A large blue and white 'Seven sages' brushpot, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722)

Lot 313. A large blue and white 'Seven sages' brushpot, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722). Diameter 7 1/2  in., 19 cm. Estimate 50,000 — 70,000 USD. © Sotheby's

of cylindrical form supported on three bracket feet, finely painted with scholars in a bamboo grove amid resplendent pines and ribbons of clouds, one sage calligraphing a rock in the company of another, nearby a third sage playing the qin and three more listening while considering a group of antiques arranged before them, an elderly sage strolling with the aid of a gnarled staff and an attendant, the base with an unglazed ring and centered with a recessed medallion with an apocryphal six-character Chenghua mark in underglaze blue, coll. no. 214. 

The Jie Rui Tang Collection.

ProvenanceSolveig & Anita Gray, London, 2001.

LiteratureJeffrey P. Stamen and Cynthia Volk with Yibin Ni, A Culture Revealed: Kangxi-era Chinese Porcelain from the Jie Rui Tang Collection, Bruges, 2017, pl. 36.

NoteThe ‘Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove’ were a group of poets, musicians, and scholar-officials active in the third century who retreated from public service as an act of political protest. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, they were favorite subjects of painters, carvers, and ceramicists, who depicted them composing poetry, playing the qin, appreciating antiquities, and engaging in various lofty pursuits. Bamboo carvers and potters of the Kangxi era often applied this theme to brushpots and other objects for the scholar’s studio.

The present brushpot is further distinguished by the inclusion of the bracket feet that elevate the cylindrical form. The presence of feet on 17th century porcelain brushpots is rare. Normally, the base of a porcelain brushpot rested directly on the table's surface; feet were reserved for jardinières which required the elevation for drainage or censers which were raised to keep heat away from wood or lacquer surfaces. However, late Ming dynasty brushpots with similar tab or bracket feet carved from hardwoods, bamboo, ivory and lacquer imply that that elevation of the form was an established aesthetic choice and one that perhaps prevented the ring stains that often resulted from flat-based brushpots.  

A large blue and white brushpot with a strikingly similar composition and apocryphal Chenghua four-character mark from the Qing Court Collection in the Palace Museum, Beijing is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red (III), Hong Kong, 2000, cat. no. 50. A related brushpot illustrating literati examining a handscroll beneath an upper border of rippling clouds in the collection of the Shanghai Museum is illustrated in Zhongguo taoci quanji: Qing (1) [The Complete Works of Chinese Ceramics: Qing I], vol. 14, Shanghai, 2000, pl. 48. Another blue and white brushpot illustrating the ‘Seven Sages’ from the collection of Peter and Nancy Thompson sold in our London rooms, 7th November 2012, lot 33.

From the Collection of Peter and Nancy Thompson

From the Collection of Peter and Nancy Thompson. A Blue and White 'Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove' Brushpot, Bitong, Qing Dynasty, Early Kangxi Period; 15.7cm., 6 1/4 in. Sold for 103,250 GBP at Sotheby's London, 7th November 2012, lot 33. © Photo Sotheby's

Cf. my post: A Blue and White 'Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove' Brushpot, Bitong, Qing Dynasty, Early Kangxi Period

 Sotheby's. KANGXI: The Jie Rui Tang Collection, New York, 20 March 2018, 11:00 AM