A large and rare 'Yue' celadon goose-handled jar, Western Jin dynasty (265–316)

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Lot 3229. A large and rare 'Yue' celadon goose-handled jar, Western Jin dynasty (265–316), 32.3 cm, 12 5/8  in. Estimate 800,000 — 1,000,000 HKD. Lot sold 2,740,000 HKD. Photo: Sotheby's.

robustly potted with a baluster body rising from a flat base to a wide everted flange enclosing a smaller mouth, the shoulder of the vessel bordered with two thin grooves and evenly applied with four ring handles modelled in the form of a stylised goose, each similarly decorated with a curved neck and densely detailed with plumage, alternating with four mythical beast masks, each depicted with a pair of horns and suspending a mock ring, covered overall with a pale greyish-green glaze.

Provenance: Galaxie Company, Hong Kong, circa 1980.

ExhibitedThe Grandeur of Chinese Art Treasures: Min Chiu Society Golden Jubilee Exhibition, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 2010-11, cat. no. 88.

NoteThis large and rare jar is unusual for both its globular shape with a splayed mouth and its crisply-modelled goose-shaped handles. Its pleasing proportions and unusual design is the product of the creative genius of potters working at the Yue kilns in Zhejiang province, which flourished to unprecedented levels during the Jin dynasty to produce a variety of wares for daily use and burial. The characteristic of these wares are their tactile greenish glazes, non-prescribed forms and unusual decoration. A familiar motif on these wares is the monster mask with bifurcated horns and bulging eyes, as seen on this jar. The symbolic function of these masks are discussed in detail in Suzanne G. Valenstein in Cultural Convergence in the Northern Qi Period. A Flamboyant Chinese Ceramic Container, New York, 2007, pp. 31-35, where the author notes the protecting qualities of animal masks in burials.

Jars with multiple handles are more commonly known with a short neck and everted rim or with a short mouth; see for example five jars of various sizes, modelled with a short neck and also with chicken heads on the shoulder, included in the exhibition Animal Farm in Yue Ware, Uragami Sōkyu-dō, Tokyo, 1992, cat. nos 79-83; and a jar in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, illustrated in Thomas Dexel, Frühe Keramik in China, Braunschweig, 1973, pl. 49b. See also a cup modelled on the exterior with a bird in relief Zhongguo meishu quanji. Taoci [The complete collection of Chinese art: Ceramics], vol. I, Shanghai, 1988, pl. 175.

Sotheby's. Song Ceramics from a Distinguished Private Collector, Hong Kong, 05 Apr 2017