09 avril 2016

A doucai bowl and cover, mark and period of Yongzheng (1723-1735)

A doucai bowl and cover, mark and period of Yongzheng (1723-1735)


Lot 55. A doucai bowl and cover, mark and period of Yongzheng (1723-1735). Estimate HKD 600,000 — 800,000 (67,735 - 90,313 EUR)Lot Sold 5,000,000 HKD (564,458 EUR. Photo: Sotheby's.

of conical form, the flared sides supported on a short straight foot, brightly enamelled to the exterior with a pair of magpies, one swooping in flight while the other perched on flowering and budding camellia and prunus branches overhanging from the rim of the bowl, the domed cover similarly decorated, gilded at the rims, the base inscribed in underglaze blue with a six-character reign mark arranged in three columns within a double circle - 20.4 cm, 8 in.

ProvenanceBluett & Sons Ltd, London.
Collection of Roger Pilkington (1928-69), from 1966 (£450).

NoteExquisitely painted with two magpies and flowering camellia and prunus branches, this bowl and cover embodies the Yongzheng Emperor’s great passion for exacting designs and innovative shapes, his insistence on outstanding quality and his infatuation with portents of good fortune. The precision of the cobalt pencilled lines, which give texture to the birds and trees, and the harmonious arrangement of the motif reveal the craftsmen’s mastery of techniques and materials as a direct result of the Emperor’s personal patronage. It is interesting to note that the mark on this bowl, in particular the Qingcharacter, written with a vertical stroke on the lower part, is similar to that found on a group of Kangxi wares, as discussed by Peter Y.K. Lam in ‘Lang Tingji and the Porcelain of the Late Kangxi Period’, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, vol. 68, 2003-2004, p. 44, who attributed this mark to the latter years of the Kangxi and first years of the Yongzheng reigns.

A bowl and cover of this type in the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, is illustrated in Lu Minghua, Qingdai Yongzheng – Xuantong guanyao ciqi [Qing dynasty official wares from the Yongzheng to the Xuantong reigns], Shanghai, 2014, pl. 3-20, where the author mentions two further examples in the Shanghai Museum, but one lacking its cover, p. 46; another in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colours, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 223; and a third, in the British Museum, London, is illustrated in R.L. Hobson, The Later Ceramic Wares of China, London, 1925, pl. LV, fig. 1. See also a bowl with cover sold in our London rooms, 1st November 1966, lot 127; and another sold in our London rooms in 1974, in these rooms in 1977, and most recently at Christie’s Hong Kong, 1st December 2009, lot 1918.

The design on this piece is filled with auspicious symbolism. The magpie (xique) is known as the bird of joy, as its name is homophonous with the word for joy, as well as a carrier of good omen. In the 18th century, this bird acquired great significance, as according to legend the founder of the Manchu dynasty was the son of a celestial maiden that became pregnant after consuming a red berry that a magpie had dropped on her robe.

Sotheby's. The Pilkington Collection of Chinese Art, Hong Kong, 06 Apr 2016

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