A very rare Yaozhou celadon carved jar, China, Northern Song dynasty (AD 960-1127)

Lot 20. A very rare Yaozhou celadon carved jar, China, Northern Song dynasty (AD 960-1127);  5 1/8 in. (13 cm.) highEstimate $70,000 – $90,000Price realised USD 161,000. © Christie's Image Ltd 2015

The sides well carved with leafy meander bearing four peony blossoms, alternately upright or pendent, between a band of overlapping petals below and a triple grooved band above, covered overall with a glaze of greyish-olive color, box

Provenance: The Collection of Robert H. Ellsworth, New York, acquired in Hong Kong, 1986.

Note: This globular jar is decorated with a deeply cut floral scrolling design typical of the high quality ceramic wares from the kilns of north China in the Northern Song dynasty. It is characterised by the effective use of multiple overlapping petals which create rich surface texture. A similar use of multiple overlapping petals can be seen on early Northern Song vessels decorated in the scraffiato technique from the Cizhou kilns, such as the famous vase in the Freer Gallery of Art (illustrated in Sekai Toji Zenshu, vol. 12, Song, Tokyo, 1977, pp. 109-110, no. 109). Floral scrolls with similar petals can also be seen on Ding wares, such as those on the shoulder of a vase excavated in 1969 from the foundation vault of the Jingzhisi Pagoda at Dingzhou, Hebei province, which is dated to AD 977 (illustrated in Complete Collection of Ceramic Art Unearthed in China, vol. 3, Hebei, Beijing, 2008, no. 98).

This style of carving is, however, particularly effective on Yaozhou wares because their green glaze is transparent and pools in deeply cut areas, creating a dichromatic effect on the high and low sections of the carved decoration. This was also a style of floral scroll which effectively complemented the globular forms, such as the current jar. A similar scroll can be seen on a globular Yaozhou ewer in the Shaanxi History Museum (illustrated in Complete Collection of Ceramic Art Unearthed in China, vol. 15, Shaanxi, Beijing, 2008, no. 113). A Yaozhou jar in the collection of the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, of similar shape and size to the current jar, is also decorated with a floral scroll including slender overlapping petals (illustrated in The Masterpieces of Yaozhou Ware, Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 1997, p. 31, no. 34).

Oxford thermoluminescence test no. P114n70 is consistent with the dating of this lot.

Christie's. THE COLLECTION OF ROBERT HATFIELD ELLSWORTH PART I - MASTERWORKS INCLUDING INDIAN, HIMALAYAN AND SOUTHEAST ASIAN WORKS OF ART, CHINESE AND JAPANESE WORKS OF ART, 17 March 2015, New York, Rockefeller Plaza