in our Hong Kong rooms 10th April 2006, lot 1659. Another example was sold Christie's Hong Kong, 20th March 1990, lot 519.  

Sotheby'sImportant Chinese Works of Art, New York, 17 mars 2015, 02:00 PM

 



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