A fine and very rare pair of clair-de-lune glazed beaker vases, zhi, Qianlong incised six-character seal marks and of the period

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Lot 2803. A fine and very rare pair of clair-de-lune glazed beaker vases, zhi, Qianlong incised six-character seal marks and of the period (1736-1795); 7 in. (18 cm.) high. Estimate HKD 2,400,000 - HKD 3,800,000Price realised HKD 2,740,000© Christie's Images Ltd 2017

Each vase is finely potted with a baluster body supported on a pedestal foot tapering towards the middle and rising to a flared trumpet mouth. The middle is incised with a band of leiwen between two raised bands. The vases are covered overall in an even pale bluish celadon glaze.

ProvenanceFrank Caro, successor to C.T. Loo, New York, 1960s

ExhibitedSan Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas, 1984-2017

Note: Developed during the Kangxi period, the soft, gentle clair-de-lune glaze is one of the most admired Qing glazes, and was reserved exclusively for Imperial porcelains. The form of the current vases is remarkably rare, and was likely to have been modelled after an archaic bronze in the Qing Imperial court collection, such as the example published in the Xiqing Gujian, ‘Inspection of Antiques from the Zhou Dynasty’ (fig.1). The form first appeared in porcelain during the Yongzheng reign, see for example, a pair of Yongzheng-marked clair-de-lune glazed vases of the same form and comparable height (17.5 cm.) in an Asian private collection, exhibited at Christie’s Shanghai, November 2014, see Catalogue, pp. 50-51, no. 11. Compare, also, a pair of Qianlong-marked vases of the same form from the J. Insley Blair collection, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28 November 2012, lot 2115, which are covered with a pale celadon glaze (fig.2).

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fig. 1 Xing zhi of Zhou Dynasty, after Xiqing Gujian, ‘Inspection of Antiquities’

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fig.2. A very rare pair of small pale celadon-glazed beaker vases, zhi, Qianlong incised six-character seal marks and of the period (1736-1795), from the J. Insley Blair collection; 6 7/8 in. (17.3 cm.) high. Sold for HKD 4,820,000 at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28 November 2012, lot 2115. © Christie's Images Ltd 2012

Each vase is finely potted with a baluster body supported on a waisted foot tapering towards the middle and rising to a flared trumpet mouth. The middle is incised with a band of leiwen between two raised ridges. The vases are covered overall in an even pale celedon glaze, wood stands (2). Estimate HKD 600,000 - HKD 800,000.

ProvenanceJ. Insley Blair (1870-1939) and thence by descent to the present owners 

LiteratureThe J. Insley Blair Collection of Chinese Porcelain, Tuxedo Park, New York, 1925, pl. I, no. 33 

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NoteWhile it is rather common to find Ru-type or Guan-type glazed beakers from the Yongzheng and Qianlong periods, the shape of the present beaker vases is very rare with their bulging lower sections and waisted feet. They were likely to have been modelled after an archaic bronze in Qianlong's own collection, such as the example published in the Xiqing Gujian, 'Inspection of Antiques from the Zhou Dynasty' (fig. 1). 

Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics from The Dr. James D. Thornton Collection, 29 November 2017, Hong Kong