Lot 1654. A rare and important blue and white 'Magic fountain' bottle vase, Ming dynasty, mid-16th century; 12¾ in. (32.7 cm.) high. Estimate USD 150,000 - USD 250,000. Price realised USD 182,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2011

The elongated pear-shaped body well painted on each side with an elephant with leaf-shaped ears lying atop the stepped base of an elaborate fountain with phoenix and animal-head spouts from which issue streams of water that splash into the basin and then from its sides, below bands of florets and upright leaves on the upper neck, the galleried rim and foot encircled by double lines, the base with a hare mark reserved on a blue ground of conforming outline.

ProvenanceItalian private collection

Note: Bottle vases of this shape with this decoration are extremely rare. A very similar example in the Percival David Collection is illustrated by M. Medley, Illustrated Catalogue of Underglaze Blue and Copper Red Decorated Porcelains, London, 1976, pl. IV, no. 689. It is noted, p. 32, that there is a recumbent elephant on one side, as with the present vase, but a dappled horse on the reverse. This side is illustrated in Oriental Ceramics, The World's Great Collections, Tokyo/New York/San Francisco, 1982, vol. 6, no. 144. Another vase of similar shape and size, but painted with dragons and cranes, is illustrated by R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, vol. II, London, 1986, p. 653, no. 1011. The 'magic fountain' decoration is more usually found on ewers with pear-shaped bodies, four of which are illustrated ibid., pp. 654-6, nos. 1013-1016. On these the fountain has either a lion or qilin at its base. 

Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Part I and Part II Including Property from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, New York, 24 March 2011