Lot 3825. An extremely rare Arabic inscribed blue and white jar, Zhengde six-character mark within double-circles and of the period (1506-1521); 14 3/8 in. (36.5 cm.) high. Estimate HKD 3,500,000 - HKD 5,000,000. Price Realized HKD 10,516,000. © Christie's Images Ltd. 2011
Sturdily potted with rounded shoulders tapering to an angled lower body, the main body finely painted with two diamond panels, each inscribed in Arabic within double-square borders, all against a ground of dense, boldly painted, lingzhi fungus scrolls borne on curling vines and growing leaves to the sides, the short neck with a further six inscribed medallions within keyfret band borders, further designed with a register of upright plantain encircling the sharp angle on the lower body, constricted above a splayed foot designed with trefoils, box.
Note: The only other known example of this unusual shape, with the sharply angled constriction above the foot, and large size appears to be the one in the Capital Museum Collection, illustrated in Shoudu Bowuguang Cangcixuan, Selected Ceramics from the Capital Museum, 1991, p. 125, no. 115.
The cited jar from the Capital Museum and the present example are probably the largest in size amongst this group of Arabic inscribed ceramics from the Zhengde period. A related relatively large Arabic inscribed vase (25.1 cm high), is in the National Museum Collection, illustrated in Blue-and-White Ware of the Ming Dynasty, Book IV, CAFA, Hong Kong, 1963, p. 44, pl. 1. Smaller objects are more oftened confined to those made for the scholar's desk such as brushrests such as the one modelled as mountain peaks from the Greenwald Collection, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 1 December 2010, lot 2806. Aside from brushrests, brush holders and boxes were popularly made items, and examples in the British Museum are illustrated by J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics, London, 2001, nos. 8:5 and 8:6, two rectangular boxes; no. 8:7, a circular box); and nos. 8:8 and 8:9, two circular stands with apertures which were used either as a brush holders or flower containers. It is noted that during the Zhengde period, Arabic inscribed ceramics were used by literate Muslim eunuchs at court or by the emperor who was fascinated by foreign scripts, cf., ibid, p. 188.
The Arabic inscriptions are derived from the Prophetic hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. The small roundels encircling the neck maybe translated as:
1. qala al-nabi - The Prophet Said
2. alayhi al-salam - peace be upon Him
3. man 'adhuba - Whoever is sweet"
4. lisanuhu - his tongue
5. kathura - many shall be
6. ikhwanuhu - his brothers
"The Prophet, Peace be upon Him, said: Whoever's tongue is sweet, his brothers shall multiply".
The Arabic inscription on the main roundels on the body reads:
al-mu'mn halawi and yuhibbu al-halawa
"The believer is sweet, he loves halva(*)."
(*)Halva is a middle-eastern sweet made from sesame. The inscriptions would indicate that the jar was used to contain something sweet.
Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 1 June 2011, Convention Hall