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Lot 65. A Rare Gilt-Bronze Figure of Kapaladhara Hevajra, Ming Dynasty, 15th Century, 23cm. Estimate: £150,000-200,000 / HK$1,680,000-2,240,000. Photo Sotheby's

LONDON.- On 11 May in London, Sotheby’s will bring to the market an exquisite selection of Chinese objects previously held in private hands. Featuring fine jades from an English private collection, early ceramics from Japanese collections, Chinese furniture from a European private collection, jades from the Fleischer collection, ceramics from the Joseph M. Morpurgo collection, among others, the auction of Important Chinese Art presents an exceptional array of material to appeal to scholars and collectors. 

Robert Bradlow, Senior Director, Chinese Works of Art, Sotheby’s London, commented: “This promises to be one of our most eclectic London sales, dominated by fresh-to-the-market material imbued with a refined and elegant aesthetic.” 

A delightful carving is one of a group of fine jades from an English private collection featuring animal subjects. It is a masterfully rendered representation of three dogs, playfully wrestling with one another. Though jade carvings of hounds, generally portrayed in resting poses, were popular from the Tang dynasty onwards, they are rarely found in groups of three. The skill of the craftsman is evident from the carefully studied and naturalistic depiction of the dynamically intertwined bodies. Furthermore, this particular piece was cleverly fashioned in accordance with the shape of the jade pebble, in order to minimise wastage of the precious material.

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Lot 7. A Rare and Superbly Carved White Jade ‘Three Dogs’ Group, Qing Dynasty, Early 18th Century, 8.2cm. Estimate: £20,000-30,000 / HK$224,000-335,000. Photo Sotheby's

finely and skilfully worked in the form of two dogs playfully wrestling with each other and a younger cub beside, the larger dog clambering atop the other dog with its front paws perched on the hind legs of the dog beneath, endearingly nuzzling the front paw of its sprawling companion, the younger cub lying beside, each beast superbly rendered with an elongated snout and well-defined nasal bones, furled ears and almond-shaped eyes, the smoothly polished stone of an even white tone, wood stand. Quantity: 2 - 8.2 cm, 3 1/4  in.

Provenance: Sotheby's London, 17th December 1996, lot 261.
Spink & Son Ltd., London, 1998.

Notes: Skilfully fashioned in the round, this charming carving is notable for the sensitive modelling of the three dogs, which have been rendered with gentle features that pleasantly contrast with their playful poses. The skill of the carver has been displayed to full effect in the carefully studied and naturalistically captured interlocking bodies. Furthermore, this piece has been fashioned according to the shape of the pebble to prevent unnecessary wastage of the precious material and carved with the same level of care overall so that it can be appreciated from every angle. 

Jade carvings of hounds, generally depicted in resting poses, were made from the Tang dynasty onwards and are seldom found in groups of three.  Compare two jade carvings of a pair of dogs sold in our Hong Kong rooms, the first, 20th November 1984, lot 541, and the second, 30th October 1995, lot 932; and another, from the collection of Walter Stein, sold in our New York rooms, 26th February 1982, lot 518. See also a similarly playful carving of three cats, included in the Min Chiu Society exhibition Chinese Jade Carving, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1983, 164; and another of three lions, in the Tianjin Museum, illustrated in Tianjin bowuguan cang yu / Jade Wares Collected by Tianjin Museum, Beijing, 2012, pl. 174.

Following Sotheby’s successful sale in May 2015 of The Soul of Japanese Aesthetics: The Tsuneichi Inoue Collection, which encapsulated the refined collecting taste in Japan in the early to mid-20th century, this year’s auction features a group of early Chinese ceramics from Japanese collections. This large and rare basin is an outstanding example of the elegant and austere aesthetic, characteristic of Song dynasty ceramic work, which has appealed to Japanese sensibilities for centuries. The interior of the bowl depicts a large carp swimming amongst water weeds, while the exterior is intricately carved and moulded with three rows of overlapping upright leaves, applied with an even ivory-coloured glaze. Song ceramics have been admired and appreciated in Japan since the Kamakura period, when Buddhist monks travelled to China and returned with tenmoku and celadon ware, along with the Chinese practice of drinking tea. As Song ceramics began to play an increasingly important role in the ritual of the Japanese tea ceremony, they became an integral part of Japanese culture.

A Large and Rare ‘Ding’ ‘Fish’ Basin, Song-Jin Dynasty

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Lot 32. A Large and Rare ‘Ding’ ‘Fish’ Basin, Song-Jin Dynasty; 32 cm, 12 5/8  in. Estimate: 100,000-120,000 GBP (126,650 — 151,980 EUR). Lot sold 125,000 GBP (158,313 EUR). Photo Sotheby's

with deep rounded sides rising from a short tapering foot, freely carved and combed to the interior with a large carp swimming amidst water weeds, the exterior carved and moulded with three rows of overlapping upright leaves, applied overall with an even ivory-coloured glaze, the rim bound with metal, Japanese lacquered wood cover, Japanese lacquer box. Quantity: 3.

Provenance: Hirano Kotoken.

ExhibitedHakutsuru Shunki Tokubetsuten - Chugoku Kotoji [Haktutsuru Spring Exhibition - Chinese Ceramics],Hakutsuru Museum, Kobe, 1972.

Notes: This monumental basin is among the largest pieces of Ding ware recorded, and it is very rare to find a piece with such bold large-scale carving. The decoration on the present bowl is particularly successful, since the carp is very confidently drawn and prominently placed. No Ding ware of similar size and design seems to be recorded in any museum worldwide. The basin also features lotus petals carved on the outside, one of the most representative patterns of Ding ware vessels of various shapes. Ding white ware made in Quyang, Hebei province ranks among the Five Great Wares of the Song dynasty (960-1279) and is one of the most famous types of Chinese ceramics. Because of their fame and excellent quality, Ding wares were not only highly favoured by the royal court and upper classes, but also found their way to other countries such as Koryo (918-1392) at the time of their manufacture. Compare a basin with a carved fish inside and plain outside, of smaller size and with no foot, and a covered jar and a deep rounded bowl with lotus petals carved outside, illustrated in Chinese Ceramics in the National Museum of Korea, Seoul, 2007, pls 68, 30-31. 

In the Palace Museum, Beijing is a basin of similar size, but with the large carp replaced by a pair of much smaller fish; see the exhibition Selection of Ding Ware. The Palace Museum's Collection and Archaeological Excavations, Beijing, 2012, cat. no. 53. Only one piece similar in size and design to the present basin seems to have been sold at auction, in our Hong Kong rooms, 31st October 1995, lot 343, again in our New York rooms, 31st March 2005, lot 32, and illustrated in Sotheby's: Thirty Years in Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2003, pl. 103. A fragment of a similar basin, found at the Ding kilns during excavations carried out jointly by the School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University, and Hebei archaeologists, is illustrated in the exhibition catalogue Ding Kiln of China, Beijing Art Museum, Beijing, 2012, cat. no. 162.

Smaller basins carved with a single fish are known in a few world-famous collections; see two examples now in the British Museum, London, one from the Sir Percival David Collection, published in Mary Tregear, Song Ceramics, London, 1982, col. pl. 29, the other from the Eumorfopoulos collection, illustrated in Oriental Ceramics: The World’s Great Collections, vol. 5, Tokyo, 1981, pl. 56. Another basin in a private collection, included in the exhibition Chinese Ceramics from the Prehistoric Period through Ch’ien Lung, Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, 1952, cat. no. 143, is discussed in Henry Trubner, ‘A Ting-yao Bowl of the Sung Dynasty’, Far Eastern Ceramic Bulletin, vol. III, no. 4, 1951, pp 21-3 and illustrated pls I and II. 

Large Ding basins are more often decorated on the inside with lotus scrolls only, like three pieces in the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, published in the Illustrated Catalogue of Sung Dynasty Porcelain in the National Palace Museum: Ting Ware and Ting-type Ware, Taipei, 1973, cat. no. 34; in the exhibition catalogue Song ci tezhan [Special Exhibition of Sung Wares], Taipei, 1978, cat. no. 27; and the Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Ting Ware White Porcelain, Taipei, 1987, cat. no. 32, the latter together with a basin of single-fish motif, of smaller size and plain outside, cat. no. 31. 

Lotus petal decoration similar to the present basin features prominently among Ding vessels of various shapes recovered from the foundations of two Northern Song pagodas in Dingzhou, Hebei province, close to the Ding kilns, one belonging to the Jingzhi Temple, built in AD 977, the other to the Jingzhongyuan Temple, built in AD 995; see the exhibition catalogueTreasures from the Underground Palaces, Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo, 1997, passim

According to Ts’ai Mei-fen of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 'metal-banded rim [for ceramics] was the popular taste of the time', see Ts’ai Mei-fen, ‘A Discussion of Ting Ware with Unglazed Rims and Related Twelfth-Century Official Porcelain’,Arts of the Sung and Yüan, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1996, pp. 109-31. Compare a famous Ding ware lobed basin with metal bound rim, incised with a peony in the centre and lotuses around the well, formerly in the collections of Alfred and Ivy Clark, and Sakamoto Goro, sold in these rooms, 2nd March 1971, lot 135; and again in our Hong Kong rooms, 8th April 2014, lot 11.

rare vase ranks among the largest – and most innovative – Cizhous wares, its delicate design contrasting the freely painted black decoration on the surface against the white background. 

A Large ‘Cizhou’ Painted Vase, Jin Dynasty

Lot 33. A Large ‘Cizhou’ Painted Vase, Jin Dynasty; 46 cm, 18 1/8  in. Estimate: 30,000-40,000 GBP (37,995 — 50,660 EUR). Lot sold 62,500 GBP (34,829 EUR). Photo Sotheby's

the rounded body supported on a high spreading foot and surmounted by a tall neck with a boldly flared scalloped rim, applied overall with a white slip stopping neatly at the foot, freely painted around the body in iron-brown with leafy sprays between further registers similarly painted around the neck and foot, covered overall in a transparent glaze, Japanese wood box. 

Provenance: Hirano Kotoken.

ExhibitedChugoku Meito Hyakuten / Chinese Ceramics, A Loan Exhibition of One Hundred Selected Masterpieces, Takashimaya, Osaka, 1961, cat. no. 28.
To So Meito Ten / Masterpieces of Tang and Song Ceramics, Shirokiya, Tokyo, 1964, cat. no. 177.
Jishuyou Meihin Ten / Masterpieces of Cizhou Wares, Osaka Bijutsu Club, Osaka, 1969, cat. no. 9.

Notes: This vase ranks among the largest Cizhou wares and is most impressive for its innovative form and the strong contrast of its black painting against the white-slip ground. Vases of similar form and black-painted decoration are very rare, although they are represented in a few famous collections worldwide, with variations in size, proportion and designs. Compare a smaller vase included in exhibition catalogue by Yutaka 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, Indianapolis, 1980, pl. 78. Mino also illustrates four other small Cizhou vases of this form, one excavated in Pacun near Yuxian county, Henan, one in the Royal Ontario Museum, one in the Shanghai Museum, and one in a private Japanese collection, ibid., figs. 206-209.

Also related is a black-painted vase of similar form found at the Guantai kiln site in Cixian, Hebei, during excavations carried out jointly by the Department of Archaeology, Peking University, and Hebei archaeologists, illustrated in The Cizhou Kiln Site at Guantai, Beijing, 1997, cover and pl. 10. Compare also two vases of similar form, but respectively with black glaze and low-fired green glaze, illustrated in Haku to koku no kyōen/Charm of Black and White Ware. Transition of Cizhou type wares, Osaka Municipal Museum of Art, Osaka, 2002, cat. no. 142, and included in the exhibition Freedom of Clay and Brush Through Seven Centuries of Northern Chinaop. cit., cat. no. 96.

Gilt-bronze Buddhist figures produced during the Ming dynasty in the 15th century are highly distinguished, admired for their exquisite refinement and craftsmanship. This rare and intricately carved figure depicts Kapaladhara Hevajra, locked in union with his consort Nairatmya. 

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Lot 65. A Rare Gilt-Bronze Figure of Kapaladhara Hevajra, Ming Dynasty, 15th Century, 23cm. Estimate: £150,000-200,000 / HK$1,680,000-2,240,000. Photo Sotheby's

the figure locked in union with his consort, Nairatmya, his head with eight faces and body with eight pairs of arms and two pairs of legs, the principal hands crossed behind his consort in pajnalinganabhinayamudraholding kapalas containing an elephant and a seated figure in prayer, the remaining hands holding kapalascontaining effigies of animals and seated monks in prayer, with Nairatmya holding a kartrika and kapala, both standing on two Maras on a double-lotus base; 23 cm, 9 1/8  in.

Notes: The contents of the skull cups held in each of Hevajra’s sixteen hands symbolise the Yidam’s universal dominion. Animals resting in the kapalas in his right hands, a vyala, cat, deity in prayer, dromedary, horse, ox and ass, represent the Guardians of the Eight Directions. The kapalas in the left hands contain kneeling figures depicting Yama, Vaishravana, Fire, Air, Water, Earth, the Sun and the Moon, all with hands in anjali mudra and unusually wearing caps resembling the distinctive black hat of the Karmapas; possibly suggesting an affiliation of the bronze with the Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism that was influential at court in the early Ming dynasty. The Hevajra is cast in a style that closely follows imperial Yongle prototypes such as the Speelman Kapaladhara Hevajra, Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 7th October 2006, lot 814. The format remains the same while aprons have become heavier and more pronounced, the deities more sturdy, and the lotus petals of the pedestal have widened slightly from the slim Yongle prototype. A double lotus base becomes common throughout the corpus of post-Yongle bronzes representing Hevajra after the style of other Yongle works such as the Speelman Vajrabhairava, ibid, lot 812. Compare the thickset figure and lotus petal style of a gilt bronze depicting Vajradhara in the Beijing Capitol Museum that is dated by inscription to 1436, see Selected Works on Ancient Buddhist Statues, Beijing, 2005, fig. 58, and Michael Henss, Buddhist Art in Tibet, Ulm, 2008, p. 214, fig. 36. 

The fan of Hevajra’s arms forms a perfect arc around the deeply engaged couple as they lunge to the right in alidha posture. Both deities are naked save for their crowns, human bone jewellery and aprons. Faces are imbued with intensity while the parted lips are said to be emitting the reverberating cosmic sound HUM. Nairatmya, “Without Self”, folds her left arm around the neck of her consort and thrusts out her right hand holding the vajrakartrika flaying knife. Kapaladhara Hevajra is described in the medieval eastern Indian treatise Hevajra Tantra, masterfully interpreted in this rare early Ming gilt bronze: “… black am I and terrible … but my inner nature is tranquil, and holding Nairatmya in loving embrace, I am possessed of tranquil bliss …”, see Rob Linrothe, Ruthless Compassion, London, 1999, pp 268-9 for a full discussion of the iconography and Indian origin of Hevajra.

An  exceptional pair of ‘official hat-shaped chairs’ was acquired in the 1950s by Dr J. H. Zeeman, the Charge d’Affaires at the Embassy of the Netherlands in Beijing. Strikingly modern in their simplicity of form and linear design, these high chairs retained a connotation of status and authority associated with the elite gentry in Chinese society. Their name derives from the winged hat that was part of the formal attire of Ming officials. The origin of this type of chair is uncertain, though it has been suggested that the design was imported from outside China.  

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Lot 39. A Pair Of Huanghuali ‘Official’s Hat’ Yokeback Armchairs, Guanmaoyi, Qing Dynasty, 17th-18th Century. Estimate: £80,000-120,000 / HK$ 895,000-1,340,000. Photo Sotheby's

each with a scrolled crest rail above a gently curved backsplat, with out-scrolled arms supported by S-form stiles mortise and tenoned to the seat frame, the legs joined by footrail and stretchers. Quantity: 2 - 58 by 48 by 104 cm, 22 7/8  by 18 7/8  by 41 in.

Provenance: Collection of Dr J.H. Zeeman, Charge d'Affaires, Embassy of the Netherlands, Beijing 1954-1957.
Thence by descent.

NotesHuanghuali yoke-back armchairs of this type give an impression of striking modernity through their simplicity of form and linear design. Called guanmaoyi or ‘official hat-shaped chairs’, the name derives from its resemblance to the winged hat that was part of the formal attire of Ming officials. They were regarded as high chairs and retained a connotation of status and authority associated with the elite gentry in Chinese society. The classical text Lu Ban jing (Manuscript of Lu Ban), a 15th century carpenter’s manual, gives specifications for these chairs and describes the joinery as the fine embodiment of Chinese furniture. This pair is particularly notable for their humpback stretchers and the ‘goose-neck’ posts which retreat back from the front corners negating the visual confusion of side-posts. They also reflect the trend in Chinese furniture manufacture, from the fifteenth century to the nineteenth century, when the technical expedients in holding a piece together became less evident.

huanghuali chair of this type, but carved with an apron under the seat, from the collection of Chen Mengjia, is illustrated in Wang Shixiang, Classical Chinese Furniture, Hong Kong, 1986, pl. 45; and another is published in George N. Kates, Chinese Household Furniture, New York, 1948, pl. 79. Compare also similar chairs lacking the ‘goose-neck’ posts under the arm rests, such as one made from rosewood and attributed to the Ming dynasty, from the Qing Court collection and still in Beijing, published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Furniture of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (I), Hong Kong, 2002, pl. 27; and a hardwood example in the Nanjing Museum, Nanjing, included in Wang Shixiang, Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture. Ming and Early Qing Dynasties, Hong Kong, 1990, pl. A71.

The origin of this type of chair is much debated by scholars and connoisseurs of Chinese art, with some suggesting this design was imported from outside China. Indeed, early depictions of chairs with protruding posts and yoke-backs most commonly appear in Buddhist contexts associated with the ancient Silk Road, such as a wall painting in cave 196 in Dunhuang, attributed to the Tang dynasty and illustrated in Sarah Handler, Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, Berkeley, 2001, pl. 4.2. By the Ming dynasty, two different types of official hat-shaped chairs developed: those with the front posts and legs fashioned from a single piece of wood, and those with the arm posts recessed curving inwards, such as the present lot, which are less strong and durable. As such, it is all the more impressive that this pair has survived in such relatively good structural condition.

Craig Clunas in Chinese Furniture, London, 1988, p. 20, describes armchairs of this type being made in pairs, suggesting a symmetry that was aimed for in the Chinese room arrangement. Ming and Qing period paintings and woodblock illustrations characteristically show them used at dinner tables, in reception halls for guests and at the writing table in the scholar’s studio. For example see a woodblock print of the 1616 edition of Jing ping mei (The plum in the golden vase), reproducedibid., pl. 8, showing the main male character and his principal wife seated on a guanmaoyi while dining with his secondary wives and concubines sit on stools. For a general discussion on the basic model and decorative vocabulary of these armchairs see Curtis Evarts, ‘From Ornate to Unadorned’, Journal of the Chinese Classical Furniture Society, Spring 1993, pp 24-33.

The Fleischer Collection of Jades was formed by Wilfred Fleischer, whose interest in Asian art grew during the time he spent in Japan working as Editor-in-Chief of the country’s first English-language newspaper, established by his father. He amassed a substantial collection of Japanese and Chinese works of art during the 1920s and early 1930s, impressive not only for its diversity but also for the attention paid to the quality and rarity of the works. This figure of a fisherman is a magnificent piece of carved jade. The carver has skillfully retained the natural russet skin of the stone for the fisherman’s hat and shawl, and the carp, highlighting the minimal wastage of the precious material.  

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Lot 154. A Finely Carved Celadon and Russet Jade Figure of a Fisherman, Qing Dynasty, 18th Century, 10.5cm. Estimate: £40,000-60,000 / HK$447,000-670,000. Photo Sotheby's

finely and skilfully carved through the outer russet skin, the old fisherman seated cross legged holding a wicker basket and pair of fish, wearing a finely incised cape which wraps around his body, his smiling face with long beard and bushy eyebrows all topped by a straw hat, wood stand - Quantity: 2 - 10.5 cm, 4 1/8  in.

Notes: Jade carvings of fisherman are rare and examples of such large size and fine detailing are even rarer. The skill of the carver with its medium is evidenced in his ability to combine delicately incised details, as seen on the fisherman’s hat and shawl, with the bold lines that depict the folds his clothes and the naturalistic pose, with legs carved in the round. Furthermore, the skilful use of the natural russet skin of the stone draws attention to the carps and the shawl, highlighting the carver’s ability to minimise wastage of the precious stone. 

A similar carving of a seated fisherman, in the Tianjin Museum, Tianjin, is illustrated in Jade Wares Collection by Tianjin Museum, Beijing, 2012, pl. 202; another of smaller size, from the collection of Roger Chow, was included in the exhibitionExquisite Jade Carving, Art Gallery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1995, cat. no. 40; and two carvings of standing fisherman were sold these rooms, the first, 11th November 1990, lot 64, and the second, 9th November 2005, lot 587. 

Fishermen represent one of the Four Basic Occupations, and have long been associated in Chinese folklore with the scholarly ideals of isolation and a simple life. The most famous scholar in Chinese mythology is Jiang Ziya (ca. 11th century BC), a military adviser to King Wen and King Wu of Zhou, who became a fisherman during his exile. Moreover, depictions of fisherman (yuweng) and carps (liyou) is homophonous with yuwen deli, a pun on the phrase ‘the fisherman received profit’. 

A group of Chinese ceramics from the Joseph M. Morpurgo Collection is testament to the quality of the works acquired by four successive generations of the Amsterdam Morpurgo dynasty, whose name is inextricably linked to the history of the Dutch art market. This square-form jar is one of the finest examples of the Jiajing period. Such jars required the utmost precision when potting and firing as they were made from a mould. The bajixiang and lotus motif continued to be popular in the succeeding Wanli reign, when it was used on jars of globular shape.  

A Rare Wucai Square Jar, Jiajing Mark And Period

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Lot 171. A Rare Wucai Square Jar, Jiajing Mark And Period, 12.5cm. Estimate: £20,000-30,000 / HK$ 224,000-335,000. Photo Sotheby's

the square baluster body rising from a recessed base to a short neck with everted rim, brightly painted and enamelled around the exterior with the bajixiang and lotus strapwork, all between a lotus lappet band at the base and a ruyi collar, the neck with a classic scroll band, wood stand. Quantity: 2 - 12.5 cm, 4 7/8  in.

Notes: Jars of this square form were an innovation of the Jiajing period, which required the utmost precision when potting and firing as they were made from a mould. A closely related jar, included in the exhibition Chinese Porcelain. The S.C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1987, cat. no. 72, was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 19th November 1986, lot 213; two were sold in these rooms, the first, from the collection of Stephen D. Winkworth, 25th April 1933, lot 347, and the second, with its matching cover, from the collection of Lord Hollenden, 27th November 1973, lot 297; and a further two jars were sold at Christie’s London, 21st April 1986, lot 412 and 413, the former sold again in these rooms, 12th December 1989, lot 309. 

This motif continued to be popular in the succeeding Wanli reign, when it was used on jars of globular shape; see for example a Wanli mark and period jar, illustrated in Lu Minghua, Mingdai guanyao ciqi [Ming imperial porcelain], Shanghai, 2007, pl. 4-23; and another, from the collection of Kwong Yee Che Tong, included in the exhibition The Fame of Flame. Imperial Wares of the Jiajing and Wanli Periods, Art Gallery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2009, cat. no. 107.

An ewer is one of the finest pieces among a group of Tang and Song ceramics from a Dutch private collection, notable for their elegant forms and simple glazes. Ewers of this type, known as kundika after the Sanskrit term for a ‘pure-water bottle’, were used in Buddhist ceremonies during the Tang dynasty and derived their shapes from metal prototypes. 

A White-Glazed Kundika, Tang Dynasty

Lot 215. A White-Glazed Kundika, Tang Dynasty, 21.8 cm, 8½ in. Estimate: £20,000-30,000 / HK$224,000-335,000. Photo Sotheby's

the globular body supported on a spreading foot, rising to a tall waisted neck collared by a flange and surmounted by a tapering tubular mouth, set with a bulbous spout to the shoulder, covered overall in a thin opaque glaze stopping above the foot revealing the granular white body; 21.8 cm, 8½ in.

Provenance: Lam & Co. Antiquities, Hong Kong.
Ben Janssens, London.

Notes: Ewers of this type, known as kundika after the Sanskrit term for a ‘pure-water bottle’, were used in Buddhist ceremonies during the Tang dynasty and derived their shapes from metal prototypes; see a bronze example illustrated in Ancient Chinese Arts in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, 1989, pl. 328.

A slightly larger white-glazed kundika of similar form, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum. Ceramics, vol. 4, Sui, Tang and Five Dynasties, Beijing, 2013, pl. 183, together with a much smaller example, pl. 184; one in the Niigata Art Museum, Niigata, is published in Sekai toji zenshu/ Ceramic Art of the World, Tokyo, 1976, vol. 11, pl. 110; and a third example is illustrated in Regina Krahl, Yuegutang. Eine Berliner Sammlung Chinesischer Keramik, Berlin, 2000, pl. 85. Similar examples were also sold at auction: one in the Carl Kempe collection, was sold in these rooms, 14th May 2008, lot 206; two were sold in our New York rooms, the first, 20th November 1973, lot 151, and the second, from the collection of J. Spaulding, 23rd/24th May 1974, lot 259; and a further kundika was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 28th November 1978, lot 8. 

Please note the dating of this lot is consistent with its Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test result (C112e24)

superbly decorated box of the Kangxi Period is part of a European Private Collection acquired in the 1940s in China by the late Sir Anthony Hastings George. The precise and delicate motifs illustrate in detail three men riding horses and hunting geese, a falconer on horseback and one standing attendant. Among the precious materials used are mother of pearl and lapis lazuli.  

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Lot 302. An Inlaid Zitan Box And Cover, Qing Dynasty, Kangxi Period, 25.4 by 15 by 9cm. Estimate: £6,000-8,000 / HK$67,000-89,500. Photo Sotheby's

the rectangular top inlaid with mother of pearl, lapis lazuli, malachite and soapstone depicting three figures on horseback hunting geese, a falconer on horseback and one standing attendant, above a thin band of silver-inlaid scrolling foliage to the rim and repeated to the rim of the box, the interior with an inset tray, with inlaidWu men Zhou Zhu mark to the base. Quantity: 3 - 25.4 by 15 by 9 cm, 10 by 5 7/8  by 3 1/2  in.

ProvenanceSir Anthony Hastings George, KCMG.

NoteA box decorated with a similar motif, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carvings, Shanghai, 2001, pl. 230.

very rare and ornate teapot marries Yixing clay with cinnabar lacquer, resulting in a highly original vessel that is both decorative and functional. A similar cinnabar and Yixing teapot is currently held in the National Palace Museum, Taipei. Tea wares were produced in a variety of media during the Yongzheng and Qianlong reigns, including jade, cloisonné and painted enamel, and porcelain. 

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Lot 78. A Very Rare Cinnabar Lacquered Yixing Teapot, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period, 19.5cm. Estimate: £30,000-50,000 / HK$335,000-560,000. Photo Sotheby's

of compressed globular form, set with a short curved spout opposite a round loop handle, the exterior covered in layers of cinnabar lacquer except for the interior and base exposing the Yixing body, finely carved through the red lacquer layers with the bajixiang amidst scrolling lotus, reserved on a green diaper ground, all below a band of lappets around the rim, the cover similarly carved and set with a circular finial carved with ashou character. Quantity: 2 - 19.5 cm, 7 5/8  in. 

Notes: This teapot combines two mediums to create a highly original and luxurious vessel that is equally functional. A related cinnabar lacquer and Yixing teapot, with a Qianlong mark and of the period, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is illustrated in K.S. Lo, The Stonewares of Yixing from the Ming Period to the Present Day, London, 1986, pl. VII, where the author suggests that lacquered Yixing wares were the product of experiments that followed the somewhat unsuccessful attempts to use famille-rose enamels on Yixing clay, p. 215.

See also a teapot of this type, from the collection of K.S. Lo, included in the exhibition Yixing. Purple Clay Wares, Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, Hong Kong, 1994, cat. no. 35; one, bearing the mark of Shi Dabin, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Zhongguo meishu quanji. Gongyi meishu. Qiqi [Anthology of Chinese art. Decorative arts. Lacquer], vol. 8, Beijing, 1989, pl. 136; and two, with Qianlong marks and of the period, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, the first, 29th April 2002, lot 534, and the second, 1st December 2010, lot 3097. Compare also a lacquered Yixing teapot, decorated with kui dragons in the qianjin-and-tianqi technique, illustrated in K.S. Lo, op. cit., pl. XXXIX; and another Qianlong mark and period example painted in gilt with chrysanthemum flowers, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Lacquer Wares of the Qing Dynasty, Hong Kong, 2006, pl. 114.

Tea wares were produced in a myriad of media during the Yongzheng and Qianlong reigns, including jade, cloisonné and painted enamel, and porcelain. See for example a jade teapot, of slightly compressed globular form, from the collection of R.L. Liu, included in the exhibition Virtuous Treasures. Chinese Jades for the Scholar’s Table, Art Gallery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2008, p. 75; and a painted enamel example decorated with plum blossoms over a cracked-ice ground, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Masterpieces of Chinese Enamel Ware in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1971, pl. 48.

vibrant and rare bowl from the Jiajing period depicts iron red dragons chasing flaming pearls above tempestuous waves of cobalt blue. The dynamic motif of red five-clawed dragons above blue waves can be traced back to the early 15th century, as seen on a Xuande mark and period bowl, now located in the Palace Museum, Beijing. 

A Rare and Large Iron-Red and Blue ‘Dragon’ Bowl, Jiajing Mark and Period

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Lot 59. A Rare and Large Iron-Red and Blue ‘Dragon’ Bowl, Jiajing Mark and Period, 36.5cm. Estimate: £30,000-50,000 / HK$ 335,000-560,000. Photo Sotheby's

the deep rounded sides rising from a short straight foot to an everted rim, painted to the interior with a medallion enclosing an iron-red dragon chasing a flaming pearl above rich cobalt-blue foaming waves, the exterior with eight similar dragons chasing flaming pearls amidst ruyi clouds and fire scrolls and above foaming waves, the base inscribed in underglaze-blue with the six-character mark within a double circle - 36.5 cm, 14 3/8  in.

Notes: The dynamic motif of scaly five-clawed dragons in iron red above turbulent cobalt waves can be traced back to the early 15th century, as seen on a Xuande mark and period bowl, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red (I), Shanghai, 2000, pl. 230.

A closely related bowl, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red (II), Shanghai, 2000, pl. 228; one in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is published in Porcelain of the National Palace Museum. Enamelled Ware of the Ming Dynasty, Hong Kong, 1966, pl. 8; another in the Shanghai Museum, is illustrated in Lu Minghua, Mingdai guanyao ciqi [Ming imperial porcelain], Shanghai, 2007, pl. 1-61; and a fourth bowl is published in J. Ayers, Chinese Ceramics. The Koger Collection, London, 1985, pl. 80. Further similar bowls have been sold at auction; two were sold in these rooms, the first, 14th April 1970, lot 91, and the second, 8th June 1993, lot 57; and another from the collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, was sold at Christie’s New York, 30th March 2005, lot 336.

piece embodies the brilliant creativity of Qing craftsman, who were able to create vessels that successfully combined contemporary developments together with elements stemming from antiquity: the fine porcelain body and smooth tactile glaze, typical of the Qianlong period, and lotus bouquet motif that was inspired by the celebrated wares of the early Ming dynasty. Dishes painted with lotus bouquet were first revived under the Yongzheng emperor, who was keen to see historical masterpieces replicated as a reminder of the nation’s glorious past. By the Qianlong reign, the style of painting of this motif was slightly altered, and applied on dishes of various shapes and sizes, of which this piece is the largest known type. 

A Large Blue And White ‘Lotus Bouquet’ Dish, Qianlong Seal Mark And Period

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Lot 121. A Large Blue And White ‘Lotus Bouquet’ Dish, Qianlong Seal Mark And Period, 41 cm. Estimate: £60,000-80,000 / HK$ 670,000-895,000. Photo Sotheby's

the rounded sides rising from a tapered foot to a wide everted rim, the interior boldly painted to the central medallion with a ribboned bouquet of lotus flowers, pods and arrowheads encircled by three concentric rings, encircled by a composite floral scroll below a stylised foliate meander, the exterior similarly painted with a composite floral scroll, inscribed to the base with a six-character seal mark; 41 cm, 16 1/8  in.

ProvenanceChristie’s Amsterdam, 4th November 1992, lot 231.

NotesThis piece embodies the brilliant creativity of Qing craftsman, who were able to create vessels that successfully combined contemporary developments together with elements stemming from antiquity: the fine porcelain body and smooth tactile glaze, typical of the Qianlong period, and lotus bouquet motif that was inspired by the celebrated wares of the early Ming dynasty. The craftsman has also attempted to imitate the mottled ‘heaping and piling’ effect of early Ming wares, through a deliberate application of small darker spots to the design. This painting technique also served to heighten the three-dimensional quality of the design.

Dishes painted with lotus bouquet were first revived under the Yongzheng emperor, who was keen to see historical masterpieces replicated as a reminder of the nation’s glorious past. Antiques from the Palace collection were sent to the Imperial kilns in Jingdezhen, where craftsmen were instructed to use them as standards for quality, models for designs and as inspiration for innovation. By the Qianlong reign, the style of painting of this motif was slightly altered, becoming more formalised, and was applied on dishes of various shapes and sizes, the present piece being the largest type. 

A closely related dish was sold in our New York rooms, 16th/17th September 2014, lot 185; and another, but painted on the cavetto with the sanduo motif, was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 26th April 1999, lot 546. Compare also a smaller Qianlong mark and period dish of this design, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Geng Baochang ed., Gugong bowuyuan cang Ming chu qinghua ci [Early Ming blue and white porcelain in the Palace Museum], Beijing, 2002, vol. 2, pl. 203; one from the R.I.C. Herridge collection, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 26th November 1980, lot 274, and again, 21st May 1984, lot 105; another sold in our New York rooms, 8th May 1980, lot 283; and a third sold at Christie’s London, 14th July 1980, lot 271. 

For a Yongzheng precursor to this dish, see one, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Geng Baochang ed., op. cit., pl. 195. Five Yongle prototypes of this lotus bouquet design, in the Ardabil Shrine in Iran, are illustrated in John Alexander Pope,Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, Washington, D.C., 1956, pls 30 and 31.