An exceptional early-Ming blue and white ‘Peony scroll’ ewer, Yongle period (1403-1425)

An exceptional early-Ming blue and white ‘Peony scroll’ ewer, Yongle period (1403-1425)

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Lot 2905. An exceptional early-Ming blue and white ‘Peony scroll’ ewer, Yongle period (1403-1425); 11 3/4 in. (30 cm.) high. Estimate: HK$5,000,000.00 - HK$7,000,000.00 (USD 640,875 - USD 897,225). Price realised HKD 6,100,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2018. 

The pear-shaped body is superbly potted with an elegant spout, joined to the neck with a cloud-shaped strut opposite a ridged loop handle above three moulded bosses simulating studs holding the handle in place, finely painted in attractive vibrant tones of cobalt to each sides of the body with large blooms of peony flowers borne on scrolling vines growing leaves to the sides, the tapered neck decorated with a frieze of smaller peony scrolls, below a band of bladed leaves on the upper neck before the dish-shaped mouth.

ProvenanceManno Art Museum, no. 448
One Mans Vision, Important Chinese Art from The Manno Art Museum, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28 October 2002, lot 526.

LiteratureSelected Masterpieces of the Manno Collection, Tokyo, 1988, pl. 107.

ExhibitedNihonbashi Mitsukoshi, Far Eastern Blue-and-White Porcelain, Tokyo, August 1977, Catalogue no. 26 
Tokyo National Museum, Special Exhibition, Chinese Ceramics
12 October-23 November 1994, Tokyo, Catalogue, no. 253

NoteThe current ewer has an illustrious provenance, formerly belonging to the esteemed Manno Art Museum in Japan. The late Mr. Yasuaki Manno, founder of the museum, was one of the greatest Japanese collectors of Oriental ceramics in the Kansai area of Japan during the second half of the 20th century. Passionate about Japanese and Chinese art, Mr. Manno came to represent a very defined and refined Japanese taste in Chinese ceramics in the post-war period. One of the most important pieces that he collected was a Ding russet-splashed black-glazed bowl, which was sold for US$4,212,500, at Christie’s New York, 22 March 2018, lot 506.

Yongle period ewers of this form may be found with a variety of designs. An almost identical ewer is illustrated in Sekai Toji Zenshu, Shogakukan, vol. 14, 1976, p. 163, no. 143. Although the painting format of the both these ewers is still arranged in registers, much in keeping with its Hongwu period predecessors, it is interesting to note the lack of lotus lappets above the foot; this absence leaves a wider space on the main body to render the scrolling floral design. Compare the stylised design executed on a Hongwu ewer decorated with scrolling chrysanthemum on the main body and lotus sprays on the spout excavated from the Zhushan site, exhibited at the Chang Foundation, Imperial Hongwu and Yongle Porcelain Excavated at Jingdezhen, 1996, and illustrated in the Catalogue, p. 75, no. 4. By the Yongle period, the painting style had transformed to become more naturalistic with a greater innovative use of the brush and shading of the cobalt as can be seen on a ewer from the Yongle stratum, decorated with chrysanthemum flowers, illustrated op. cit., p. 177, no. 57. The excavated Yongle ewer provides a close comparison to the present lot with a wider decorative main band around the body.  

Other comparable ewers designed with lotus lappets around the base are published, the first illustrated by J. Ayers and R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, 1986, vol. II, no. 619; another from the Ardebil Shrine now in the Iran Bastan Museum, Tehran, illustrated by T. Misugi, Chinese Porcelain Collections in the Near East, Hong Kong, vol. III, no. A80.

Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Hong Kong, 28 November 2018.