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A fine and rare copper-red mallet vase, yaoling zun. Mark and period of Kangxi - Photo Sotheby's

the finely potted body resting on a slightly splayed foot, gently rising to the rounded shoulders with a narrow fillet collaring the base of the tall slender neck, below a subtly flared mouth, the waisted body meticulously penciled in brilliant tones of underglaze red with four evenly spaced archaistic medallions, each centred with a stylised flower head enclosed within two concentric rings of radiating petals and 'S'-shaped motifs, all above a band of repeating upright triangular blades detailed with curls resembling ruyi heads, issuing from a horizontal chevron border within cobalt-blue lines encircling the foot, the slightly recessed underside inscribed in underglaze blue with a six-character reign mark in regular script; 22.8 cm., 9 in. Estimation: 16,000,000 - 18,000,000 HKD

PROVENANCE: Collection of J.M. Hu.
Christie's New York, 1st December 1994, lot 437.
Christie's Hong Kong, 31st October 2000, lot 888.
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 23rd October 2005, lot 351.

NOTE DE CATALOGUE: This refined vase embodies the appearance of original designs on porcelain in the 1680s which were conceived by the artist Liu Yuan. It reflects the Kangxi emperor’s devotion to Tibetan Buddhism: the swirling three-section gakyil (‘Wheel of Joy’) that is framed by several bands of designs appear to also derive from the dharmachakra, or ‘The Wheel of Law’, a traditional symbol of the Buddhist doctrine. For example compare a gilt-silver dharmachakra, included in the exhibition Buddhist Art from Rehol. Tibetan Buddhist Images and Ritual Objects from the Qing Dynasty Summer Palace at Chengde, The Chang Foundation, Taipei, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, 1999, cat. no. 63 (fig. 1). The form, which is characteristic of the Kangxi period, is discussed in Geng Baochang, Ming Qing ciqi jianding, Hong Kong, 1993, p. 187, pl. 332.

The pair to this vase, also from the J.M. Hu family collection, was sold in our New York rooms, 4th June 1985, lot 20, and again in these rooms, 29th October 2000, lot 14. A closely related vase in the Shanghai Museum is illustrated in Kangxi Wares from the Shanghai Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1998, pl. 7; one in the Tianjin Municipal Museum is published in Porcelains from the Tianjin Municipal Museum, Hong Kong, 1993, pl. 130; another in the Baur collection, Geneva, is included in John Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, vol. 2, Geneva, 1999, pl. 147; and a fourth example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, together with a slightly larger underglaze-blue version, is illustrated in Oriental Ceramics. The World’s Great Collections, vol. 11, Tokyo, 1982, pl. 119. Further examples of copper-red vases of this type sold at auction include one from the Frederick J. and Antoinette H. van Syke collection, sold in our New York rooms, 31st May 1989, lot 197; and another, now in the Meiyintang collection, published in A. de Boulay, Christie’s Pictorial History of Chinese Ceramics, Oxford, 1984, pl. 5, and in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 1994-2010, vol. 4, no. 1706, sold at Christie’s London, 8th April 1981, lot 33, and again at Christie’s Hong Kong, 15th September 2009, lot 422. An underglaze-blue example, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red, Hong Kong, 2000, vol. 3, pl. 11.

The underglaze-red decorated porcelains of the Kangxi period represent the re-establishment of the mastery and advancement of techniques and creativity within the imperial kilns. Underglaze-red designs had been virtually abandoned after the Xuande reign (1426-35) of the early Ming dynasty, probably due to the high failure rate, and it was only in the 1670s that it was fully mastered and revived. The proficiency of the craftsmen in the medium is evident in the precision of the pencil-thin lines, lacking the soft haziness that is characteristic of that seen on most Ming wares.

Sotheby's. Exceptional Qing Porcelain from the Collection of Dr. Alice Cheng. Hong Kong | 09 oct. 2012 www.sothebys.com