An extremely rare ru-type oval washer. Yongzheng underglaze blue seal mark and of the period (1723-35). photo Christie's Ltd 2010

The vessel with deep gently rounded walls rising from an unglazed foot rim, the interior with a moulded lotus bloom, covered overall in an unctuous, attractively crackled, light blue glaze - 6¾ in. (17 cm.) wide. Est. £15,000 - £20,000 ($22,560 - $30,080)

Provenance: R.F.A. Riesco Collection, no. 485.
Sotheby's London, 11 December 1984, lot 419.
Bluett & Sons, London, 18 December 1984.

Literature: The Oriental Ceramic Society, The World in Monochromes, London, 2009, p. 103, no. 227.

Exhibited: The World in Monochromes, The Oriental Ceramic Society, London, 15 April - 20 June 2009, no. 227.

Notes: This beautiful brush washer with crackled blue-grey glaze was made for the Yongzheng emperor in deliberate imitation of imperial Ru wares, produced in the early 12th century for the Northern Song Emperor Huizong (r. AD 1100-1126). Song Ru wares have captured the imagination of collectors ever since they were first made, but surviving examples from the Northern Song period are very rare. Amongst the rarest of the forms are oval brush washers with moulded decoration on the interior under the glaze, and it is these that provided the inspiration for the current washer. Two Northern Song Ru washers of this form are in the collection of Sir Percival David (one of these is illustrated by Rosemary Scott in Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art - A Guide to the Collection, London, 1989, p. 47, no. 30), and a third is in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei (illustrated by Ye Zhimin and Ye Peilan in Ruyao juzhen, Beijing, 2001, p. 108, no. 52).

Song dynasty Ru wares were amongst the antique ceramics especially prized by the great imperial collectors of the Qing dynasty: Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong. That this particular Ru vessel shape was both known and appreciated in the 18th century is demonstrated by the inclusion of a Ru ware washer of this sort in two illustrated 18th century manuscript catalogues preserved in the National Palace Museum. These 18th century catalogues of ceramics have hand-painted pictures of the vessels, accompanied by hand-written descriptions and imperial seals. The catalogues, the Yanzhi liuguang and the Fangong zhangse (illustrated in Grand View: Special Exhibition of Ju Ware from the Northern Sung Dynasty, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2006, pp. 170-1, no. 38, and pp. 172-3, no. 39, respectively), both include a 'Song dynasty boat-shaped Ru ware brush washer', but only the description in the Fangong zhangse mentions the interior decoration, which it describes as an anhua ruyi. This is understandable since the interior moulded decoration is hard to see on both the vessel preserved in the palace collection and one of the Percival David pieces. In fact, it is only clear on the second David vessel, with less opaque glaze, that the motifs on the interior are in fact two goldfish.

The Yongzheng emperor appears to have had particular admiration of these Ru wares and a number of vessels from his reign were made with fine Ru-style glazes. It is possible that the copy of Song dynasty Ru ware glazes made for the Yongzheng emperor was devised by the greatest of all the supervisors of the Imperial Kilns, Tang Ying, who first came to the kilns as resident assistant in 1728. Tang Ying was especially known for his highly successful imitation of early wares. Indeed the Jingdezhen tao lu notes that: 'His close copies of famous wares of the past were without exception worthy partners (of the originals); and his copies of every kind of well-known glaze were without exception cleverly matched ...' (translated by R. Kerr in Chinese Ceramics - porcelain of the Qing Dynasty 1644-1911, London, 1986, p. 20). Several Yongzheng Ru-type ceramics are still preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing (see The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 37- Monochrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1999, pp. 226-7, nos. 204 & 205; pp. 234-6, nos. 212-4). Several more are preserved from the Qing imperial collection in the Nanjing Museum (illustrated in The Official Kiln Porcelain of the Chinese Qing Dynasty, Shanghai, 2003, pp. 184-9. All but one of these palace pieces bear a six-character seal mark in underglaze blue, similar to that on the current Yongzheng washer. Like the current brush washer, all have glazes that very successfully imitate the original Song dynasty wares. However, no other Yongzheng Ru-type washer appears to have been published, and it seems probable that the current vessel is the only example of this form to have survived.


A turquoise-glazed 'lotus leaf' dish. Kangxi period (1662-1722). photo Christie's Ltd 2010

The heavily potted dish in the form of a large lotus leaf, with radiating naturalistic veining within a foliate rim, covered in an attractive turquoise glaze - 11 1/8 in. (28.3 cm.) diam. Est. £7,000 - £9,000 ($10,528 - $13,536)

Provenance: E. G. Kostolany, Esq.; Sotheby's, 3 March 1953, lot 77.
Bears a label: Beurdeley, 682, Expert.

Exhibited: Monochrome Porcelain of the Ming and Manchu Dynasties, The Oriental Ceramic Society, London, 27 October - 18 December, 1948, no. 203.

Notes: A very similar dish is illustrated by M. Beurdeley and G. Raindre, Qing Porcelain, Famille Verte, Famille Rose, London, 1987, colour plate 209, pp. 144 and 145. A turquoise-glazed dish of this form, with a small crab applied to the surface and an aubergine-glazed rim, is illustrated by R. L. Hobson, The Catalogue of the Eumorfopoulos Collection, London, 1927, plate LIII, no. E.193; and another, similar, is illustrated by Beurdeley and Raindre, ibid., no. 121, p. 84.


A blue-glazed bottle vase. Qianlong seal mark and of the period (1736-95). photo Christie's Ltd 2010

The finely potted pear-shaped body supported on a short gently tapering foot and covered all over in a deep dark blue glaze - 15¼ in. (38.5 cm.) high. Est. £6,000 - £8,000 ($9,024 - $12,032)


A small celadon-glazed 'lingzhi' dish. Yongzheng six-character mark and of the period (1723-35). photo Christie's Ltd 2010

The shallow dish with slightly rounded walls, the interior delicately incised with a roundel containing three lingzhi heads amidst meandering leafy scrolls, the exterior with further lingzhi heads and scrolls, all covered with an unctuous, pale celadon glaze - 4½ in. (11.4 cm.) diam. Est. £6,000 - £8,000 ($9,024 - $12,032)

Provenance: With Bluett & Sons, London, no. 13.


A matched pair of yellow-glazed jars and covers, 19th century. photo Christie's Ltd 2010

Each domed cover surmounted by a bud-finial, all covered in a thin translucent egg-yolk yellow glaze stopping around the foot, the interior and base glazed white, Kangxi underglaze blue six-character marks - 10 in. (27.4 cm.) high, wood stands (2) Est. £5,000 - £8,000 ($7,520 - $12,032)

Provenance: With L. Wannieck, Paris, circa 1957.


A tea-dust-glazed pear-shaped vase. Guangxu incised six-character mark and of the period (1875-1908). photo Christie's Ltd 2010

Stoutly potted with a swollen body supported on a short foot and surmounted by a tall cylindrical neck, covered all over with an even mottled green glaze - 13¼ in. (34 cm.) high. Est. £4,000 - £6,000 ($6,016 - $9,024)


An aubergine-glazed 'pomegranate' dish. Yongzheng six-character mark and of the period (1723-35). photo Christie's Ltd 2010

The deep dish delicately incised around the exterior with pomegranates borne on leafy meandering scrolls, covered all over with a rich, pale aubergine glaze - 8¼ in. (20.7 cm.) diam. Est. £4,000 - £6,000 ($6,016 - $9,024)

Provenance: With Bluett & Sons, London.

Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art. 11 May 2010. London, King Street www.christies.com