A rare copper-red 'peony' vase, yuhuchunping, Ming dynasty, Hongwu period

Lot 60. A rare copper-red 'peony' vase, yuhuchunping, Ming dynasty, Hongwu period (1368-1398), 32.7 cm, 12 7/8  in. Estimate 100,000 — 150,000 GBPUnsold. © Sotheby's.

of elegant classic pear shape supported on a short foot rising to a generous rounded body surmounted by a waisted neck flaring at the mouth, painted in copper-red with a broad band of undulating stems of peony bearing four large blooms alternatively depicted 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 trefoil pendants dangling from a band of lingzhi scrolls, all beneath a band of overlapping waves, a keyfret border, and upright plantain leaves at the neck, the inner mouthrim painted with classic scroll.

NoteFreely painted with a rhythmic peony scroll and bands of stylised motifs, the present piece is a rare and excellent example of 14th century red-decorated porcelain. Copper as a colouring agent is particularly unstable in the firing process, thus it carries a high possibility of becoming runny and leaving indistinct outlines or resulting in weak shades of red and pale grey tones. The strong copper tones and clearly-pencilled designs of this vase sets it apart as a highly successful and skilfully manufactured piece.

A closely related example from the Qing Court Collection in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red, vol. 1, Shanghai, 2000, pl. 197; and another in the Tokyo National Museum is illustrated in Oriental Ceramics. The World's Great Collections, vol. 1, Tokyo, 1982, pl. 112. Compare also vases decorated with various bands of decoration on the neck, such as one in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated op. cit., pl. 196; another from the collection of Sir Harry Garner, sold in our London rooms, 21st November 1961, lot 24; four bottles of this type published in Mayuyama: Seventy Years, Tokyo, 1976, pls 721-4; and another example sold in our New York rooms, 31st March 2005, lot 102.

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

An extremely rare copper-red pear-shaped vase (yuhuchunping), Ming Dynasty, Hongwu period, 12 5/8 in. (32 cm). Sold for 2,032,000 USD at Sotheby's New York, 31st March 2005, lot 102Photo: Sotheby's.

Cf. my post: An extremely rare copper-red pear-shaped vase (yuhuchunping), Ming Dynasty, Hongwu period 

Very little underglaze-red decorated Hongwu porcelain appears to have been excavated from the imperial kiln site at Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province. However, the peony scroll, key-fret, classic scroll and petal panel borders are all found on copper-red painted bowls attributed to the Hongwu period, 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.   

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, London, 08 nov. 2017, 11:00 AM