Lot 795. A famille-verte yen-yen vase, Kangxi period, circa 1700; 29 3/4 in., 75.6 cm. Estimate 100,000 — 150,000 USD. Lot sold 120,000 USD. Photo: Sotheby's.
of tall baluster form with ovoid body tapering to a flared foot and set with an elongated neck with a trumpet mouth, vibrantly painted in famille-verte and famille-jaune enamels with magpies perched on and fluttering about blossoming prunus branches, with bamboo stalks and small flowers springing from grass and two gardenia blossoms and scattered pine needles at the base of the craggy prunus trunk next to a group of large rocks, the band separating the body from the neck painted with a yellow ground reserving hydrangeas on a leafy meandering scroll, all reserved on a pale green ground.
Provenance: Ralph M. Chait Galleries, New York.
A South American Private Collection.
Chinese Porcelain Company, New York.
Acquired by the present owner in 2000.
Note: This large and impressive yen yen vase exemplifies the practice of firing on biscuit ground, which reached it zenith during the Kangxi period. Since the famille-verte colors were being applied directly to the body, as opposed to wucaienamelling, which were painted over a high fired white glaze ground, the enamelling had to be applied over the entire background of the piece. As a result, three ground tones emerged - black (famille-noire), yellow (famille-jaune) and pale green. R.L. Hobson in The Later Ceramic Wares of China, New York, 1925, p. 31, catagorized the "transparent green" as the rarest of these three sub-groups. He quantifies the remark by stating that "large vases with green enamel grounds are excessively rare, and it would not take long to compile a complete list of those which are known."
The Frick Collection has a vase similar to the present lot and lists the six published examples to date, (Frick Collection, New York, 1974, p. 102). Five are in museum collections: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, illustrated in Lion-Goldschmidt / Moreau-Gobard, 1980, no., 154, p. 197; Metropolitan Museum of Art, illustrated in Valenstein 1975, no. 128, p. 191; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, illustrated in Ward / Fidler, 1993, no. 47-21, p. 300; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, illustrated in Honey, 1927, pl. 29. The sixth one is presumably the present lot, described as in the hands of a New York dealer. All measure between twenty-seven and thirty inches and are similarly decorated with lush prunus branches and rockwork. The present lot differs from all five others with the addition of a yellow band encircling the neck, which is sometimes found on famille-noire yen yen vases, but quite uncommon on green-ground vases.