Lot 3635. A fine blue and white 'Bajixiang' pouring vessel and cover, he, Seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795); 21 cm, 8 1/4 in. Estimate 1,500,000 — 2,000,000 HKD. Lot sold 2,500,000 HKD (322,025 USD). Courtesy Sotheby's.
modelled in the form of the archaic bronze he prototype, with a compressed globular body supported on four legs and surmounted by a constricted neck and lipped rim, flanked by a handle and a spout, the exterior of the body richly painted in cobalt-blue tones with a row of beribboned bajixiang emblems, each resting atop a lotus bloom wreathed in scrolling foliage, all below a key-fret band, the neck, handle, spout and legs superbly adorned with echoing lingzhi blooms, the cover centred with an arched knop and similarly rendered in dense lingzhi scrolls encircled by a key-fret band, the underside of the vessel with a six-character seal mark.
Exhibited: Exhibition of Ancient Chinese Ceramics from the Collection of the Kau Chi Society of Chinese Art, Art Gallery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1981, cat. no. 118.
Exhibition of Ancient Chinese Ceramics from the Collection of the Kau Chi Society of Chinese Art, Hong Kong, National Museum of History, Taipei, 1982, cat. no. 118.
Note: This rare piece belongs to a special group of porcelain wares made under the direction of the Qianlong Emperor that combined contemporary elements with forms inspired by archaic bronzes. Its form is modelled after archaic bronze ritual vessels, he, made during the Zhou dynasty, while the motif of lotus and the Eight Treasures (bajixiang) hints at the increasing influence of Buddhism at court. The exceptional talent of the potters is evident not only in the successful transformation of a bronze form into porcelain, but also in their ability to combine decorative elements from different traditions.
Originally inspired by pottery prototypes from the Neolithic period, bronze vessels of this form are believed to have been originally used as wine ewers or pitchers in the Shang and Zhou dynasty. Their function was somewhat revived in the Qing dynasty, as attested by Wang Guowei (1877-1927) in his ‘shuo he’ (On the he) from 1915, where he mentions that at banquets, those that could not tolerate drinking too much wine were offered a weaker version diluted with water poured from a he. Porcelain he appear to have been an 18th century innovation, and according to Palace documents, the first order for these vessels took place in the 3rd year of the Qianlong reign.
Ewers of this unusual form are found in important private and museum collections; one in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, was included in the Museum’s exhibition K’ang-Hsi, Yung-Cheng and Ch’ien-Lung Porcelain Ware from the Ch’ing Dynasty in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1986, cat. no. 71; another in the Tianjin Municipal Museum is illustrated in Tianjin Shi Yishu Bowuguan cang ci [Porcelains from the Tianjin Municipal Museum], Tianjin, 1993, pl. 166; and a third in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen is illustrated in John Ayers, Chinese and Japanese Works of Art, London, 2016, vol. 1, pl. 424, together with a Jiaqing mark and period example, pl. 425. See also one from the collections of Eva Lande and Julius Morgenroth, sold in our New York rooms, 17th March 2009, lot 122; and a slightly smaller example also lacking the cover included in the exhibition Treasures of Imperial Porcelain. Official Kiln Porcelain of the Qing Dynasty Collected by Hangzhou Tu Huo Zhai Museum of Antique Ceramics, Hangzhou, 2011, pl. 100.
From the collections of Eva Lande and Julius Morgenroth. A Blue And White Ewer And Cover (He), Qianlong Seal Mark And Period(1736-1795); height 8 3/4 in.; 22.2 cm. Sold for 25,000 USD at Sotheby's New York, 17th March 2009, lot 122. Courtesy Sotheby's