A rare and large lobed octogonal ge-type tripod bowl, Yongzhen/Qianlong period  (1723-1795)

Made in the shape of an eight-petaled mallow flower with slightly flared upright sides molded on the interior with eight ribs with corresponding flutes on the exterior that rise to the everted rim, the bottom of the interior slightly convex and the recessed base correspondingly slightly concave, supported on three squat cabriole legs attached to the thickened outer rim of the base and extending onto the sides, covered overall in a rich, thick, opaque pale greyish ivory- colored glaze suffused with a dense network of black crackle ('iron wire') interspersed with golden-brown crackle ('golden threads'), the base with eight spur marks encircling a ninth smaller spur mark which expose the dark grey ware also evident on the base of the feet where the oily brown surface, burnt in the firing, is worn away
8 3/8 in. (21.3 cm.) across, box  - Estimate : $180,000 - $250,000

Provenance : Stephen Junkunc, III.

Notes : Copies of the classic Song dynasty Guan and Ge glazes were much admired by the Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors in the 18th century. Indeed imitations of these revered Song dynasty glazes are specifically mentioned in Tang Ying's famous Taocheng jishi bei ji (Commemorative Stele on Ceramic Production) of AD 1735. Grouping them with celadon glazes, the stele lists: 'Guan glazes on an iron body, including moon-white, pale green and deep green. They are all copied from ancient pieces sent from the Imperial Palace', and 'Ge glazes with iron body, including millet color and pale green, copied from ancient pieces sent from the Imperial Palace. See Peter Y.K. Lam, 'Three Chinese Bannermen and Their Monochromes', in Shimmering Colours - Monochromes of the Yuan to Qing Periods - The Zhuyuetang Collection, Art Museum, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2005, p. 45.

A number of 18th century imperial vessels bearing archaistic Ge- or Guan-type glazes have been preserved in international collections. A Yongzheng gu-shaped vase bearing a Ge-type glaze of rich ivory color with distinct 'iron wire' and 'golden thread' crackle, similar to that on the current tripod, in the collection of the Nanjing Museum, is illustrated in The Official Porcelain of the Chinese Qing Dynasty, Shanghai, 2003, p. 196. A Kangxi vase with a Ge-type glaze with distinct 'iron wire' and 'golden thread' crackle is among those in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 37 - Monochrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1999, p. 246, no. 224. A Yongzheng faceted vase bearing a Ge-type glaze is among those in the National Palace Museum illustrated in Qingdai Danseyou ciqi, Taipei, 1981, p. 139, no. 83.

The shape of the current tripod vessel is very rare among surviving Guan and Ge wares. However, similarly lobed Song and Yuan dynasty brush-washers of Guan and Ge type with straight rims and no feet probably provided the inspiration for the form. These are generally called quihau, or mallow flower-shaped dishes or brush-washers. A Ge ware quihua brush-washer with double-crackled glaze in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in Gugong bowuyuan yuankan, 1992, no. 2, pl. 2. Several Guan ware examples of this type of straight-rimmed, footless, vessel in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, are illustrated in Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Song Dynasty Guan Ware, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1989, nos. 135-143. Others are in the Percival David Collection, one of which is illustrated by S. Yorke Hardy, in Illustrated Catalogue of Ting, Ju, Kuan, Chun, Kuang-tung and Glazed I-hsing Wares in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, section 1, London, 1953, pl. XIV, no. A46.
Lobed brush-washers such as the current example may be based on Song dynasty prototypes. However, as noted above, Song dynasty lobed, tripod, brush-washers with Geyao glazes are very rare. The use of a flattened rim on a lobed body is also rare among Song and Yuan crackled wares of Ge or Guan type. It may be that the 18th century washers with Ge or Guan-type glazes took the inspiration for their forms from earlier Jun wares. The mallow-lobed form, albeit with six petals, rather than the eight seen on the current vessel, appears among numbered Jun wares like the example in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 32 - Porcelain of the Song Dynasty (I), Hong Kong, 1996, p. 37, no. 32. The Qing dynasty vessels, however, replaced the three-cloud or ruyi-shaped feet on the Jun wares with three smaller cabriole legs.

As a result of keen imperial interest in antiquarianism, Song crackled glazes of Ge and Guan type were often copied during the Qing dynasty, and a small number of vessels of the same shape as the current washer have been preserved. A Ge or Guan-type washer with a Yongzheng mark, formerly in the Carl Kempe Collection (Fig. 1), is illustrated in Oriental Ceramics, The World's Great Collections, vol. 8, Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm, Tokyo/New York San Francisco, 1982, no. 274. Interestingly, at some point in the past, an attempt may have been made to pass off a similar example in the Victoria and Albert Museum as a Song original, as the mark had been ground off the base of the vessel, which is illustrated by W. B. Honey in The Ceramic Art of China and Other Countries of the Far East, London, 1954, pl. 43B. A Qianlong-marked example with Ge-type glaze, from the J.M. Hu and Robert Chang collections was included in the Exhibition of Important Chinese Ceramics from the Robert Chang Collection, Christie's London, 1993, no. 62. It is clear that this lobed tripod form was much appreciated with crackled glazes, and even appears with a Ru-type glaze in the Qianlong reign. An example of this Ru-type in the collection of the Nanjing Museum is illustrated in The Official Porcelain of the Chinese Qing Dynasty, Shanghai, 2003, p. 334. Another Yongzheng lobed tripod of the same size and shape as the current vessel, but with a sky-blue glaze in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in Qingdai Yuyao ciqi, juan 1, Beijing, 2005, pp. 436-7, no. 205. Interestingly, this washer appears to have a buff-colored body, which suggests that it may have been intended to imitate Ru ware, but failed to achieve the appropriate glaze crackle. Like the current Ge-type vessel, the sky-blue example has nine small spur marks on its base.

Christies New York. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art. 17 September 2008. New York, Rockefeller Plaza. www.christies.com