An exquisite pair of famille-rose 'chrysanthemum' dishes, marks and period of Yongzheng. Photo: Sotheby's.

each delicately potted with shallow fluted sides rising from a small tapered foot to an everted rim, deftly enamelled on the interior in iron-red and pastels of rose-pink, yellow and greens with a leafy branch of chrysanthemum issuing four lush blooms and two smaller buds, the boughs gracefully arching to fill the interior floor, one dish with a central pink blossom surrounded by three pale green-petalled flowers with pink tips and two iron-red buds, the other centred by a pale green and pink chrysanthemum surrounded by rose-pink, fuchsia and iron-red blooms, the three-lobed leaves naturalistically rendered in different tones of green, the base inscribed in underglaze blue with a six-character reign mark within double circles; 17.5 cm., 6 7/8  in. Estimation  8,000,000 — 12,000,000 HKD  (784,542 - 1,176,813)

Provenance: Collection formed before the 1930s in Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan.  

Double Wish for Longevity – An Exquisite Pair of Famille-Rose ‘Chrysanthemum’ Dishes
Hajni Elias 

The present exquisite pair of dishes, decorated with chrysanthemum blooms in a painterly style, represents the Yongzheng emperor’s impeccable taste. His personal interest and patronage played a vital role in the development of decorative arts, especially in ceramic production at the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province. Yongzheng’s control over designs and each stage of the porcelain production process was as tight as his control over the governing of the nation. He was a man of refined taste, and these dishes, with their elegant form and extremely fine painting and enamelling are truly representations of ‘perfection in style’. In fact, the workmanship of dishes of this form and decoration is so accomplished that, in the past, it has been suggested that they are the work of court artist employed by the Palace Workshop in the Forbidden City. 

181243cc88af759e3835518d3318514cThe painting of the chrysanthemum blooms closely follows the flower paintings of one of China’s most celebrated artists, Yun Shouping (1633-1690). Yun, whose sobriquet was Nantian, was one of the ‘Six Masters’ of the early Qing period, generally associated with paintings of flowers in themogu or ‘boneless’ style that emphasizes washes instead of lines. Yun’s novel and unique manner of painting allowed him to bring out the distinct beauty of the flowers, making them appear vivid and bright. He introduced the use of strong and bold colours, such as reds, purples and bright greens traditionally considered flashy, which helped revive flower painting in China. Yongzheng’s fondness for Yun’s work resulted in the copying of his paintings on ceramics, creating floral designs that were vibrant and elegant. See two paintings by Yun, depicting peony and chrysanthemum blooms, from his Shan shui hua hui ce ('Album of Mountains, Waters, Flowers and Grasses') illustrated in Lu Chenglong, ‘Yongzheng yuyao ciqi gaishu [A Brief Account of Yongzheng Period Imperial Porcelain]’, Gugong bowuyuan bashi huadan gu taoci guoji xueshu yantaohui lunwen ji, Beijing, 2007, p. 212, fig. 26; the chrysanthemum painting is also illustrated inYun Shouping jingpin ji [Selected works of Yun Shouping], Beijing, 1993, fig. 4 (fig. 1). The chrysanthemum (Dendranthema Morrifolium), or juhua in Chinese, is one of the most important and earliest cultivated flowers in China. It blooms when many other flowers are destroyed by the cold months, hence in art it represents the season of Autumn and is the flower of the ninth moon. It is also a symbol of longevity because of its medicinal properties that are believed to extend one’s life. Chrysanthemum wine drinking dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) when it was consumed on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month in the wish to prolong life.

T036HK0492_comp_5Apart from this fine pair, seven other dishes of this form, size and decoration are known; one in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Illustrated Catalogue of Ch’ing Dynasty Porcelain in the National Palace Museum,vol.1, Tokyo, 1980, pl. 98; one from the collection of Paul and Helen Bernat, sold twice in these rooms, 15th November 1988, lot 47, and 29th October 1991, lot 257 (fig. 2), and again at Christie’s Hong Kong, 1st-3rd May 1994, lot 670; one from the C.M. Moncrieff and Woodthorpe collections, sold in our London rooms, 6th April 1954, lot 102; a pair from the A.E. Hippesley collection, sold at the Anderson Galleries, New York, 30th January 1925, lot 57; one sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 31st October 1994, lot 672, and now in the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, and included in Giuseppe Eskenazi and Hajni Elias, A Dealer’s Hand, The Chinese Art World Through the Eyes of Giuseppe Eskenazi,London, 2012, p. 343, pl. 418; and another dish published inMayuyama, Seventy Years, vol. 1, Tokyo, 1976, pl. 1064. 

T034_T035HK0492_comp_3This type of dish may also be found painted with a somewhat simpler central floral medallion, depicting chrysanthemum or peony blooms, and of slightly smaller size (diameter approx. 16 cm) and with fluted petal-edged rim. For example, see two from the Qing court collection and still in Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Porcelains with Cloisonne Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, Hong Kong, 1999, pls. 58 and 59 (fig. 3); a pair from the S.C. Ko Tianminlou collection, included in the Min Chiu Society Silver Jubilee exhibition Anthology of Chinese Art, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1985, cat. no. 181, of which one is also published in Hugh Moss, By Imperial Command. An Introduction to Ch’ing Imperial Painted Enamels, Hong Kong, 1976, pl. 64, and in Chinese Porcelain. The S.C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Hong Kong, 1987, pl. 96; and a pair from the T.Y. Chao collection, sold in these rooms, 19th May 1987, lot 313. 

Chrysanthemum dishes were first commissioned by the Yongzheng emperor, who ordered Nian Xiyao, supervisor of the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen at the time, to produce them in twelve different colours. Imperial records dated to 1733 include a decree stating that Nian had made forty pieces in each colour. For further discussion on monochrome chrysanthemum dishes see Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. 4, pt. 2, London, 2012, p. 390, where she illustrates a purple-glazed piece with a Yongzheng reign mark and of the period. Dishes of this type are all with a fluted petal-edged rim and it appears that only those with famille-rose decoration appear to have an everted rim, as seen here. For white-glazed chrysanthemum dishes, see one included among a set of twelve, each glazed in a different colour, in Beijing, illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 316, pl. 145; and another sold in these rooms, 2nd May 2000, lot 551, formerly in the Hall Family collection. 

Sotheby's. Qing Imperial Porcelain – A Kyoto Collection. Hong Kong | 08 oct. 2013 - http://www.sothebys.com