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2 avril 2024

An exceedingly rare carved celadon-glazed 'archaistic dragon' bottle vase, Seal mark and period of Qianlong

An exceedingly rare carved celadon-glazed 'archaistic dragon' bottle vase, Seal mark and period of Qianlong
An exceedingly rare carved celadon-glazed 'archaistic dragon' bottle vase, Seal mark and period of Qianlong
An exceedingly rare carved celadon-glazed 'archaistic dragon' bottle vase, Seal mark and period of Qianlong
An exceedingly rare carved celadon-glazed 'archaistic dragon' bottle vase, Seal mark and period of Qianlong
An exceedingly rare carved celadon-glazed 'archaistic dragon' bottle vase, Seal mark and period of Qianlong
An exceedingly rare carved celadon-glazed 'archaistic dragon' bottle vase, Seal mark and period of Qianlong
An exceedingly rare carved celadon-glazed 'archaistic dragon' bottle vase, Seal mark and period of Qianlong
An exceedingly rare carved celadon-glazed 'archaistic dragon' bottle vase, Seal mark and period of Qianlong
An exceedingly rare carved celadon-glazed 'archaistic dragon' bottle vase, Seal mark and period of Qianlong

Lot 133. An exceedingly rare carved celadon-glazed 'archaistic dragon' bottle vase, Seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795). Height 38.3 cm, Lot sold 254,000 USD (Estimate 200,000 - 300,000 USD). © Sotheby's 2024

 

the base with a six-character seal mark in underglaze blue 

 

ProvenanceCollection of William John Wilson (1908-1970).

Collection of Edna J. Wilson (1919-1977), and thence by descent.

NoteThis remarkable vase, with its harmonious combination of form, carving, design, and glaze, is a characteristic imperial product of the Qianlong period (1736-1795), when Tang Ying (1682-1756) was the supervisor of the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen. It was a period when the expectations on a piece of porcelain were set to the highest level, with every aspect of a vessel precisely calculated and planned but, at the same time, endowed with a sense of effortless elegance. Monochromes of the early Qing period (1644-1911) are unquestionably of first-rate quality, and this vase represents the remarkable achievement of imperial artisans whose refined and innovative approach to colors and glazes, combined with attractive decorations, made the creation of elegant and beautiful objects, such as the present piece, possible. The only apparent companion piece to be known to this extremely rare vase is one offered in our Hong Kong rooms, 8th April 2011, lot 3018 (fig. 1). Both vases belong to a special group of monochrome wares that reflect the Qianlong Emperor's fondness for elegantly shaped vessels decorated with deeply carved decoration, often in the archaistic style.

Fig. 1 A carved celadon-glazed bottle vase, Seal mark and period of Qianlong, offered at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 8th April 2011, lot 3018.

Ceramics with celadon glazes have always been held in high esteem from as early as the beginning of their production almost four thousand years ago, and in the Song dynasty (960-1279) alone, there was evidence of a continuation of imperial taste and style from the Northern (960-1127) to the Southern Song (1127-1279) dynasties, culminating in a superb clear bluish-green tone achieved on some of the finest wares from the Longquan kilns in the Southern Song dynasty. Despite this longstanding admiration of the celadon color, the pure reduction firing technique required to achieve the said watery blue-green tone – perhaps due to its difficulty – appears to have been lost in the Yuan (1271-1368) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties, and it was not until the Qing dynasty that it was revived.

The Qianlong Emperor is well-known for his appreciation of past traditions including his admiration of Longquan celadon wares of the Song period. As a result, the Emperor encouraged innovative approaches towards celadon-glazed wares produced in his imperial kiln. The high quality of the raw materials and the advanced techniques developed at the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen during the 18th century allowed potters to develop different tones of celadon. Much admired by contemporary connoisseurs were the douqing, of a bright sea-green color, and the present fenqing, a pale bluish-green glaze. When applied to finely carved pieces, the thinning and pooling of the glaze on the raised lines and the recesses create very attractive contrasting tones as seen on the present piece.

 

The intricate design around the body of this vase further demonstrates the Qianlong Emperor’s fascination in archaism. Symmetrical dragons, characterized by interlinked angular bodies forming a patterned scroll, are typical of Eastern Zhou (770 BC-221 BC) ritual bronze design. See, for example, a similar dragon design on an archaic bronze ding in the Shanghai Museum, attributed to the late Spring and Autumn period (770 BC-476 BC), illustrated in Chen Peifen, Xiashangzhou qingtongqi yanjiu [Study of archaic bronzes from Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties], dongzhou vol. 1, Shanghai, 2004, pl. 493.

Related Qianlong period celadon-glazed examples carved with an archaistic design include a zun-form vase with handles, illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, pl. 145; a globular form vase with a long neck, decorated with archaistic design in the same technique, illustrated in The Tsui Museum of Art - Chinese Ceramics IV, Hong Kong, 1995, pl. 35, and sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 30th October 1995, lot 736A, and again, 27th October 2003, lot 700; and another, sold in these rooms, 9th October 2007, lot 1522. Also compare a celadon-glazed Qianlong vase overall carved with an archaistic motif, illustrated in John Ayers, The Baur Collection. Chinese Ceramics. Monochrome-Glazed Porcelains of the Ch’ing Dynasty, vol. 3, Geneva, 1972, pl. A379; and another sold in our London rooms, 15th May 2007, lot 121. A further example with a Qianlong seal mark in relief was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 8th April 2007, lot 708.

William John Wilson (1908-1970) was the founder of Wilson Galleries, a highly respected art business that originated on Michigan Avenue in Chicago around 1949. After a successful start, Wilson made a move to Highland Park, Illinois in the late 1950s, before eventually relocating to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1962. Wilson specialized in many areas of art, including Asian art and established a remarkable reputation for being honest and professional. The present vase was acquired by Wilson on one of his many journeys in searching for exceptional artworks. It has always been treasured by him and was passed down in his family, where it remained unseen for decades until now.

 

Sotheby's. Chinese Art, New York, 19 March 202

 

 

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