Lot 527. An incised celadon-glazed meiping, Goryeo dynasty (918-1392). Height 14 3/8  in., 36.5 cm. Estimate 30,000 — 50,000 USD. Lot Sold 47,500 USD. © Sotheby's.

the elegantly waisted body rising from a splayed foot, sweeping up to the broad rounded shoulders and the short everted mouth, incised overall with lotus scrolls, the flowers borne on leafy undulating stems, all beneath a celadon glaze suffused with a faint crackle, stopping at the foot to reveal the partly glazed countersunk base, two Japanese wood boxes (5).

Note: This maebyong (meiping in Chinese) jar represents ceramics from the fully mature Goryeo period with its characteristically pronounced ‘S’-curved profile created through its broad shoulders, attenuated body, constricted waist and flaring foot. Produced in Korea during the Goryeo period, celadon wares were among the most admired of Korean ceramics and demonstrate perfection in form, decoration and technology. Goryeo potters often embellished the works with fluid incising and carving, such as in this meiping.

Included in the list of the most prized items described as ‘first under heaven’ by the 12th/13th century Chinese author Taiping Laoren, together with the books of the Academy, wines of the Palace, inkstones of Duanxi, the peonies of Luoyang, the tea of Fujian, the brocades of Sichuan, and the porcelains of Dingzhou, the celadons of the Goryeo dynasty have been held in high regard by the Korean Imperial court and beyond since their creation. As in China, the quality of celadons vary widely and they would have figured prominently in many households besides those of the royal family and aristocratic court for whom the finest were reserved. Poets and scholars romanticized its distinctive color, referring to it as the ‘secret color’ (bi se) and comparing it to the hue of autumn skies and distant mountain peaks in its glimmering tones of bluish-green with a touch of gray.

Compare an incised meiping of similar profile formerly in the Ataka Collection, included in the exhibition Newly Discovered Goryeo Celadon and the Achievements of Underwater Archaeology in Korea, Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 2015, cat. no. 151. 

Sotheby's. A Noble Pursuit: Important Chinese and Korean Art from a Japanese Private Collection, New York, 11 Sep 2019