An extremely rare copper-red pear-shaped vase (yuhuchunping), Ming Dynasty, Hongwu period

Lot 102. An extremely rare copper-red pear-shaped vase (yuhuchunping), Ming Dynasty, Hongwu period, 12 5/8 in. (32 cm). Estimate 300,000 — 500,000 USD. Lot sold 2,032,000 USD. Photo: Sotheby's.

of elegant classic pear shape, supported on a short footring rising to a generous rounded body surmounted by a waisted neck flaring at the mouth, painted in deep violet-red tones with a broad band of undulating stems of peony baring four large blooms alternatively depicting in profile and full-faced, the flowers crowned by characteristically large and pointed foliage, each arched stem ending in a small subsidiary blossom, all between upright lappets at the base and a collar of ruyi-head pendants dangling from a band of lingzhi scrolls, all beneath a keyfret border and upright overlapping plantain leaves at the neck, the inner mouthrim painted with a band of classic scroll. 

ProvenanceFrom a prominent South American estate. 

NoteIt is extremely rare to find any copper-red decorated yuhuchun bottle of the Hongwu period with its neck intact, as most comparable pieces have the neck either cut down or replaced. The present piece is also of very good color, unlike many underglaze-red pieces of this period, which tend to be discoloured to a pale grey or dark blackish red. Bottles of this form, decorated with a large peony scroll were made with a variety of different designs around the neck, of which the present one, with the classic scroll reserved in white on red, is particularly satisfactory.  

The bottle is very similar to one from the Qing court collection, still preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red, vol.I, Shanghai, 2000, pl.197. The Palace Museum collection also includes another similar piece with a different design on the neck and apparently fired to a darker tone, illustrated together with a cover, ibid., pl.196, as well as a red-painted bottle with a lotus scroll as its main design, ibid., pl.198, and a piece of the same design but painted in underglaze cobalt-blue, ibid., pl.14.

An underglaze-blue decorated bottle of this form is also in the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, published in Minji meihin zuroku (vol.1), Tokyo, 1977, pl.2. 

Very little underglaze-red painted Hongwu material appears to have been excavated from the imperial kiln site at Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province, although the peony scroll, key-fret, classic scroll and petal panel borders can all be seen on copper-red painted Hongwu bowls excavated from the Zhushan site in Jingdezhen and included in the exhibition Imperial Hongwu and Yongle Porcelain Excavated at Jingdezhen, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1996, cat.nos.7-10. 

Hongwu red-decorated porcelains are discussed in J.M. Addis, 'A Group of Underglaze Red', Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, vol.31, 1957-59, pp.15-37, where a similar piece from the collection of Sir Harry Garner is illustrated, pl.1b, which later was sold in our London rooms, 21st November 1961, lot 24. Four other bottles of this type, all with different designs on the neck are illustrated in Mayuyama: Seventy Years, Tokyo, 1976, pls.721-4. 

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, New York, 31 mars 2005