A rare and large ru-type hu-form vase, Yongzheng seal mark and period


Lot 511. A rare and large ru-type hu-form vase, Yongzheng seal mark and period (1723-1735). Estimate 200,000 — 300,000 USD. Lot sold 396,500 USD. Photo: Sotheby's.

of archaistic bronze form, the broad pear-shaped body rising from a slightly spreading foot to a waisted neck encircled with a raised fillet and flanked by a pair of single-horn mythical animal-mask handles suspending mock rings, covered overall with a thick lavender-blue glaze, save for the unglazed foot ring, the base with a six-character seal mark in underglaze blue. Height 13 1/4  in., 33.7 cm

ProvenanceCollection of Fred and Marguerite Shumaker, Larchmont, New York, acquired in the early 1930s, and thence by descent.  

NoteThis rare vase is remarkable for its subtle bluish glaze, the purity of which accentuates the graceful curves of its profile. Created in imitation of the celebrated Ru-wares of the Song period, this vase reflects the Yongzheng Emperor’s penchant for these early wares and the remarkable technical developments achieved at the imperial kilns and made to meet the specific taste of the emperor. While a delicate celadon glaze had already been developed in the Kangxi reign, it was during the Yongzheng period that the production of glazes imitating Song dynasty Ru and guan wares greatly expanded. According to the 1732 edition of the Jiangxi tongzhi [Jiangxi provincial gazetteer], compiled by Xie Min, governor of Jiangxi province between 1729 and 1732, two different types of Ru-type glazes were developed, one displaying a subtle network of crackles and the other of even tone, as seen on this vase (S.W. Bushell, Oriental Ceramic Art, London, 1981, p. 195).

Vases of this type are rare and only two other related examples, but covered in a crackled Ru-type glaze, appear to have been published; one of slightly smaller size in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in Kangxi Yongzheng Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 249, pl. 78; and the other was offered in our London rooms, 9th November 2011, lot 69.

Vases of this form are also known covered in other monochrome glazes; see a tea-dust glazed vase, from the collection of Lord Cunliffe, illustrated in Soame Jenyns, Later Chinese Porcelain, London, 1951, pl. CIV, no. 2; a flambé-glazed example in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in Qingdai yuyao ciqi [Qing porcelain form the imperial kilns preserved in the Palace Museum], vol. 1, pt. II, Beijing, 2005, pl. 39; and a celadon-glazed vase, with relief decoration, also in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in Kangxi Yongzheng Qianlong, op. cit., p. 276, pl. 105. Compare also a Yongzheng mark and period vase of this form, painted in underglaze blue with a composite floral scroll, sold twice in our Hong Kong rooms, 14th November 1989, lot 75, and 29th October 1991, lot 133.

The form of this vase appears to have acquired popularity in the succeeding Qianlong reign; see two slightly smaller Qianlong mark and period vases sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 18th May 1988, lot 234, and 29th April 1997, lot 578; and a third sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 26th September 1989, lot 696, and another, with 'Ru'-type glaze, sold in these rooms, 15th September 2010, lot 261.

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art New York, 15 Mar 2017