A peachbloom-glazed seal paste box and cover (Yinse He), Kangxi mark and period


Lot 155. A peachbloom-glazed seal paste box and cover (Yinse He), Kangxi mark and period (1662-1722). Diameter 2 3/4  in., 7.2 cm. Estimate 60,000 — 80,000 USD. Lot sold 293,000 USD. Photo: Sotheby's.

of entirely plain compressed circular form, the domed cover of crushed raspberry red shading to a light mushroom color terminating in a bright mottled green around the sides and on the upper part of the box with a further hint of characteristic ‘unripe peach’ green, transmuting to a deep lively red towards the base, the footrim with a neatly finished groove around the outer edge, inscribed on the underside with a six-character mark in underglaze blue (2).

Provenance: Acquired in San Francisco, California in the early 20th century and thence by descent.

Note: The famous peachbloom glaze was notoriously difficult to achieve. To manage the fugitive copper-lime pigment, it is believed to have been sprayed, via a long bamboo tube with fine silk covering one end, onto a layer of transparent glaze and then fixed with another layer, so as to be sandwiched between two layers of clear glaze. The distinctive glaze has several beguiling Chinese names among them “drunken beauty” and “baby face”.  ‘Peach bloom’ was most likely coined by the Western scholar Stephen W. Bushell in the 19th century.  The glaze was used exclusively on forms for the scholar’s table; water pots, small vases, and brushwashers. Ralph M Chait, in « The Eight Prescribed Peachbloom Shapes Bearing Kang-hsi Marks, » Oriental Art 3 (Winter 1957), 130-13 seems to have ascribed the glaze to only eight forms. John Ayers in « The Peachbloom Wares of the Kangxi Period (1662-1722) », Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, vol. 64, 1999-2000 adds a ninth form to the group, however variations of the forms would imply that these scholars’ wares may never have been conceived as a set.  The technique marks one of the great ceramic innovations of the Kangxi period, but probably due to the demanding process it remained in use for only a short time and was not revisited until around 1900 when reproductions of the celebrated glaze were made.

Similar seal paste boxes can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, illustrated in Suzanne G. Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, New York, 1989, pl. 138; in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 141; and in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the museum’s Special Exhibition of K’ang-hsi, Yung-cheng and Ch’ien-lung Porcelain Ware from the Ch’ing Dynasty, Taipei, 1986, cat. no. 11. Compare also one sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 17th December 1996, lot 115, and later sold again at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28th April 2003, lot 569. Another example also from our Hong Kong rooms was sold 5th October 2011, lot 1996.

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, New York, 16 sept. 2014