A rare large marbled meiping, Five Dynasties-Song dynasty (907-1279)

Lot 20. A rare large marbled meiping, Five Dynasties-Song dynasty (907-1279); 46 cm, 18 1/8  in. Estimate £100,000 — 150,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.

the subtly waisted lower body rising to broad shoulders and a tall waisted neck with an everted rim, elegantly potted using striated and interlocking cream and dark brown coloured clays creating a radiating feathered pattern, the rim and foot covered with a creamy-white slip.

Property from the Rui Xiu Lou Collection.

Note: Elegantly modelled with gently swelling shoulders and a slightly flared foot, this vase is striking for its impressive large and straight size which would have required the utmost precision and control in the potting and firing process as the vessel could easily have warped and misfired in the kiln. The potter’s utmost proficiency of the medium is further evidenced in the vibrant marbled effect which was skilfully executed to create a highly captivating abstract motif. Known in Chinese as jiao tai (“mixed clay”), marbling was achieved by twisting and kneading together two different-coloured clays. The technique allowed for a myriad of decorative possibilities, some of which were likened to the patterns of wood grain or birds’ feathers.

Wares of this type were first developed in the Tang dynasty (618-907) and are believed to have been inspired by Western marbled glass traded along the Silk Route, which began circulating in China from the Eastern Han period (25-220 AD). A marbled glass bottle made along the Mediterranean coast, recovered from an Eastern Han tomb in Luoyang, now in the Luoyang Museum, was included in the exhibition China. Dawn of a Golden Age, 200-750 AD, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2002, cat. no. 13. The technique continued to be used in the Song period, and fragments of marbled wares have been recovered at kilns in Henan province, including the Xiwangfeng and Encun kilns in Jiaozuo county, and the Dangyangyu kilns in Xiuwu county.

Vases made with this technique are rare, and even rarer are those of this form and of such large size, although a meiping,whose size is unpublished, modelled with a short neck and galleried rim and attributed to the Jin dynasty (1115-1234), in the Jinci Museum, Taiyuan, is illustrated in Liu Tao, Dated Ceramics of the Song, Liao and Jin Periods, Beijing, 2004, pl. 3-30. Marbled vases of much smaller size include a hu-shaped vase attributed to the Southern Song period (1127-1279), included in Illustrated Catalogue Series. Chinese Ceramics from the Museum Yamato Bunkakan Collection, Nara, 1977, vol. 7, pl. 79; and a pear-shaped vase, attributed to the Yuan dynasty, sold in these rooms, 16th May 2007, lot 9.

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, London, 15 May 2019, 10:30 AM