A fine and rare 'jun-imitation' vase, Seal mark and period of Yongzheng


Lot 3615. A fine and rare 'Jun-imitation' vase, Seal mark and period of Yongzheng (1723-1735)27.9 cm., 11 inEstimate 4,000,000 — 6,000,000 HKD (466,877 - 700,315 EUR). Unsold. Photo Sotheby's

the robustly potted pear-shaped vessel supported on a splayed foot with two rectangular apertures evoking archaic bronze models, the rotund body rising to a wide slightly tapering neck to a galleried rim, covered overall with a mottled deep crushed-raspberry glaze thinning at the rim and fading to a speckled pale blue on the lower body and foot, the interior of the foot glazed with a mushroom-green wash and incised with a six-character seal mark.

ProvenanceChristie's New York, 29th March 2006, lot 463.

NotesInfused with a subtle elegance and technical perfection characteristic of Yongzheng porcelain, vases of this type are rare. Under the emperor’s keen eye, which was steeped in a thorough knowledge of the antiquities in the imperial collection, a profusion of experimental glazes on various forms was developed to capture the beauty of celebrated antiquities with a contemporary aesthetic suited to the emperor’s taste.

A closely related example was sold in these rooms, 30th October 2002, lot 230; and a vase of this type but incised with the characters Xuanhe, in the Baur collection, is illustrated in John Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, vol. 2, Geneva, 1999, pl. 263. The mark refers to the Northern Song emperor, Huizong (1082-1135) whose love of art which was reflected in his renowned collection of ceramics and antiquities, and during his reign the quality of ceramic production, including Jun ware and the creation of Ru ware, improved dramatically. His collection of ancient bronzes and jades was published in a catalogue commissioned by the emperor, Xuanhe bo go tulu, which also provided inspiration for ceramicists in later generations. The use of this Jun-type glaze during the Yongzheng period, with its characteristic speckled, copper pigment that has been blown on appears to have been limited to Jun-style flower pots and narcissus bowls, such as a set in the Baur collection, published ibid., pls 261 and 262, or vases inspired by archaic bronze forms, such as a hu-shape vase with raised bow-string lines, in the Qing court collection and still in Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Monochrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 177. 

Wares from the type-site Juntai in Yu County, Henan province, an area formerly known as Junzhou, are remarkable for their thick luscious glaze of intense colouration which can vary from light to deep turquoise blue. In the early 12th century potters began applying splashes of deep purplish-red derived from copper to the glaze before firing, resulting in patches of purple, lavender and deep tones of blue on the primary milky-blue glaze. Such splashes added a flamboyant effect to the piece, often with a strong calligraphic quality which had an immense appeal to the literati and nobility of the time. 

Such was the appreciation of Jun wares that several examples remained in the imperial collections and were appreciated by countless generations, including the Manchu court of the Qing dynasty. The Yongzheng emperor was particularly partial to Song wares and commissioned copies of Jun wares from the Imperial workshop in Jingdezhen. The technical ingenuity and high level of experimentation of the potters working at the imperial kiln is evident in the official list from 1735 as recorded on the Taocheng jishi bei ji [Commemorative Stele on Ceramic Production] inscribed by Tang Ying (1682-1756), the greatest Superintendent of the imperial kilns. This important work records no less than nine varieties of Jun glazes inspired by ancient specimens, of which five were based on Song originals that had been sent from the palace in Beijing to the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen. Tang Ying is known to have gone to considerable lengths to emulate Jun wares of the Song, even sending his secretary, Wu Yaopu, and selected craftsmen to Junzhou in 1729 to work with local potters and thus obtain the recipe for producing Jun glazes.

 The form of this vase is also inspired by Song wares, which were in turn based on archaic bronze hu vase prototypes, and were produced covered in various glazes during the Yongzheng period; see a deep-blue glazed version in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Gugong Bowuyuan cang Qingdai yuyao ciqi [Qing porcelains from the Imperial kilns preserved in the. Palace Museum], vol. 1, Beijing, 2005, pl. 122; and a ru-type vase, sold at Christie’s New York, 15th September 2009, lot 396.

Sotheby'sImportant Chinese Art, Hong Kong, 07 oct. 2015, 02:30 PM