A very rare small Guan arrow vase, Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279)

Lot 3056. A very rare small Guan arrow vase, Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279); 12.2 cm, 4 3/4  in. Estimate 500,000 — 700,000 HKD (52,557 - 73,580 EUR)Lot Sold 1,000,000 HKD. © Sotheby's 2018.

well potted with a globular body rising from a short tapered foot, sweeping up to a tall cylindrical neck flanked by a pair of tubular handles, covered overall in a lustrous glaze of bluish-grey tone suffused with a faint matrix of fine crackles, falling short of the thinly pared footring revealing the dark body.

ProvenanceCollection of J.M. Hu (1911-1995).
An East Coast private collection.
Christie's New York, 26th March 2010, lot 1422 (part lot).

Note: The present vase, covered in a lustrous glaze of bluish-grey tone suffused with an attractive crackle, is rare for its form which features a spherical body. Guan vessels are characterised by their unique individuality, pleasing simplicity of form and tactile nature. As such, arrow vases were produced in a variety of forms and glaze tones; compare two smaller examples of more compressed form, covered in light greyish-blue and light blue glazes respectively, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Porcelain of the National Palace Museum. Kuan Ware of the Southern Sung Dynasty. Hong Kong, 1962, pls 8 and 9; one with a light blue glaze, in the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, included in the exhibition Chûgoku Rekidai Tôji Ten [Exhibition of Ceramics Throughout China's History, from the Shanghai Museum], Seibu Art Museum, Tokyo, 1984, cat. no. 50;  another covered with a thick grey glaze of greenish tone, sold at Christie’s London, 12th October 1970, lot 75, from J.T. Tai; and a fifth vase with a misty greyish-blue glaze, sold in our New York rooms, 31st March/1st April 2005, lot 41.

This vase, with its long cylindrical neck and tubular handles, is inspired by archaic bronze vessels used for touhu, a 'pitch-pot' game played from approximately 770 BC. Competitors in this game threw arrows at a vase which was placed at an equal distance between two mats on which the players knelt, aiming for the mouth or handles. Touhu or 'arrow-form' vases continued to be produced in the Song dynasty and later in a variety of materials; see a bronze example from the collection of Ulrich Hausmann, sold in these rooms, 8th October 2014, lot 3384. 

Sotheby's. Curiosity IV, Hong Kong, 02 Apr 2018, 10:30 AM