A very rare molded gold-imitation 'birthday' bowl and cover, Kangxi seal mark and period (1662-1722)


Lot 521. A very rare molded gold-imitation 'birthday' bowl and cover, Kangxi seal mark and period (1662-1722). Diameter 6  1/2  in., 16.5 cm. Estimate USD 80,000 — 120,000© Christie's Images Ltd 2019

the deep rounded sides molded in relief with a horizontal band of stylized characters interspersed with four bats clasping peach sprays, the domed cover similarly decorated and surmounted by a pierced bird-form finial, all applied with a burnished gold glaze, the interiors and base glazed white, the base with an archaistic six-character mark in underglaze blue within a double circle (2)

Provenance: Collection of Stephen Junkunc III (d. 1978).

Note: This bowl and cover are a rare example of the technical advances achieved by craftsmen working at the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen during the Kangxi reign. The set displays a renewed interest in archaism, as evidenced in its decoration, glaze and unusual seal script mark, and can be considered one of the earliest successful attempts to simulate metal objects at Jingdezhen. The brilliant and slightly opalescent glaze on this piece simulates gold, while the bird-shaped finial on the cover and the geometric band of characters on the body echo motifs of the Chinese Bronze Age.

Bowls of this type and with their matching covers are rare, although a closely related example but lacking the cover, from the Mottahedeh Collection, was sold in these rooms, 19th October 2000, lot 141; and another from the Rende Zhai Collection was sold at Christie’s New York, 16th September 2011, lot 1632. A Kangxi mark and period dish carved with this design, in the Capital Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in The Complete Works of Chinese Ceramics, vol. 14, Shanghai, 1999, pl. 121.

The mark on this bowl is very unusual, and appears only on a rare group of vessels covered in gold glaze. Given the superb quality of these wares and the ‘longevity’ themes that they depict, they were probably all commissioned on the occasion of the Emperor’s 60th or 70th birthday. A cup and a dish with this mark, decorated with shou characters in blue enamel against a gold ground, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in Kangxi Yongzheng Qianlong: Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, pls 73 and 74.

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