A fine peachbloom-glazed beehive waterpot, mark and period of Kangxi (1662-1722)

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Lot 3611. A fine peachbloom-glazed beehive waterpot, mark and period of Kangxi (1662-1722); 12.6 cm, 4 7/8  in. Estimate 700,000 — 900,000 HKD. Lot sold 2,000,000 HKD (254,820 USD). Courtesy Sotheby's 2018.

with slightly tapering sides rising to a rounded shoulder and short waisted neck below a lipped mouth-rim, the exterior evenly applied overall save for the rim and base with a crimson-red glaze suffused with pink sprinkles, further faintly incised with three stylised archaistic dragon roundels, the recessed white base inscribed in underglaze blue with a six-character reign mark in three columns.

NotePeachbloom waterpots are rarely as successfully fired as the present piece, which is covered with a vibrant and even copper-red glaze. Notoriously difficult to achieve due to the temperamental nature of the copper pigment, the attractive glaze is only found on a small group of vessels for the scholar's table in eight different shapes, one of the most iconic groups of porcelain created under the Kangxi Emperor.

Copper-red glazes had been largely abandoned at Jingdezhen since the early Ming dynasty and were revived and drastically improved only during the Kangxi reign. Recent research by Peter Lam and other leading scholars indicates that the famous 'peachbloom' group was produced during the early years of the Kangxi period under the supervision of the skilled Zang Yingxuan, who was sent to Jingdezhen in 1681 to oversee the rebuilding of the kilns and serve as imperial supervisor. To manage the fugitive copper-lime pigment, it is believed to have been sprayed via a long bamboo tube onto a layer of transparent glaze and then fixed with another layer, so as to be sandwiched between two layers of clear glaze. 

A waterpot of this type in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 142, pl. 125; one in the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, is published in Wang Qingzheng, ed., Kangxi Porcelain Wares from the Shanghai Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1998, pl. 206; another from the Sir Percival David Collection, now in the British Museum, London, is published in Margaret Medley, Ming and Qing Monochrome Wares in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London, 1989, pl. 580; and a further example of slightly smaller size, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, is illustrated in Suzanne G. Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, New York, 1989, pl. 234.

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, Hong Kong, 03 Apr 2018.