A rare copper-red decorated ewer, Hongwu period (1368-1398)

Lot 6. A rare copper-red decorated ewer, Hongwu period (1368-1398); 13 ¼ in. (33.5 cm.) high. Estimate GBP 70,000 - GBP 90,000 (USD 98,210 - USD 126,270)Price realised GBP 68,750. © Christie's Images Ltd 2018

The pear-shaped vessel is painted to the exterior in varied greyish tones of underglaze red with large peony blooms and leafy scrolls below a cloud collar and ascending bands of peony scroll, key fret and stiff leaves. It has a large strap handle and a long, curved spout, the latter decorated with lotus blooms and leafy scrolls between bands of classic scroll to the tip and base of the spout. 

ProvenanceSotheby's London, 16 May 2007, lot 32

Note: The Emperor Hongwu was fond of ceramics decorated in copper-red. From its appearance in the Tang dynasty, the use of copper to produce red in high-fired ceramics has proved a challenge to the potter as the colourant was volatile in the firing and produced an unpredictable range of shades from rich red to brownish-grey. Despite the technical difficulties in controlling copper during the firing process, many of the finest underglaze-red decorated porcelains were made during the Hongwu period.

Several known examples of this type of rare Hongwu ewer are recorded. Two copper-red decorated ewers, one in the Percival David Collection and another in the Matsuoka Art Museum, are included in Sekai Toji Zenshu, vol. 14, Tokyo, 1976, figs. 13 and 12. Another example from the Qing Court collection is in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (I), Shanghai, 2000, pl. 201.

Christie's. Rarity and Refinement: Treasures from a Distinguished East Asian Collection, London, 15 May 2018 - Sale 16837