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13 septembre 2008

A rare yaozhou celadon carved ewer. Northern Song, 11th/12th century

29934484_p

A rare yaozhou celadon carved ewer. Northern Song, 11th/12th century

The ovoid body deftly carved with two leafy flowering peony stems below a band of overlapping petals on the shoulder from which rise the curved spout and the ribbed strap handle, the waisted neck incised with two double-line bands below the everted rim with lipped edge, covered overall with a dark olive-green glaze which also covers the base - 9 1/8 in. (23.2 cm.) high - Estimate : $40,000 - $60,000

Provenance : Acquired prior to 1985.

Notes : Very few Song dynasty ewers have been preserved from the Yaozhou kilns. While bowls and dishes have survived in significant numbers, ewers like the current example are very rare. However, the current ewer has a feature that can be seen on a number of Yaozhou vertical forms. The relatively sharp angle produced by the junction of the shoulder and the rounded body of the vessel is characteristic of Yaozhou wares. It can be seen in more extreme, though less graceful, form on the smaller Yaozhou ewer in the collection of the British Museum illustrated by G. Hasebe in Sekai toji zenshu - 12 - Song, Tokyo, 1977, p. 198, pl. 177. Another small Yaozhou ewer, in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - Porcelain of the Song Dynasty (I), Hong Kong, 1996, pp. 114-5, no. 102, has the same basic shape as the current, with more rounded body, but is undecorated and the body is slightly lobed. An undecorated vase in the Shanghai Museum illustrated in Zhongguo Taoci Quanji - 10 - Yaozhou Yao, Shanghai, 1985, pl. 15, also combines this sharp junction with a flaring mouth similar to that of the current ewer, save for the rim, which is dished on the vase but not on the ewer. The sharp angle at the junction of shoulder and body on all these vessels is almost certainly a feature produced under the influence of metalwork. Another feature of these ceramic Yaozhou ewers, which was probably inherited from metalwork, is the slightly raised band around the base of the neck, resembling the torque frequently seen on metal vessels. On the latter, a torque was often the most pleasing way of disguising the join between neck and body. Although this serves no practical purpose on a thrown ceramic vessel, it is nevertheless aesthetically pleasing and was no doubt adopted for that reason.

An excavated ewer (Fig. 1) very similar to the current vessel in the collection of the Yaozhou ware Museum was included in the exhibition, The Masterpieces of Yaozhou Ware, Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, in 1997, p. 56, no. 73. Both ewers share similar form, although the excavated piece is a little more cylindrical. Both ewers have petal bands around the torques at the base of their necks, and both are decorated over the rest of the body with large-scale, freely carved, floral scrolls in very similar styles. Both ewers also have fine, but noticeable, parallel lines encircling their necks. The only significant difference between the two is that the excavated vessel has two sprig-moulded vertical elements - one placed on either side of the neck - in a manner reminiscent of the 10th century Yueware ewer in the Falk Collection, sold in these rooms, 20 September 2001, lot 34. A slightly more squat Yaozhou ewer of similar form to the excavated example, with sprig-moulded vertical elements, in the collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco is illustrated by He Li in Chinese Ceramics, New York, 1996, p. 154, no. 257. The San Francisco ewer, however, has additional incised petals on its neck, and a less freely-drawn floral scroll. Similar triangular petals or leaves can be seen carved on the neck of another Song dynasty Yaozhou ewer of comparable form in the Baur Collection illustrated by J. Ayers in Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, vol. I, Geneva, 1999, pp. 50-1, no. 9. The Baur ewer has more elaborate decoration on the shoulder than the other vessels of this type.

Both the excavated and the present lot are decorated with peony scrolls, which are not only large in scale but freely and dramatically cut using the knife at an oblique angle in order to maximize the dichromatic effect achieved as the rich green glaze pools within the more deeply cut areas. Although on both the ewers the torque around the base of the neck has been carved in such a way as to resemble the petals of a flower, with the neck at its center, the petals on the excavated vase are a little smaller than those on the current ewer. The larger, mallow-like petals on the current ewer resemble those which provide the shape of the flange on the Ru ware cupstand in the Percival David Foundation illustrated by R. Scott in Imperial Taste - Chinese Ceramics from the Percival David Foundation, San Francisco, 1989, p. 37, no. 13. On both ewers the somewhat formal approach to the decoration on the torque provides a pleasing contrast to the freely depicted peony scroll that covers the entire body from the shoulder down.

The result of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test number P108u83 is consistent with the dating of this lot.

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

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