Lot 1113. A superb peachbloom-glazed beehive waterpot, Mark and period of Kangxi (1662-1722). Estimate 2,000,000 — 3,000,000 HKD. Lot sold 3,460,000 HKD. Photo: Sotheby's.
finely potted of classic domed 'taibai zun' form, the slightly tapering sides rising to a rounded shoulder and short waisted neck below a lipped mouth-rim, the exterior evenly applied overall save for the rim and base with a crimson-red glaze suffused with pink sprinkles imitating the skin of a ripening peach, the body further faintly incised with three stylised archaistic dragon roundels, the recessed white base inscribed in underglaze blue with a six-character reign mark in three columns; 12.7 cm, 5 in.
Provenance: Collection of Dudley L. Pickman (1779-1848).
Collection of General Charles G. Loring (1828-1902), and thence by descent in the family.
J.J. Lally & Co., New York.
Note: Peachbloom waterpots are rarely as successfully fired as the present piece, which is covered with a most vibrant and even copper-red glaze. Notoriously difficult to achieve due to the temperamental nature of the copper pigment, the attractive glaze is only found on a small group of vessels for the scholar's table in eight different shapes, one of the most iconic groups of porcelain created under the Kangxi Emperor.
Copper-red glazes had been largely abandoned at Jingdezhen since the early Ming dynasty and were revived and drastically improved only during the Kangxi reign. Recent research by Peter Lam and other leading scholars indicate that the famous 'peachbloom' group was produced during the early years of the Kangxi period under the supervision of the skilled Zang Yingxuan, who was sent to Jingdezhen in 1681 to oversee the rebuilding of the kilns and serve as imperial supervisor. To manage the fugitive copper-lime pigment, it is believed to have been sprayed via a long bamboo tube onto a layer of transparent glaze and then fixed with another layer, so as to be sandwiched between two layers of clear glaze.
A waterpot of this type in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 142, pl. 125; one in the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, is published in Wang Qingzheng, ed., Kangxi Porcelain Wares from the Shanghai Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1998, pl. 206; another from the Sir Percival David Collection, now in the British Museum, London, is published in Margaret Medley, Ming and Qing Monochrome Wares in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London, 1989, pl. 580; and a further example of slightly smaller size, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, is illustrated in Suzanne G. Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, New York, 1989, pl. 234.
These waterpots are known as taibai zun after the Tang dynasty poet Li Taibai, who is often depicted leaning against a large wine jar of similar form, as seen in a porcelain sculpture, which shows the poet seated with closed eyes and a cup in hand, published in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, op. cit., p. 106, pl. 89. They are also referred to as jizhao zun, because their shape resembles that of a chicken coop.
Dudley L. Pickman (1779-1848) was the founder of one of the great Salem trading companies active in the Far East with a fleet of clipper ships. General Charles G. Loring (1828-1902) was the first director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from the opening of the museum in 1876 until his resignation in 1902.
Sotheby's. Chinese Art from Two American Private Collections, Hong Kong, 05 Apr 2017, 10:30 AM