Lot 2813. An extremely rare pair of polychrome enamelled ruby-back winecups, Kangxi six-character marks within double-circles and of the period (1662-1722); 3 3/4 in. (9.8 cm.) diam. Estimate HKD 4,000,000 - HKD 6,000,000. Price realised HKD 9,260,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2010
Each of the delicately potted bowls with very slightly rounded, almost straight sides rising from a short circular angled footrim, the plain interior of one bowl enamelled in soft pastel tones with white melon and lotus seeds, green beans and golden kumquat, the other similarly decorated with melon seeds, beans and red bayberries, the exterior of each covered in a vibrant deep pink enamel of 'orange peel' texture, box.
Provenance: Previously sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 16 November 1988, lot 366
Greenwald Collection, no. 67.
Literature: Gerald M. Greenwald, The Greenwald Collection, Two Thousand Years of Chinese Ceramics, 1996, Catalogue, no. 67 .
Note: Kangxi-marked ruby-back winecups with enamelled 'fruit and seeds' on the interior are very rare. Including the present cups, there are a total of four pairs recorded at auction. The three other pairs include those from the T.Y. Chao Collection, sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 18 November 1986; the Helen and Paul Bernat Collection, sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 15 November 1988, lot 49 and sold again at Christie's Hong Kong, 27 November 2007, lot 1759; and the pair, probably from the Ton-Yin Collection of 1930, sold at Sotheby's New York, 1 June 1994, lot 390. This group of winecups were probably made during the last years of the Kangxi period, and a pair bearing Yongzheng marks is known and was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 29 November 1976, lot 614.
An extremely rare pair of polychrome enamelled ruby-back winecups, Kangxi six-character marks within double-circles and of the period (1662-1722) from the Helen and Paul Bernat Collection; 3¼ in. (8.3 cm.) diam. Sold for HKD 7,047,500 at Christie's Hong Kong, 27 November 2007, lot 1759. © Christie's Images Ltd 2007
This exquisite pair of cups are not only the product of exceptionally fine craftsmanship, but are also some of the earliest porcelains to benefit from a remarkable technological advance, achieved at the behest of the Kangxi Emperor (AD 1662-1722). At the very end of the Kangxi reign, about 1720, the imperial ateliers working on glass and enamels succeeded in creating a new enamel that was to revolutionise the palette of colours used on fine Chinese porcelains, and was to give its name to the European term for that palette, 'rose pink'. The beauty of the Chinese rose pink, and the effectiveness of its even application can be seen very clearly on the pair of cups in the current sale, on which the pink has not only been used in the depiction of some of the fruit on the interior, but also to create the so-called 'ruby-back' on the exterior.
The carefully selected seeds and fruit that decorate the interior of these two cups, with their emphasis on the birth of sons and grandsons, their successful careers, wealth, and good fortune, suggest that these cups may have been intended for a wedding celebration. Traditionally some of the fruits and seeds depicted on the interior of these cups were placed in the cups of tea served to their parents by the bride and groom during the wedding festivities. The seeds and fruit were also among those traditionally scattered on the marriage bed in the hope that the couple would soon have many sons who would, in time, distinguish themselves and be a credit to the family. The possibility of these cups being intended for a wedding is also suggested by the exterior colour of the cups, which are a deep pink - a colour that could be described in Chinese as hong, which, as mentioned above, is the colour of celebration and is particularly associated with weddings. Certainly it would have been a very privileged bride and groom for whose wedding these cups were produced, since the newly created rose pink enamel coloured with gold, together with the delicacy and skill with which the cups were made, would have meant that they were rare and very expensive items even in the early 1720s.
Christie's. For Imperial Appreciation: Fine Chinese Ceramics from the Greenwald Collection, 1 December 2010, Hong Kong