A wucai 'dragon' brush tray, Mark and period of Wanli (1573-1620)

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Lot 33. A wucai 'dragon' brush tray, Mark and period of Wanli (1573-1620); 30 cm., 11 3/4 in. Estimate  2,000,000-3,000,000 HKD. Lot sold 2,420,000 HKDPhoto Sotheby's

of long rectangular form with slightly flared sides rising to an everted rim with indented corners, supported on a low foot of conforming shape, the interior divided into two sections by a thin crenulated wall shaped to support two brushes, painted on either side of the wall with blue dragon scales above green waves, the larger section vividly painted in underglaze blue, red, green, yellow and black enamels with a five-clawed dragon chasing a 'flaming pearl' opposite a long-tailed phoenix among clouds and flames above waves crashing over rocks, flanked on the sides with a dragon on one side and a phoenix on the other, the smaller compartment painted with an en face blue dragon, the sides filled with cloud motifs, the exterior similarly painted with a dragon in pursuit of a 'flaming pearl' and a phoenix following behind on either side, set with cloud motifs on each end and a colorful key-fret border around the foot, the base inscribed with a six-character reign mark in a vertical cartouche.

EXHIBITED: Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, The British Museum, London, 1994.
Evolution to Perfection. Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection/ Evolution vers la perfection. Céramiques de Chine de la Collection Meiyintang, Sporting d'Hiver, Monte Carlo, 1996, cat. no. 136.

LITTERATURE: Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 1994-2010, vol. 2, no. 710.

NOTE: A series of porcelains designed for the imperial writing desk was devised by the imperial kilns in the Wanli reign (AD 1573-1620), including ink stones, brush rests, brush boxes, brush trays and brush handles. Brush trays of this form are characteristic of the Wanli period, when they were made in several different versions, both in blue-and-white and wucai, sometimes also with a pair of dragons in the centre or with details raised in relief.

A wucai brush tray of the present design in the Shanghai Museum is illustrated in Lu Minghua, Shanghai Bowuguan zangpin yanjiu daxi / Studies of the Shanghai Museum Collections : A Series of Monographs. Mingdai guanyao ciqi [Ming imperial porcelain], Shanghai, 2007, pl. 3-106; another from the collection of Christina Loke Balsara, published in Laszlo Legeza, 'Ming and Ch'ing Imperial Tou-Ts'ai and Wu-Ts'ai Porcelains', Arts of Asia, January-February 1980, p. 105 and p. 107, figs. 17-19, was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 19th January 1988, lot 265; one without the 'flaming pearl' between the dragon and phoenix was sold at Sotheby's London, 20th June 2001, lot 42; another at Christie's Hong Kong, 1st December 2010, lot 2810 from the Greenwald collection. A similar tray was also included in the exhibition The Arts of the Ming Dynasty, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, 1952, cat. no. 176, together with a brush handle such as lot 34, both from the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.

Sotheby's. The Meiyintang Collection, Part III - An Important Selection of Imperial Chinese Porcelains. Hong Kong | 04 Apr 2012, 10:15 AM