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A blue and white shallow bowl, Chongzhen period, circa 1643. Estimate $6,000 – $8,000Photo Christie’s Image Ltd 2015

The shallow bowl is decorated in the interior with a scene of the Han Emperor Wen with Zhou Yafu at the Fine Willow Garrison, standing in front of a striped tent on a riverbank. Both figures gesture upwards toward something in the distance as clouds obscure the moon above. The base bears an apocryphal Xuande mark. 7 ¾ in. (19.7 cm.) diam. Lot 3525

ProvenanceThe Property of Captain Michael Hatcher; Christie's Amsterdam, 14 March 1984, lot 584.
Collection of Julia and John Curtis.

LiteratureJulia B. Curtis, “Transitionware Made Plain: A Wreck in the South China Sea,” Oriental Art, Volume XXXI, No. 2, Summer, 1985, p. 169, fig. 15a,

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Detail.

NotesThis previously unidentified scene was most likely inspired by the drama Xi Liu Ying by the Yuan dramatist Zheng Guangzu. It depicts the Han Emperor Wen with Zhou Yafu. Zhou Yafu was the son of Zhou Bo, who had been Prime Minister to Emperor Wen (r. 179-156 BC). Zhou Ya fu served Wen's successor, Emperor Jing (r. 156-41 BC), under whose rule the king of Wu started the rebellion of Seven Kingdoms. Loyal to the Emperor, as his father had been, Zhou Yafu put down the rebellion. As well as his loyalty, Zhou Yafu is also known for his cunning in refusing to enter into battle with the rebels until the latter were weakened by hunger. For a further discussion of this scene see the introductory essay in this catalogue, p. 27.

This theme appears on two blue and white Yuan dynasty jars, one exhibited at the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka in 1997, and another from the collection of Baron Ito in Japan, but no longer extant (see Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, Blue and White in East Asia, Osaka, 1997, no. 6, and Kikutaro Saito, Kobijutsu 1967, no. 18, p. 39, fig. 16, respectively).

CHRISTIE’S. AN ERA OF INSPIRATION: 17TH-CENTURY CHINESE PORCELAINS FROM THE COLLECTION OF JULIA AND JOHN CURTIS, 16 March 2015, New York, Rockefeller Plaza.