The current sale includes a particularly interesting group of Yuan and early Ming celadon wares from the Longquan kilns, which includes some pieces which are extremely rare. Yuan and early Ming Longquan celadons have come to prominence in recent years due to new research, the important exhibition of Ming dynasty Longquan celadon wares, Bilu – Mingdai Longquanyao qingci 碧綠—明代龍泉窯 青瓷 (Green – Longquan Celadons of the Ming), at the National Palace Museum, Taipei in 2009, and the sale of a small number of important pieces in major international auctions. One of the things that has become clear, is that the Longquan celadons of this period were, and remain, very highly regarded by both Chinese connoisseurs and overseas patrons.

The name Longquan applied to these celadons does not come from a specifc kiln site, but rather from the name of the market town in southern Zhejiang province to which these celadon-glazed ceramics were brought for sale and distribution. Longquan celadons were admired not only for the high quality of the raw materials used to make them, and for the variety of their forms, but most especially for the beauty of their subtle, delicately translucent, glazes. Early Longquan celadons undoubtedly owed a considerable debt to the legacy of the celadonglazed wares from the Yue kilns, which were made in the same province. Thus in the Northern Song period the Longquan kilns produced celadon-glazed stonewares with rather thin glazes, very similar to those of Yue wares.

The major change in Longquan celadons came in the Southern Song period, with the establishment of the court at Hangzhou in Zhejiang. Members of the court and the accompanying elite had refned tastes which would have required high-quality, sophisticated ceramics. It was doubtless in response to this infux of new patrons that the Longquan kilns began to develop the fne ceramics with soft green celadon glazes that were to prove hugely popular both in China and overseas. This classic Longquan glaze is a lime-alkaline glaze – in contrast to the Yue and Yaozhou glazes, which were both lime glazes. Some of the components in the Longquan glaze were less soluble than those in the previous Yue glaze, and remained intact after fring. These, together with gas bubbles, produced the delicate translucence typical of Longquan glazes. In addition the new ‘classic’ Longquan glaze was more viscous than the Yue glaze, and was usually thicker, as well as having a purer and richer colour.

Although the popularity of Longquan wares was very successfully established during the Southern Song period - both at home and abroad - production was considerably expanded in both these markets during the Yuan dynasty. Indeed, as the Yuan dynasty progressed, production rose to such an extent that some 300 kilns were active in the Longquan region. These kilns ranged across a signifcant area from the Dayao (大 窯), Jincun (金村) and Xikou (溪口) kiln complexes in the west, which had been prominent in the Southern Song dynasty, to those further east on the Ou (甌江) and Songxi (松溪) rivers. These rivers facilitated the transportation of the ceramics to other parts of China as well as to the ports of Quanzhou (泉州) and Wenzhou (温州), whence they could be exported to markets ranging from Japan to Turkey.

It is likely that some of the larger forms that became a feature of Yuan and early Ming Longquan wares were initially inspired by the requirements of patrons from Western Asia. However, these larger forms came also to be greatly appreciated by patrons in East Asia. In addition to China, fne Longquan celadons were especially popular in Japan, and a Longquan lidded celadon jar was found in the grave of Kanazawa Sada-aki (金沢貞顕1278-1333) in the grounds of the Shomyo-ji (称名 寺) Temple. The Shomyo-ji temple itself, which is believed to have been set up by Hōjō Sanetoki (北条実時1224-76) during the Kamakura period, still has in its collection two large Longquan celadon vases and a large incense burner with applied relief decoration. Other major Japanese temples, such as the Engaku-ji (円覚寺) and Kencho-ji (建長寺at) Kamakura also still use celadon vases preserved in the temples since the Kamakura (1185-1333) and Muromachi (1333-1573) periods. Numerous examples of fne Yuan and Ming Longquan celadon wares collected by the Ottoman rulers are still preserved in the Topkapi Saray in Istanbul, while those from the Ardebil Shrine, preserved in Tehran, provide ample evidence of the popularity of Yuan and Ming Longquan wares with the Safavid rulers of Iran.

It is clear from a number of textual sources that some of the ceramics produced at the Longquan kilns in the early Ming dynasty were being made for the court, under the supervision of government offcials sent from the capital. Juan 194 of the大明會典Da Ming Huidian states that in the 26th year of the Hongwu reign [1393] some imperial wares were fred at the Rao and Chu kilns – i.e. at Jingdezhen in Jiangxi and at the Longquan kilns of Zhejiang.

In volume one of the明憲宗實錄Ming Xianzong Shilu it is noted that Emperor Xianzong ascended the throne in the eighth year of the Tianshun reign [1464] and after the Chenghua reign began in the following year, an amnesty was declared. It was also noted that the offcials sent by the government to supervise ceramic production at the Yaozhou kilns of Jiangxi province and the Chuzhou kilns of Zhejiang province were required to return to the capital as soon as they received the imperial edict. This makes it clear that there was offcial production at the Longquan kilns as late as 1464 - the beginning of the Chenghua reign. Volume I of the Ming Xianzong Shilu further suggests that a courtappointed offcial was regularly sent to supervise the fring of these wares for imperial use up to 1464, and possibly even to 1465 (see Zhu Boqian (ed.) Longquan qingci, Taipei, 1998, p. 47; and Tsai Mei-fen (ed.), Bilu – Mingdai Longquanyao qingci, Taipei, 2009, p. 22). After the Chenghua reign (1464-85) the quality of Longquan celadons declined, and their fnal ‘golden era’ was over.

Further evidence comes from archaeological excavations. Those carried out at the Longquan Dayao kiln site have revealed sherds bearing offcial marks, and other excavations have emphasised that fne Longquan wares were also made at other kiln sites in the Ming dynasty. Excavations at the Dayao site, begun in 2006, have provided an indication of the extensive production at this site, which appears to have continued for some 400 years. Excavated examples from the early Ming period have clearly shown that this was another highpoint for Longquan celadon production, when both large and fnely potted vessels of superb quality were manufactured. One fragment of a Ming dynasty dish excavated at the Dayao kilns bore the Chinese character guan (offcial) on its base. In August 2009 the excavation of a deposit containing Longquan celadons at Hexia, Huai’an City, Jiangsu province, revealed a huge quantity of vessels, predominantly dating to the Ming dynasty from the reign of the Hongwu Emperor (1368-98) to that of the Tianshun Emperor (1457-64). The archaeologists surmise that celadons from the Longquan kilns were sent here to be shipped up the Grand Canal to the court. The fnds suggest that only the fnest pieces were chosen and that those deemed to lack the required perfection were broken and discarded.

The literati in the late Ming dynasty frequently refer to Longquan celadons in their writings. Among the vessels which were specifcally mentioned are large vessels, such as bowls or dishes to hold Buddha-hand citrons and meiping vases. Vessels of large size, such as the jar in the current sale (lot 701), were regarded as especially desirable. Although the quality of Longquan celadons declined after the 15th
century, nevertheless even in 1591 one writer noted that: ‘If plum blossoms are to be arranged in winter, large Longquan celadon vases are a necessity’. It seems probable that he was referring to those vessels made in the early Ming period. In the chapter on ceramics in the Qing bi cang (清閟藏 Pure and Arcane Collecting) by Zhang Yingwen (張應文 fl. 1530-94), the author lists antique Yuan and early Ming ceramics which are worthy of praise, including Chenghua grape cups from Jingdezhen, but, interestingly, the author ranks the wares of the Longquan kilns highest of all (see Ts’ai Ho-pi, ‘Chenghua Porcelain in Historical Context’, The Emperor’s broken china - Reconstructing Chenghua porcelain, London, 1995, p. 16).

The large Yuan dynasty jar (lot 701) in the current sale is particularly rare in having a boldly-carved dragon encircling its body. Jars of this form, often with lotus-leaf shaped lids, were made at the Longquan kilns from the Song dynasty, through the Yuan dynasty and into the Ming dynasty. A taller, undecorated jar of this form was excavated in 1974 from a Yuan dynasty tomb in the Yuanyichang (園藝場) area of Dongxi (東溪), Jianyang county (簡陽縣), Sichuan province. Although the tomb is dated to the Yuan dynasty, the archaeologists believe that the jar dates to the Southern Song dynasty (illustrated in Longquan Celadon – The Sichuan Museum Collection (龍泉青瓷), Macau, 1998, pp. 134-5, no. 38). An undecorated lidded jar dating to the Yuan dynasty was excavated in 1975 at Yiwu city (義烏市), Zhejiang province (illustrated by Zhu Boqian (朱伯謙) (ed.) in Celadons from Longquan Kilns (龍泉窰青瓷), Taipei, 1998, p. 196, no. 171). A smaller Ming dynasty lidded jar of this form, with carved foral decoration, was excavated in 1955 in Yujing village in Bazhong county, Sichuan province (illustrated in Longquan Celadon – The Sichuan Museum Collection, op. cit., pp. 162-3, no. 55). A further Ming dynasty jar with carved decoration including the four characters qing xiang mei jiu (清香美酒) is in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing (illustrated in Celadons from Longquan Kilns, op. cit., p. 262, no. 247). There are also a number of similar jars in the collection of the Topkapi Saray in Istanbul, some of which are plain, some with ribbed decoration and one (not missing its lid) with foral scrolls carved around the upper body (illustrated by in J. Ayers and R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, vol. 1, London, 1986, pp. 292-3, nos. 212-216, and colour plate on p. 215). A Yuan dynasty Longquan celadon jar, excavated in the Nanhui district of Shanghai City is decorated with a three-clawed dragon and clouds in low relief (illustrated in Complete Collection of Ceramic Art Unearthed in China, 7, Jiangsu Shanghai, Beijing, 2008, no. 234). This excavated jar has a lotus leaf-shaped lid decorated with birds and clouds. One other Longquan celadon jar decorated with a four-clawed dragon from the J. T. Tai Collection was sold by Sotheby’s New York in March 2011, lot 85, but jars with this decoration are extremely rare. The J. T. Tai jar had not retained its lid.


Lot 701

As is the case with the current jar, the jars from the Yuan and Ming dynasties normally have saucer-shaped, separately-applied, bases, while the Southern Song jars have fat, fxed, bases. As noted above, the current jar is especially rare in being decorated with a powerful four-clawed dragon encircling the body of the vessel. The dragon has been depicted above a band of stylized waves, and appears to stride through stylized clouds. Accompanying the current jar is a well designed cover in the form of an up-turned lotus leaf. It is interesting to note that on the famous handscroll in ink and colour on silk, entitled Elegant Gathering in the Apricot Garden (杏園雅集), which is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, there is a monochrome (probably either Longquan celadon or white Jingdezhen porcelain) jar of similar shape, with a lotus leaf lid standing on a red lacquer stand shown on a table behind the main group of fgures (directly behind the standing crane). The gathering is believed to have taken place in April 1427, and was hosted by Yang Rong (楊榮, 1371-1440), while the senior guest was Yang Shiqi (楊士奇, 1365-1444). The original painting by Xie Hun (謝環 1377-1452) is believed to be in the Zhenjiang Museum, while The Metropolitan Museum of Art scroll is believed to be a contemporary copy made by one of Xie Hun’s associates for Yang Shiqi. The gentlemen in the painting were all-important literati-offcials of the early 15th century, and the antiques and works of art that appear in the background of the paintings emphasise their refned tastes.


The current sale includes classic Longquan forms from both the Yuan and early Ming dynasties. The 14th century trumpet-mouth vase (lot 702) is a case in point. A similarly decorated vase with raised rings encircling the whole of the neck, foral scrolls around the body, and a tall petal band around the foot, was excavated in 1987 from a Yuan dynasty hoard in Hangzhou city (illustrated in Complete Collection of Ceramic Art Unearthed in China – 9 – Zhejiang, Beijing, 2008, no. 218.) Vases of this form appear to have been made from at least the frst decade of the 14th century. A similar vase, with relief peony decoration on the body, was excavated from a site to the east of Huhehot in Inner Mongolia (illustrated in Wenwu, 1977, vol. 5, p. 76, fg. 3). A Jun ware censer of ding form, which was excavated from the same site, was incised with a cyclical date of the ninth month of the jiyou year, which has been calculated by the archaeologists as corresponding to 1309. A vase of similar size and carved decoration as the current vase was salvaged from the wreck of a Chinese trading vessel which foundered off the Sinan coast of Korea on its way from Ningbo in China to Kamakura in Japan in 1323 (illustrated in Special Exhibition of Cultural Relics Found off Sinan Coast, Seoul, 1977, colour plate 47), along with a number of similar vessels of different sizes. Similar vases are also preserved in the Topkapi Saray, Istanbul, and in the collection from the Ardebil shrine, preserved in Tehran, Iran – testifying to the popularity of this form with foreign patrons as well as within China itself.


Lot 705

One of the classic Ming dynasty forms in the current collection is the elegant pear-shaped ewer decorated with peony scrolls (lot 705). This is a form which was produced both at the Longquan kilns and at the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen. It follows closely the form of pearshaped vases of the period, but with the addition of a long curved spout, attached to the neck with a stabilizing cloud-form strut, and a long strap handle. A slightly smaller Longquan ewer, also with peony scroll decoration like that of the current ewer, from the Idemitsu Collection is illustrated in Chinese Ceramics in The Idemitsu Collection, Japan, 1987, no. 589. A further similar example in the Shanghai Museum is illustrated in Celadons from Longquan Kilns, op. cit., p. 195, no. 169, while an undecorated ewer of very similar proportions to those of the current ewer is in the collection of the Zhejiang Provincial Museum (Illustrated by Zhu Boqian (朱伯謙) in Celadons from Longquan Kilns (龍泉窰青瓷), Taipei, 1998, p. 266, no. 251). Four Longquan ewers of this form from the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, are illustrated in Green – Longquan Celadons of the Ming (Bilu – Mingdai Longquanyao qingci), op. cit., nos. 60-63, the ewer illustrated as no. 60 having similar bold foral scrolling decoration to that on the current ewer. Several Longquan ewers of this shape with various decorative schemes are in the collection of the Topkapi Saray, Istanbul, and are illustrated by J. Ayers and R. Krahl in Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, vol. 1, London, 1986, p. 297, and colour pls. 225 and 226.


Lot 703

An interesting vase of fattened pear-shape with two stylized handles from which are suspended further ring handles is also in this sale (lot 703). The vase belongs to a small group of similar fattened pearshape vases, which probably derive from rounded pear-shape vases
with wide mouths and twin handles produced in the Yuan dynasty. A vase of this latter type is illustrated in Green Wares from Zhejiang, Fung Ping Shan Museum, Hong Kong, 1993, no. 77. A Yuan dynasty fattened version of this form, with very similar handles to those on the current vase, is in the Capital Museum, Beijing, and is illustrated in Celadons from Longquan Kilns, op. cit., p. 184, no. 157. The Beijing vase has high-relief decoration of phoenixes on the side and a wide, lobed mouth. A Ming dynasty example of this form, with slightly longer, narrower neck is in the collection of the Sichuan Museum and is illustrated in Longquan Celadons – The Sichuan Museum Collection, Macau, 1998, pp. 170-1. Like the current vase, the Sichuan vessel has ruyi-shaped panels on either side – one containing the character fu (good fortune), and the other the character shou (longevity). This vase has somewhat differently-shaped handles to the current vase and also has a short, straight mouth rim. A pair of Ming dynasty similarly decorated vases which are closer in shape to the current vase, and also with ruyi panels containing fu and shou characters, excavated at Xikou, is now in the Juzhou city Museum (illustrated in Celadons from Longquan Kilns, op. cit., p. 255, no. 240). The vase in the current sale is particularly unusual for the shape of its mouth, which is formed as an open double lotus blossom, reminiscent of the bases of incense burners and also the lotus thrones of Buddhist deities.


Lot 706

The sale includes a particularly well–shaped early Ming dynasty dish with bracket lobing which continues from the fattened rim down the sides (lot 706). In the Yuan dynasty the large dishes with bracket lobed rims were made at the Jingdezhen kilns, but these did not have lobed sides. Many Yuan dynasty versions of this form without lobed sides, but with central decoration are known, including those
amongst the Longquan dishes in the Ardebil Collection such as the dish illustrated by T. Misugi, Chinese Porcelain Collections in the Near East – Topkapi and Ardebil, vol. 3, Hong Kong, 1981, no. A 232, which has a moulded central motif; and also those in the cargo of the Sinan wreck, such as that illustrated in the 1977 exhibition catalogue, Special Exhibition of Cultural Relics found off Sinan Coast (新 安 海 底 文 物), Seoul, exhibit 117. A small number of bracket-lobed dishes produced at the Longquan kilns in the Yuan period did have lobed sides, but these were not generally well-defned. A large Yuan dynasty dish with bracket-lobed rim and lobed sides from the collection of the Longquan Celadon Museum (龍泉青瓷博物館) is illustrated in Longquan Celadon of China (中國龍泉青瓷), Hangzhou, 1998, pl. 120, where it can be seen that the lobes are not as distinct as on the current dish.

It is signifcant that with the advent of the Ming dynasty in 1369, the re-establishment of Han Chinese rule, and the ascension to the imperial throne of the Hongwu Emperor, ceramic production for court use received a new stimulus – both at the Jingdezhen and Longquan kilns. It is interesting to note that in the Hongwu reign bracket-lobed rims reappeared at both kilns, and with the added feature of lobing to the sides that conformed to the shape of the mouth rims. While the dishes of this type from Jingdezhen were usually decorated in either underglaze blue or underglaze copper red, those from the Longquan kilns were either decorated with carved or impressed decoration, or were left undecorated. A large early Ming dish of this form, but with carved decoration, from the collection of
the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul is illustrated by R. Fujioka and G. Hasebe in Ceramic Art of the World, vol. 14, Ming Dynasty, Tokyo, 1976, no. 131, while an undecorated dish from the same collection is illustrated by J. Ayers and R. Krahl in Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, vol. I, London, 1986, no. 245. It is interesting to note that some of the finest examples, such as the dish in the current sale, fall into the undecorated category. The shape of this dish is most effectively enhanced by the narrow raised lines outlining the fattened rim at the edge and at the junction with the sides of the vessel, and by its beautiful glaze.

Rosemary Scott
Senior International Academic Consultant Asian Art

A rare Longquan celadon carved jar and cover, Yuan dynasty, 14th century

701 bis

Lot 701. A rare Longquan celadon carved jar and cover, Yuan dynasty, 14th century; 12 7/8 in. (32.8 cm.) diam. Estimate USD 30,000 - USD 50,000Price realised USD 137,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2017

The jar is carved with a large four-clawed dragon, with an open mouth and scaly body, and one claw reaching towards a flaming pearl, all above waves. The cover is formed as a lotus leaf with a curling rim and incised leaf veins, and a small stem forming the finial. The jar and cover are covered with a thick glaze of dark sea-green tone, except for the unglazed foot ring of the jar and the underside of the cover which were burnt orange in the firing.

ProvenanceImportant private collection, France

NoteThe carving of a sinuous, energetic dragon on this jar is extremely rare and only one other example appears to be known: a jar carved with a dragon, but without a cover, formerly in the collection of Dr. Bo Ewert, sold at Sotheby's New York, Informing the Eye of the Collector: Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art from J.T. Tai & Co., 22 March 2011, lot 85. 

A related jar and cover carved with peony scroll from the Fujita Museum was sold at Christie’s New York, 15 March 2017, lot 502. Two further examples, one with vertical ribbing on the body and the other plain, are illustrated by R. Krahl and J. Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum Istanbul, Vol. 1, Yuan and Ming Dynasty Celadon Wares, London, 1986, col. pl. 213, nos. 213 and 215. 

A carved Longquan celadon 'phoenix-tail' vase, Late Yuan-early Ming dynasty, 14th century

Lot 702. A carved Longquan celadon 'phoenix-tail' vase, Late Yuan-early Ming dynasty, 14th century, 17 7/8 in. (45.4 cm.) high. Estimate USD 40,000 - USD 60,000Price realised USD 87,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2017

The body is carved with a band of leafy peonies above a lower band of upright petals, and the flaring neck is carved with concentric ribs beneath the everted rim. The vase is covered inside and out with a glaze of sea-green color, and the inside of the foot and deeply recessed base are similarly glazed.

ProvenancePrivate collection, Japan. 
Private collection, Europe.

LiteratureS. Marchant & Son, Recent Acquisitions, 2006, no. 2, pp. 8-9.

Note: This vase is a particularly well-executed example of its type, with an elegant form and even, attractively-colored sea-green glaze. The three decorative registers are contrasting yet complementary: the finely carved horizontal ribs of the neck and the vertical lappets frame the freely-scrolling lotus of the central section. 

A Longquan 'phoenix-tail' vase of similar size is illustrated by R. Krahl and J. Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum Istanbul, Vol. 1, Yuan and Ming Dynasty Celadon Wares, London, 1986, no. 206, where the authors note that similar vases were among the cargo of a ship which sank off Sinan, Korea, in about the third decade of the 14th century. Other examples include one illustrated by J. A. Pope, Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, Washington, 1956, pl. 129, no. 29.648 and another of similar height and decoration in the Idemitsu Museum of Arts, and illustrated in Chinese Ceramics in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, 1987, no. 576.  

Compare, also, the Longquan celadon 'phoenix-tail' vase with similar ribbing on the upper neck, from the Percival David Foundation and currently on loan to the British Museum, museum no. PDF.237, which is inscribed with a date corresponding to 1327. 

Large dated temple vase, Yuan dynasty, dated around AD1327

Large dated temple vase, Yuan dynasty, dated around AD1327. Stoneware, porcelain-type, incised, carved and with celadon glaze, Longquan ware, Longquan region, Zhejiang province, Sir Percival David Collection, PDF 237 © 2017 Trustees of the British Museum.

A Longquan celadon ring-handled vase, Yuan-early Ming dynasty, 14th century


Lot 703. A Longquan celadon ring-handled vase, Yuan-early Ming dynasty, 14th century, 8 in. (20.2 cm.) high. Estimate USD 15,000 - USD 20,000. Unsold. © Christie's Images Ltd 2017

The flattened, pear-shaped vase is carved on one side with a fu(happiness) character and on the other with a shou(longevity)character, each within a lobed border amidst leafy branches. The neck is flanked by two stylized animal-head ring handles and the mouth is formed as an open lotus blossom. The vase is covered with a rich sea-green glaze, stopping at the foot ring which was burnt orange in the firing, Japanese wood box and silk pouch.

ProvenancePrivate collection, Japan.

NoteA related Yuan dynasty vase with a high foot and handles similar to those on the present vase, but with a simpler, flaring rim and molded with two phoenix in flight, is illustrated in Chinese Celadons from Longquan Kilns, Taipei, 1998 p. 184, no. 157. Another Yuan dynasty vase, with shou and fu characters set in openwork sides, is illustrated by R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 2010, vol. 4 (I), p. 4-5, no. 1605, and was subsequently sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8 April 2013, lot 11. 

The lotus-form rim of the present vase is extremely rare, and other published vases carved with shou and fu characters typically feature a more standard flaring rim. See, for example, the vase illustrated in Longquan Celadon, The Sichuan Museum Collection, Macau, 1998, p. 170-71, and another illustrated in Chinese Celadons and Other Related Wares in Southeast Asia, Singapore, 1979, pp. 252-53, pl. 204, no. 248. Two further examples are illustrated by R. L. Hobson, The George Eumorfopoulos Collection, Catalogue of Chinese, Corean and Persian Pottery and Porcelain, vol. 2, London, 1926, p. 32, no. B 159 and pl. XLII, and by J. Ayers, The Baur Collection, Chinese Ceramics Volume One, Geneva, 1968, no. A 114.

A rare Longquan celadon carved jardinière, Early Ming dynasty, 14th century

Lot 704. A rare Longquan celadon carved jardinière, Early Ming dynasty, 14th century, 12 in. (30.5 cm.) diam. Estimate USD 12,000 - USD 15,000Price realised USD 22,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2017

The exterior is carved with two large peony blossoms amidst leaves and branches in the main register, between a band of lappets at the foot and a band of ruyi cartouches below the everted pie-crust rim. The interior and exterior are covered overall with a rich celadon-green glaze except for the foot ring and the inset base which is drilled for drainage. 

ProvenanceMrs. Iside Rizk Collection, Rome.

A carved Longquan celadon ewer, Early Ming dynasty, late 14th-early 15th century


Lot 705. A carved Longquan celadon ewer, Early Ming dynasty, late 14th-early 15th century, 12 ¼ in. (31.1 cm.) high. Estimate USD 80,000 - USD 100,000Price realised USD 137,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2017

The pear-shaped body tapers to a narrow neck below the everted rim and is applied with a curving spout supported by a cloud-form strut opposite the strap-form handle. The body is carved with a peony scroll below a band with leafy scroll on the shoulder and upright petals on the neck. The ewer is covered overall with a rich sea-green glaze, and the tip of the spout is mounted in silver. 

ProvenanceThe O'Connor Family Collection, Wales, by 1975.

NoteThe form of the present ewer is derived from Persian metalwork, but the proportions reflect a more Chinese sense of harmony: the heavier pear-shape of the body echoes the curves of the elegant handle and spout, while the flared rim provides a complementary terminal to the overall shape. 

The peony scroll decoration can be compared to that on contemporary Ming blue and white wares. Indeed, motifs of flowers and other plants appear to be particularly popular on vessels of this form, reflecting a great appreciation for the natural world. Four related ewers, each with different carved decoration of flowers, plantain, prunus and peaches respectively, are illustrated in Green-Longquan Celadon of the Ming Dynasty, Taipei, 2009, pp. 122-29, nos. 60-63.

Further examples of ewers include the one illustrated in Celadons from Longquan Kilns, Taipei, 1998, p. 266, no. 251, and another example of similar form, but carved with peonies, in the Idemitsu Museum of Arts and illustrated in The Ceramics of the Yuan-Ming Dynasties, Tokyo, 1977, no. 25. Two further gilt-silver-mounted ewers with carved designs are illustrated by R. Krahl and J. Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum Istanbul, Vol. 1, Yuan and Ming Dynasty Celadon Wares, London, 1986, nos. 225 and 226.

A superb large Longquan celadon bracket-lobed dish, Early Ming dynasty, late 14th-early 15th century



Lot 706. A superb large Longquan celadon bracket-lobed dish, Early Ming dynasty, late 14th-early 15th century, 19 in. (48.2 cm.) diam. Estimate USD 300,000 - USD 400,000Unsold. © Christie's Images Ltd 2017

The dish is sturdily potted with a tapered foot ring rising to the sides divided into twelve bracket lobes on the interior and exterior below an everted rim of conforming shape. The dish is covered overall with an even translucent glaze of soft sea-green tone with the exception of the wide ring on the recessed base, Japanese wood box.

Provenance: Important private collection, Japan. 
Christie's Hong Kong, 27 May 2009, lot 1887.

LiteratureMarchant, Ming Porcelain, 2009, pp. 20-21, no. 8.

NoteThe present dish is exceptional for its large size, sophisticated potting and rich, even-colored glaze, and represents some of the most highly-skilled celadon wares produced by craftsmen at the Longquan kilns during the early Ming period. Records from this time suggest that the kilns were under imperial supervision, and it appears that standards of production were exceptionally high in order to meet imperial demand. 

With a diameter of 19 in., the present dish is one of the larger types produced at the Longquan kilns, and it would have posed a considerable challenge to shape and fire without significant warping. The glossy, even glaze serves to emphasize and celebrate the large, open surface of the dish, as well as the simple yet refined bracket lobing. Kiln wasters of large dishes found at the Longquan imperial kiln sites attest to the difficulty in producing dishes of this size, and to the high production standards of the time. See, for example, the partially-reconstructed barbed-rim dish found at the Longquan imperial kilns and dated to the Yongle period, illustrated by R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, vol. 4, 2010, p. 3, fig. 2a.  

The imperial influence can also be seen in the similar forms of dishes produced at the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen. This parallel production at two sites, each working with different clays and different glazes, appears to have provided both kiln sites with inspiration and healthy competition. Three blue and white examples of bracket-lobed dishes, of related size to the present dish and dated to the Hongwu period (1368-1398), and a further example dated to the Xuande period (1426-1435), are illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum – 34 – Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (I), Hong Kong, 2000, pp. 22-24, nos. 20-22 and p. 150 no. 142. 

An early 15th century dish of similar size to the present dish is illustrated by R. Krahl and J. Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum Istanbul, Vol. 1, Yuan and Ming Dynasty Celadon Wares, London, 1986, p. 304, no. 245, and another dish of similar size is illustrated in Chinese Ceramics in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, 1987, no. 591. A similar but larger charger with sixteen brackets, from the collection of Roger Belanich, was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 31 May 2017, lot 3006, and another larger example from the Meiyintang Collection is illustrated by R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 1994-2010, vol. 4, no. 1609, and p. 3, fig. 2b, and was subsequently sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 5 October 2011, lot 7.

A massive and very rare Longquan celadon barbed-rim charger, Hongwu period (1368-1398), 24 ½ in. (62.2 cm.) diam. Sold for HKD 4,860,000 at Christie's Hong Kong, 31 May 2017, lot 3006 © Christie’s Images Limited 2017.

A massive barbed rim Longquan celadon charger, Ming dynasty, Yongle period

A massive barbed rim Longquan celadon charger, Ming dynasty, Yongle period (1403-1425), 62.5 cm. Sold for 4,820,000 HKD at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 5 October 2011, lot 7. Photo: Sotheby's.

A very rare Longquan celadon teapot and cover, Ming dynasty, 15th-16th century


Lot 707. A very rare Longquan celadon teapot and cover, Ming dynasty, 15th-16th century, 8 ¾ in. (22.3 cm) high. Estimate USD 40,000 - USD 60,000Price realised USD 47,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2017

The globular body is carved with a continuous floral scroll above lappets at the foot. The arched handle and short, curving spout are of square section and carved with classic scroll, and the domed cover is also carved with scrolls and geometric bands beneath a bud finial. The teapot and cover are covered with a rich sea-green-toned glaze, Japanese wood box.

ProvenanceNobehara Family Collection, Osaka, Japan.

NoteThe form of this teapot is extremely rare. A related carved teapot, but lacking a cover, dated to the 16th century, is illustrated in Chinese Celadons and Other Related Wares in Southeast Asia, Singapore, 1979, pp. 254-55, pl. 207, no. 250. Another related teapot, also with a square-section spout, a domed cover and dated to the Ming dynasty, but with a more rounded handle, is illustrated in K. S. Lo Collection in the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, Part 1, Hong Kong, 1984, p. 70, no. 43.

The present teapot can also be compared to two blue and white teapots included in the exhibition at the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Empty Vessels, Replenished Minds: The Culture, Practice and Art of Tea, Taipei, 2002, one illustrated on p. 95, no. 74, and dated to the Longqing period (1567-1572), with an upright handle, rounded sides and a domed cover, and the other illustrated on p. 96, no. 75, dated to the Wanli period (1573-1619), with a humpback upright handle and a square-section spout similar to the present example.