Lot 87. A Cizhou sgraffiato 'Peony' meiping, Northern Song-Jin dynasty (960-1234); 29.3 cm, 11 5/8 in. Estimate 30,000 — 50,000 GBP. Courtesy Sotheby's.
the tapering baluster body rising from a recessed base to a rounded shoulder and narrow short neck with broad everted rim, carved around the exterior through the brown and black glaze with a broad leafy peony scroll, all reserved on a white ground between stylised key-fret and lotus lappet bands.
Note: Boldly carved with a floral scroll fired to a purplish-brown tone on one side and deep black on the other, this jar belongs to a distinct group of Cizhou wares decorated with sgraffiato floral motifs. This technique involved the application of two different-coloured slips – a layer of white followed by a layer of black slip. The motif was carefully carved through the black sip to reveal the white layer beneath. Fragments of meiping decorated with this technique have been unearthed at the Guantai kilns in Henan province, and illustrated in The Cizhou Kiln Site at Guantai, Beijing, 1997, col pl. XXI, fig. 2 (top right).
The present vase is unusual for the keyfret band above the foot, a motif that probably derives from the square spiral pattern commonly found on archaic bronze wares. While bands of keyfret are relatively common on Cizhou sgraffiato wares, they seldom appear on meiping of this type. Compare a vase with slightly rounder shoulders and lacking the keyfret, in the British Museum, London, illustrated in Jessica Rawson, Chinese Ornament: The Lotus and the Dragon, London, 1984, pl. 62a; a slightly larger one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, illustrated Suzanne G. Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, New York, 1989, pl. 88; another in the Worcester Art Museum, included in the exhibition Freedom of Clay and Brush Through Seven Centuries in Northern China: Tz’u-chou Type Wares, 960-1600 A.D., Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, 1981, cat. no. 39; and a further vase in the Kyoto National Museum, illustrated in Sekai tōji zenshū / Ceramic Art of the World, 1955, vol. 10, pl. 94.