A rare Junyao foliate-rimmed vase, Song-Jin dynasty, 12th-13th century

A rare Junyao foliate-rimmed vase, Song-Jin dynasty, 12th-13th century. Estimate $30,000 – $50,000. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015

The vase has a high-shouldered body that tapers towards the high, conical foot, and a waisted neck that rises to a scalloped rim shaped as five out-curved petals. The vessel is covered with a matte glaze of milky blue color decorated with a splash of reddish purple on one side, which thins to mushroom on the rim, and ends in a line above the unglazed foot rim, exposing the buff ware. 7 ½ in. (19 cm.) high

Provenance: Sotheby's London, 18 September 2007, lot 235.

NotesJunyao vases of this unusual shape appear to be quite rare. A somewhat differently proportioned version of the form, with a blue Jun glaze inside and out is in the Simon Kwan Collection (see Song Ceramics from the Kwan Collection, Urban Council, Hong Kong, 1994, pp. 114-5, no. 39). A further very similar example is illustrated in The Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1991, no. 39. Another example with even more exaggerated profile is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (see R. Kerr, Song Ceramics, V&A Publications, London, 2004, p. 32, no. 22). The V&A vase was undoubtedly intended to be blue-glazed inside and out, but was misfired, so that the glaze remains greyish and with extensive crawling. A Yuan dynasty Jun ware vase with similarly lobed and down-turned mouth rim, but with differently shaped body, handles, splashed glaze, and a stand, was excavated from the northern ramparts at Beijing in 1971, and is now preserved in the Capital Museum, Beijing (see Zhongguo wenwu jinghua quanji - Taoci juan, Taipei, 1993, p. 358, no. 635). 

Although this form is very rare in Jun ware, it was a popular form among other wares, some of which would have been made at kilns located not far from those producing Jun ware in Yuxian. A vase of similar form to the current vessel, but belonging to the Cizhou tradition and decorated with incised petal design and sancai type glazes is in the collection of the Idemitsu Art Gallery, Tokyo (see Tsugio Mikami, Sekai toji Zenshu 13 Liao Jin Yuan, Shogakukan, Tokyo, p. 243, no. 278). This vase dates to the Jin-Yuan period. The largest number of vases of this form are those decorated in black slip over white in the Cizhou tradition. One of the most famous of these is the large example from the collection of the Seattle Art Museum, illustrated op. cit., pp. 110-11, no. 92, which is dated by different scholars to the Jin or Yuan dynasties. The central portion of a vase very similar to the Seattle vessel was excavated at Bacun, Yuxian, Henan province ( see Wenwu, no. 8, 1964, p. 32, pl. 5:1), which suggests that the Seattle vessel was made in the same area. The Seattle vase shares with the current Jun vessel the same distinctive cone-shaped foot with straight sides, and it can be no coincidence that both vases were probably made in the Yuxian area. 

Several other black and white Cizhou type vases of similar form, but with curved flaring foot, and less detailed decoration are known. One of these was found at Bacun, Yuxian (see Wenwu, no. 8, 1964, p. 32 and 33, fig. 12), and it seems likely that other vases in the Royal Ontario Museum, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Shanghai Museum and a private Japanese collection were also made in the Yuxian area. A green-glazed vase of Cizhou type and similar form is in the Indianapolis Museum of Art (see Y. Mino, Freedom of Clay and Brush through Seven Centuries in Northern China: Tz'u-chou Type Wares, 960-1600 A.D., Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1980, pp. 216-7, pl. 96). An identical green-glazed vase is also preserved in the Cleveland Museum of Art, while an amber-glazed vessel was excavated from a tomb at Zhaigoucun, near Taiyuan, Shanxi province (see Kaogu, no. 1, 1965, p. 26, pl. 7:8).

Christie's. FINE CHINESE CERAMICS AND WORKS OF ART, 17 - 18 September 2015, New York, Rockefeller Plaza