Lot 387. A famille-verte 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms' rouleau vase, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722). Height 18 1/2 in., 47 cm. Estimate 20,000 — 30,000 USD. Lot sold 52,500 USD. © Sotheby's
the cylindrical body richly painted with a continuous battle scene recognizable as 'Guan Yu Drowns the Seven Armies', Guan Yu and his army depicted safely positioned on high ground, fiercely baring down on Cao Cao's armies adrift on rafts borne on turbulent river water attempting to fend off the attack, a central warrior, mortally wounded clutching the lance still held by a soldier of the vanquishing force above, the scene framed by jagged rocks and trees, the shoulder with iron-red flowerheads alternating with fruit-shaped cartouches enclosing bamboo all against a green diaper ground, the neck with a tranquil landscape featuring a thatch-roofed hut, the rim with a green-enameled keyfret band, coll. no. 1605.
The Jie Rui Tang Collection.
Provenance: Sotheby's London at The Robert Simpson Company, Ltd., Toronto, 18th October 1967, lot 323.
Christie's New York, 19th September 2006, lot 317.
Marchant, London, 2007.
Exhibited: Recent Acquisitions, S. Marchant & Son., London, 2007, cat. no. 51.
Note: The dramatic narrative that unfolds around the cylindrical form of the present vase celebrates the heroism and strategic brilliance of the Eastern Han dynasty general Guan Yu. The episode depicted dramatizes an event that occurred at the Battle of Fancheng. In the famous 14th century historical novel, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Guan Yu, anticipating the rainy season, dams the Han River, and times the opening of the flood gates to destroy the enemy. The waters unleashed careen down the river way eventually spilling over the banks and flooding the plains below drowning thousands of enemy troops. By controlling the waters, Guan Yu secured not only an important military victory but also a reputation as one of the China's greatest generals in history and folklore.