04 juin 2018

An important and extremely rare iron-red decorated blue and white ‘mythical sea creatures’ stem cup, Xuande mark and period

An important and extremely rare iron-red decorated blue and white ‘mythical sea creatures’ stem cup, Xuande six-character mark in underglaze blue within a double circle and of the period (1426-1435)

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Lot 2946. An important and extremely rare iron-red decorated blue and white ‘mythical sea creatures’ stem cup, Xuande six-character mark in underglaze blue within a double circle and of the period (1426-1435); 3 7/8 in. (9.9 cm.) diam. Estimate HKD 10,000,000 - HKD 15,000,000. Price realised HKD 12,100,000© Christie's Images Ltd 2018.

The cup and solid stem foot are decorated in underglaze blue with twelve mythical sea creatures leaping amidst and above a ground of crested waves painted in iron red, the nine creatures on the cup including a large winged dragon that separates the others, which are arranged in two registers, the three creatures on the foot positioned above a row of blue ‘rocks’. The centre of the interior is inscribed with the six-character reign mark within a double circle. The base is flat and unglazed, revealing the white biscuit body, Japanese wood box

ProvenanceAndrew L. and Amanda Adams Love Collection, New York 
Sold at Christie’s New York, 20 September 2005, lot 251.

NoteThe Imperial kilns during the Xuande reign produced some of the most innovative, technically challenging, and visually attractive vessels in the history of ceramics. One of the most successful innovations was the combined technique of underglaze-blue painting and overglaze iron-red enamels, with the present cup being one of the best examples testifying to such achievement. 

Only five other Xuande-marked stem cups of this design are known. Three are in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, as recorded in ‘Ming-jiaGugong ciqi tulu, vol. 2, Taipei, 1962, pp. 194-195, one of which is illustrated in the Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsüan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, Taipei, 1998, pp. 222-223, no. 84 (fig. 1). The fourth is in the Tianminlou Collection, illustrated in Chinese Porcelain-The S.C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Part II, Hong Kong, 1987, no. 6. The fifth is illustrated in Sekai toji zenshu, vol. 14, Tokyo, 1976, p. 179, fig. 185, sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 8 October 2013, lot 3029. 

An iron-red decorated blue and white ‘mythical sea creatures’ stem cup, Xuande mark and period (1426-1435), Collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei

fig. 1. An iron-red decorated blue and white stem cup, Xuande mark and period (1426-1435), Collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei.

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An exceedingly rare and fine cobalt-blue and iron-red ‘Mythical Beasts’ stemcup, Mark and period of Xuande (1426-1435); 9.9 cm., 3 7/8  in. Estimation  25,000,000 — 35,000,000 HKD. Lot sold 79,640,000 HKD at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 8 October 2013, lot 3029.  Photo: Sotheby's 2013

Cf. my post: An exceedingly rare and fine cobalt-blue and iron-red ‘Mythical Beasts’ stemcup, Mark and period of Xuande (1426-1435)

Xuande-marked stem cups of this size and shape, are also decorated in reverse, with the mythical sea creatures in iron red on a ground of underglaze-blue waves, such as the example in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (I), Hong Kong, 2000, p. 255, no. 231 (fig. 2); another in the Shanghai Museum, illustrated in Shanghai Bowuguan cangpin yanjiu daxi: Mingdai guanyao ciqi [Ming imperial porcelain]Shanghai, 2007, no. 3-51; and a third in the Cleveland Museum of Art, illustrated in Ming Porcelain, London, 1978, no. 63.  

An underglaze blue and overglaze red stem cup, Xuande mark and period (1426-1435), Collection of the National Palace Museum, Beijing

fig.2. An underglaze blue and overglaze red stem cup, Xuande mark and period (1426-1435), Collection of the National Palace Museum, Beijing.

Stem Cup, 1426-1435, China, Jiangxi province, Jingdezhen, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Xuande mark and period (1426-1435) (2)

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Stem Cup, 1426-1435, China, Jiangxi province, Jingdezhen, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Xuande mark and period (1426-1435), porcelain with underglaze blue and overglaze red enamel decoration, Overall: 9 x 9.9 cm (3 1/2 x 3 7/8 in.). John L. Severance Fund 1957.60 © Cleveland Museum of Art.

The design of nine mythical creatures is discussed by J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, p. 128, no. 4:13, where the author notes that the creatures can be found in Shan Hai Jing(Classic of the Seas and Mountains), a book completed in the Han dynasty by Liu Xiang and his son, revised and illustrated by Guo Pu in the Eastern Jin dynasty.

Christie's. Leisurely Delights of a Transient Life, Hong Kong, 30 May 2018 - SALE 16759


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