Lot 230. A Rare Molded Blue and White Barbed Rim Dish, Yuan Dynasty, 14th Century. Diameter 18 in., 45.7 cm. Estimation 200,000 — 300,000 USD. Lot sold 4,197,000 USD. Photo Sotheby's
with bracket-lobed rim well painted with a lively wave pattern in underglaze blue of strong, inky tones, the shallow cavetto with eight reverse ground ruyi-form 'heaped and piled' reserves, molded in relief with fine detail, enclosing leafing peony against a ground of delicately undulating scrolls, the center formed by a large quatrefoil of neatly arched waves enclosing a circular medallion comprised of eight Buddhist flame motifs within radiating petal-shaped panels, the underside with freely drawn lotus scroll with characteristically spiky leaves all between line borders, all resting on a low wedge-shaped footrim, the unglazed base with a mark painted in cobalt.
Provenance: Acquired by the parents of the current owner in the 1950s and thence by descent.
Dishes with blue ground ruyi-shaped panels are known but none other with further ruyi-form reserves radiating from the center. The finely molded cavetto is another rare feature on this type of dish. Closely related examples with similar design elements are represented in several museums such as the Los Angeles County Museum, The Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, the British Museum, London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Shanghai Museum (all lacking raised decoration). Two other dishes with similar design are illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul: A Complete Catalogue II, Yuan and Ming Dynasty Porcelains, London, 1986, nos. 552, 553, pp. 489-490. A related dish with ruyi-form reserves from the H. M. Knight Collection was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 18th May 1982, lot 20 and another with radiating Buddhist panels from the Wanniek Collection in our London rooms, 9th June 1987, lot 210.
There are over a hundred surviving examples of such dishes in the Near East, Central Asia and India, with those with molded decoration being relatively rare. It is interesting to note that while these dishes share many motifs, their combinations tend to be unique; underscoring the importance of each individual dish. Their large size and bold decoration represent the taste of the Yuan court with its habit of communal dining. This practice traveled from the Middle East along the silk route so it is not surprising that these impressive dishes were objects of great admiration and demand in that region as well. Margaret Medley notes in Chinese Ceramics and Islamic Design, Percival David Foundation Colloquies on Art and Archaeology in Asia, London, 1972, no. 3, that "the chief formative influence in Yuan blue and white design came from Islamic metalwork with its great enrichment of surface...and indefinite extension into space of mathematically conceived two dimension ornament." While this certainly holds true, the ingenious composition and inclusion of Buddhist emblems are distinctly Chinese.
Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art. New York | 18 Mar 2014, 10:30 AM