A rare blue and white Ko-sometsuke basket, Tianqi period (1621-1627)


Lot 1639. A rare blue and white Ko-sometsuke basket, Tianqi period (1621-1627); 6 7/8 in. (17.5 cm.) wide. Estimate USD 30,000 - USD 40,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019 

The rounded, rectangular basket has low sides that support a U-shaped handle. The interior is decorated with four prancing horses, the handle with a loosely-painted leafy branch and scrolls, and the sides on the exterior are decorated with further leafy branches, Japanese wood box. 

ProvenanceIkemasa Ltd., Tokyo.

Note: In the seventeenth century, with the weakening of imperial power of the Ming dynasty, Chinese potters instead turned their talents to service other markets, including the Japanese demand for elaborately-shaped wares for use in the tea ceremony. The formal Japanese tea ceremony, which became popular during the Momoyama period (1568-1615), required many vessels of specific forms, such as buckets for fresh water, small food dishes in sets of five, and handled trays for rice cakes, such as the present basket. 

A similar basket, or handled tray, also with four horses on the interior, was included in an exhibition at the Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo, and is illustrated in the catalogue, Kosometsuke and Shonzui – The Blue and White Tea Ceramics of Japanese Admiration, Tokyo, 2013, no. 9. Another example, but decorated with only three horses, is illustrated by S. Sato and T. Murayama, Kosometsuke, Tokyo, 1969, p. 75, no. 44. 

For a related handled tray in the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, which is slightly smaller than the present example (16.8 cm. wide), and decorated with figures in a landscape, see S. Little, Chinese Ceramics of the Transitional Period: 1620-1683, Dartmouth, 1983, p. 49, no. 11, where the author also cites similar examples illustrated by M. Kawahara, Ko-sometsuke, vol. 2, Kyoto, 1977, pls. 351-364. 

Another handled tray, decorated with a landscape scene, is illustrated by R. Fujioka and G. Hasebe, Sekai Toji Zenshu, vol. 14, Shogakukan, Tokyo, 1976, p. 281, fig. 163. Compare, also, a shallow bowl loosely decorated with two prancing horses, illustrated by Sir M. Butler, M. Medley and S. Little, Seventeenth Century Chinese Porcelain from the Butler Family Collection, Alexandria, 1990, p. 52, no. 14.

Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, New York, 22 March 2019