A rare blue and white bowl, Wanli period, late 16th century


Lot 3506. A rare blue and white bowl, Wanli period, late 16th century. Estimate $15,000 – $25,000. Price realised USD 52,500. Photo Christie’s Image Ltd 2015

The bowl is raised on a narrow, circular foot and the flaring rim is concealed by a metal band. The exterior is decorated with a continuous river landscape including mountains and clouds, fishermen and farmers, with small birds flying above. The interior is decorated with a central medallion enclosing another river scene. The base bears a square seal reading tai ge jia qi (‘Precious vessel for the Lofty Pavilion´). 5 ½ in. (14 cm.) diam.

Provenance: R. F. A. Riesco Collection, no. 219.
Bluett & Sons, Ltd., London.
Sotheby’s London, 11 December 1984, lot 335.
Collection of Julia and John Curtis.

Literature: Edgar E. Bluett, The Riesco Collection of Old Chinese Pottery and Porcelain, London, 1951, fig. 17.
‘Chinese Blue and White Porcelain, 14th to 19th Centuries’, Transactions of The Oriental Ceramic Society, London, 1954, plate 13, no. 193b.
Harry M. Garner and Margaret Medley, Chinese Art in Three-Dimensional Colour, Vol. IV, New York, 1969, reel 6, no. 7.
Harry M. Garner, Oriental Blue and White, London, 1973, color plate C.
Julia B. Curtis, Chinese Porcelains of the Seventeenth Century: Landscapes, Scholars’ Motifs and Narratives, New York, 1995, pp. 44-45, no. 1.

Exhibited: Oriental Ceramic Society, London, Chinese Blue and White Porcelain, 14th to 19th Centuries, 16 December 1953 – 23 January 1954.
China Institute Gallery, New York, Chinese Porcelains of the Seventeenth Century: Landscapes, Scholars Motifs and Narratives, 22 April – 5 August 1995.

Notes: The intensity of the cobalt blue used on this bowl is particularly noteworthy. When describing such blue tones on pieces in the Riesco Collection, Edgar E. Bluett noted, “Seen at its best there is a pulsating loveliness in this colour very difficult to describe in words and only possible to be fully appreciated by the actual beholder.” (The Riesco Collection of Old Chinese Pottery and Porcelain, London, 1951, p. 14)

A similar bowl in the Percival David Foundation, London, is illustrated by Margaret Medley in Illustrated Catalogue of Underglaze Blue and Copper Red Decorated Porcelains in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London, 1976, plate VIII, no. A661, listed p. 45. Other examples in important museum collections include one from the Avery Brundage Collection, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, illustrated by Suzanne Valenstein in the China Institute exhibition catalogue, Ming Porcelain, New York, 1970, p. 73. no. 45; also one in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, illustrated by Daisy Lion-Goldschmidt in Ming Porcelain, p. 146, pl. 126. The fact that other surviving bowls of the type have similar narrow metal bands on their rims suggests that these were decorative rather than added to conceal damage.