Chinese famille verte biscuit porcelain water dropper, shuizhu, Early Kangxi period, circa 1680

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Chinese famille verte biscuit porcelain water dropper, shuizhu, Early Kangxi period, circa 1680; 5 ¾ inches, 14.6 cm long. Price on request© Marchant.

of a recumbent piebald horse on a green glazed leaf-form base, with head turned to the side beneath its long flowing segmented mane and forelock falling between the pricked ears, the front legs bent as if about to stand, covered on the body with dark brown enamel patches on a pale cream translucent ground, the back with open oval aperture, the tail and mane heightened in pale aubergine glaze, the bridle and hair to the small pastern heightened in yellow, the base unglazed. 

Condition: Both ear tips and back of bent hoof restored. 

NoteFormerly in the R. Thornton Wilson Collection. Richard Thornton Wilson (1886-1977), was a frequent donor to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He came from a prominent banking family, his father being Marshall Orme Wilson (1860-1926), while his mother was the daughter of William Backhouse Astor and the famous socialite Caroline Schemerhorn Astor. It may be significant that R. Thornton Wilson’s uncle after whom he appears to have been named, was prominent in racing circles. He was a member of the Saratoga Association for the Improvement of Breed Horses, Steward of The Jockey Club, and a Director of the Winchester Racing Association.

Formerly in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, accessioned in 1943. 

NoteSold by Christie’s, New York, in their auction of Collected in America: Chinese Ceramics from the Metropolitan Museum of Art,  15th September 2016, lot no. 899, pp. 124-5; and illustrated twice, in the front of the catalogue by Rosemary Scott in her article Collectors and Philanthropist, Donors of Chinese Ceramics to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 11 and by Rose Kerr in her article Famille Verte Porcelain, p. 27.

Another, of this model with a clear aubergine ground glaze, from the collection of Nellie and Basil Ionides of Buxted Park was included by Marchant in their catalogue of Recent Acquisitions, 2004, no. 6, pp. 10-11 and back cover, also illustrated by Michael Cohen and William Motley in Mandarin and Menagerie Chinese and Japanese Export Ceramic Figures, Vol. 1: The James E. Sowell Collection, 2008, no. 12.8. pp/ 188-189, where the authors note, “This is a very fine example of a rare type that is made in mirror-image pairs. The animal has a dynamism and monumental quality that belies its small size. The pose is said to be inspired by the “Black Jade Piebald Horse”, part of a tribute offering of five-coloured horses from General Wang Maozhong to the Tang Emperor Xuanzong (713-755)”. 

A similar aubergine ground pair purchased by John Sparks Ltd., London at Christie’s on 20th May 1968, lot no. 51, formed part of the Copeland Collection in the Peabody Museum of Salem, Massachusetts and are illustrated by William R. Sargent in The Copeland Collection of Chinese and Japanese Figures, no. 20, pp. 64-65, where the author also illustrates a yellow example formerly in The Mount Trust Collection, no. 19, pp. 62-63.

Two others, one of which is a yellow ground piebald example in an identical pose, purchased by Stephen Winkworth at Sotheby’s, London, 1933, gift of Louise Taft Semple, 22nd June 1950, are illustrated by Anthony du Boulay in The Taft Museum, Cincinnati, Its History and Collections, Vol. II, p. 626, where the author notes, “Water droppers, such as this engaging pair of ponies were used by scholars at their writing desks. After submerging the vessel to fill the hollow bodies, water was poured from the ponies’ mouths, their tails served as handles”. 

A further example with both front knees raised and dappled with brown and yellow glaze on a clear cream ground, bequeathed by The Honourable Lady Ward in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, was included by Sir Harry Garner in The Arts of the Chi-ing Dynasty, 1964, and is illustrated in Transactions of The Oriental Ceramic Society, 1963-64, no. 147, pl. 54. 

MARCHANT. Exhibition 'Kangxi Famille Verte'