A magnificent and very rare carved 'Ding' Basin, Northern Song - Jin Dynasty, 11th-12th Century

Lot 32. A magnificent and very rare carved 'Ding' Basin, Northern Song-Jin Dynasty, 11th-12th Century. Estimate 400,000 — 600,000 USDLot sold 464,000 USD. © Sotheby's.

finely potted of generous proportions with high rounded sides supported on a narrow upright footring, the interior boldly carved with deft strokes of the knife with a single scene of a carp in a lotus pond, the detailing of the scales cross-hatched and the large tail flexed vigorously upwards, a stand of water grass behind it and a stem of waterweed floating in front and further encircled by swirling combed waves, the exterior carved with three rows of overlapping upright leaves below a plain band at the rim, applied overall with an even ivory-colored glaze, the rim of the bowl and the footrim left unglazed showing the fine compact body beneath; 13 in., 33 cm.

Provenance: Sotheby's Hong Kong 31st October 1995, lot 343.

Bibliography: Sotheby's: Thirty Years in Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2003, pl.103

Note: This monumental basin is among the largest pieces of Ding ware recorded and it is rare to find a piece with such bold large-scale carving.  A small number of similarly decorated basins have been published, but all other basins decorated with fish are apparently smaller, except for one of similar size in Beijing, where the large carp is replaced by a pair of small fish. The decoration on the present bowl is particularly successful, since the carp is so confidently drawn and prominently placed.

The Beijing piece, from the Qing court collection and still in the Palace Museum today, is published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Porcelain of the Song Dynasty (I), Hong Kong, 1996, col.pl.56 (outside view only, inside view not belonging) and again in Chûgoku no tôji, vol.9, Kyoto, 1981, pl.73. Smaller basins carved with a single fish are in the Percival David Foundation, London, published in Mary Tregear, Song Ceramics, London, 1982, col.pl.29; in the British Museum, London, from the Eumorfopoulos collection, illustrated in Oriental Ceramics: The World’s Great Collections, Tokyo, 1980-82, vol.5, no.56; and one in a private collection, included in the exhibition Chinese Ceramics from the Prehistoric Period through Ch’ien Lung, Los Angeles County Museum, 1952, cat.no.143, is discussed in Henry Trubner, ‘A Ting-yao Bowl of the Sung Dynasty, Far Eastern Ceramic Bulletin, vol.III, no.4, 1951, pp.21-3 and pls.I and II.

Large Ding basins are more often decorated on the inside with lotus scrolls only, like three pieces in the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, published in the Illustrated Catalogue of Sung Dynasty Porcelain in the National Palace Museum: Ting Ware and Ting-type Ware, Taipei, 1973, cat.no.34; in the exhibition catalogue Song ci tezhan, Taipei, 1978, cat.no.27; and the Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Ting Ware White Porcelain, Taipei, 1987, cat.no.32, the latter together with a fish-decorated basin of smaller size and with plain outer sides, cat.no.31.

Basins of this form have generally been attributed to the Jin rather than the Northern Song period, since their large size was considered to be more characteristic of production under the Jin. Yet, in the Taiwan catalogue, ibid., pp.14 and 47, the author, Hsieh Ming-liang, points out that the relief lotus petals are commonly seen in the early and middle Northern Song, appear also in the late Northern Song, but not in the Jin dynasty. Similar lotus petal decoration indeed features prominently among 'Ding' vessels of various shapes recovered from the foundations of two Northern Song pagodas in Dingzhou, Hebei province, close to the Ding kilns, one belonging to the Jingzhi Temple, built in AD 977, the other to the Jingzhongyuan Temple, built in AD 995; see the exhibition catalogue Treasures from the Underground Palaces, Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo, 1997, passim.

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