Lot 608. An exceptionally rare 'Longquan' celadon-glazed double-gourd 'peony' vase, Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). Height 13 1/8 in., 33.3 cm. Estimate 300,000 — 500,000 USD. Courtesy Sotheby's.
finely potted with a globular lower section rising to a narrow waist surmounted by a pear-form upper bulb and an upright lipped rim, both the lower and upper bulbs decorated in the round with a lively display of crisply sprig-molded and slip relief decorated scrolling leafy stems issuing luxuriant peony blossoms and tender buds, covered overall with a lustrous, thick sea-green glaze stopping neatly at the foot, the foot rim burnt russet-orange in the firing, Japanese wood box (3).
Provenance: Japanese Private Collection, Kansai.
Note: This vase is remarkable for its crisp and elegant floral decoration, which emerges under an attractive bluish-green glaze and accentuates the harmonious double-gourd shape. Fine details are visible through the glaze, including the veining of the flowers and leaves, and the design is rendered in a subtle and elegant manner. Its graceful form, particularly successful glaze and fine decoration, make this vase stand out among other Longquan vases of the period.
The appearance of white porcelain painted in rich tones of underglaze blue and red in the Yuan dynasty, and its appeal among the new Mongol rulers, had a profound effect at kiln centers throughout China, many of which experienced a steady decline. The Longquan kilns, which had excelled at creating subtle, understated and mostly undecorated vessels, with exquisite blue-green glazes, were no exception and were required to adapt their repertoire to the more exuberant taste that prevailed at court. The kilns responded by producing wares with more prominent decoration, often in relief, which added interest to the otherwise monochrome vessels. The applied scroll on the present piece reflects this shift, although its generous spacing hints back to the refined aesthetics of the Song period.
Spreading over a large part of Zhejiang province and even further into the neighboring province of Fujian, the Longquan kilns were conveniently located to reach the trade ports of Wenzhou and Quanzhou, from where merchandise could be shipped to foreign markets in the Far East, Southeast Asia and India, the Middle East and even as far as Africa. This advantage was fully exploited in the Yuan and early Ming dynasty and large quantities of wares were made for foreign markets. The Ottoman court in Istanbul was particularly keen on the lustruous green glaze of celadon, and many fine Longquan vessels are now held in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul. This includes two larger and somewhat coarser double-gourd vases, similarly applied in relief with peony scrolls, and embellished with Ottoman metal mounts illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum Istanbul vol. 1, London, 1986, pls 202 and 203.
A closely related vase in the Hatakeyama Memorial Museum of Fine Art, Tokyo, is published in Hatakeyama Hisato, Tsutaetai, bi no kioku, Tokyo, 2011, pl. 32. See also a similar vase from the Dexingshuwu Collection, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 30th October 1995, lot 679A and again in these rooms, 18th March 2008, lot 106; a larger example modeled with a flared mouth, was sold in these rooms, 30th March 2006, lot 57; a vase of similar form but decorated with scroll of chrysanthemum on the lower bulb and the top with chrysanthemum heads, in the Datong Municipal Museum, Shanxi province, is illustrated in Zhongguo taoci quanji [Complete series on Chinese ceramics], vol. 10, Shanghai, 2000, pl. 34; another with small sprigs of aster at the top and a composite scroll at the bottom, in the National Museum of China, Beijing, is published in Longquan qingci [Longquan celadon of China], Beijing, 1966, col. pl. 18. Compare also an undecorated vase of this form, excavated from a hoard in Baihuo commune, Qingtian county, Zhejiang province, and now in the Qingtian County Cultural Relics Management Committee, illustrated in Zhongguo taoci quanji, op. cit., pl. 35, and another from the collections of the Asada family, the Tokyo Bijutsu Club and the Meiyintang Collection, sold twice in our Hong Kong rooms, 2nd May 2005, lot 676, and 5th October 2011, lot 6.
From the Dexingshuwu Collection. A rare 'longquan' celadon double-gourd vase with applied decoration, Yuan dynasty (1279-1368); height 12 1/4 in., 31.1 cm. Sold at Sotheby's New York, 18th March 2008, lot 106. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, New York, 20 mars 2019, 10:00 AM