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Lot 844. A rare Cizhou-type cut-glaze tortoise-shaped (guixing) canteen, China, Xixia Kingdom or Jin-Yuan dynasty, late 12th-13th centuryEstimate $30,000 - $50,000Price Realized $112,500© Christie's Image Ltd 2015

The dark brown-glazed canteen of compressed, circular shape and lenticular section encircled by a groove spanned by four short, strap handles, the convex top cut through the glaze with a central recessed medallion surrounded by a wide band of foliate scroll within a double line border and the brown glaze on the shoulder inscribed with cloud scrolls and interrupted by a short, angled spout, the lower body tapering to a flat foot encircling the unglazed, countersunk base painted with the inscription, Zhang hu - 9 ½ in. (24.1 cm.) diameter, box

Provenance: The Collection of Robert H. Ellsworth, New York, acquired in Hong Kong, 1987.

Literature: R. D. Mowry, Hare's Fur, Tortoiseshell, and Partridge Feathers: Chinese Brown- and Black-Glazed Ceramics, 400-1400, Cambridge, 1996, pp. 202-204, no. 75.
H. Tian, Xixia Ceramics, Beijing, 2010, p. 318, no. TB3006.

ExhibitedHare's Fur, Tortoiseshell, and Partridge Feathers: Chinese Brown- and Black-Glazed Ceramics, 400-1400, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 23 December 1995 - 10 March 1996; China Institute Gallery, New York, 20 April - 6 July 1996; Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 9 November 1996 - 19 January 1997

NotesVessels of this unusual shape are referred to as tortoise-shaped, aoxing or guixing. As Robert Mowry notes in Hare's Fur, Tortoiseshell, and Partridge Feathers: Chinese Brown- and Black-Glazed Ceramics, 400-1400, Cambridge, 1996, p. 203, canteens of this rare flattened type are known as bianhu, and those with four handles, as with the present example, as sixi bianhu. The author suggests that canteens of this shape may have been inspired by metalwork examples of Middle or Near Eastern provenance, and that they were precursors of blue and white bianhumade at Jingdezhen in the early fifteenth century. The shape is also related to earlier white-glazed vessels of tortoise shape, such as the Ding ware example illustrated by Zhang Bai in Complete Collection of Ceramic Art Unearthed in China, vol. 3, Beijing, 2008, no. 100, where it is dated Northern Song. Unlike the present vessel, the Ding ware example is made in imitation of a tortoise, with head-form spout, four small legs and cell-shaped decoration carved on the rounded top to imitate the carapace.

Christie's. THE COLLECTION OF ROBERT HATFIELD ELLSWORTH PART IV - CHINESE WORKS OF ART: METALWORK, SCULPTURE AND EARLY CERAMICS, 20 March 2015, New York, Rockefeller Plaza.