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Lot 4. A fine and rare Guan-type ribbed vase, Yongzheng seal mark and period (1723-1735)Height 23.5 cm, 9¼ inEstimate: 120,000 - 160,000 GBP. Lot sold 250,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby's.

of elongated pear shape sweeping up to a slender neck and a flared rim, decorated to the body with six evenly spaced raised ribs, covered overall with a lustrous, thick bluish-grey glaze suffused with a matrix of russet and icy crackles, the unglazed footring dressed in a dark brown slip, the base with a six-character seal mark in underglaze blue.

Provenance: Sotheby's Hong Kong, 28th and 29th April 1992, lot 84.

Note: The elegant form of this vase, with its globular body gently tapering at the neck, and its parallel raised ribs, provides a perfect canvas for showcasing the subtle pattern of crackles on the thick and unctuous glaze. In both its gracefulness of form and sophisticated glaze, this vase is an archetypal example of Yongzheng monochrome porcelain and reflects the Emperor’s penchant in celebrated Song dynasty (960-1279) wares. His enthusiastic patronage of the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen and thorough knowledge of China’s porcelain tradition, resulted in the emergence of a profusion of new porcelain shapes and colours.

The fabled guanyao (‘official wares’), made especially for the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) court in Hangzhou, was held in high esteem by countless generations, including the Manchu Emperors of the Qing dynasty. While reproductions of these early wares were first made at Jingdezhen in the early Ming dynasty (1368-1644), it was under the Yongzheng reign that they reached a peak in both quality and quantity. The Emperor is recorded to have commissioned such reproductions, and to even have sent to Jingdezhen original guanyao vessels from the imperial collection. The elegant form of this piece was most likely inspired by guanyao pear-shaped bottles, but was given a contemporary look through its flat foot and gently tapering neck. A guanyao bottle vase, later inscribed on the foot with a Qianlong poem, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, was included in the Museum’s exhibition Obtaining Refined Enjoyment. The Qianlong Emperor’s Taste in Ceramics, Taipei, 2012, cat. no. 30. 

Vases of this form and proportions are unusual, although a related vase with more prominent crackles, from the Avery Brundage collection, in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, is illustrated in René-Yvon Lefebvre d’Argencé, Avery Brundage Collection. Chinese Ceramics, San Francisco, 1967, pl. LXX, no. A. See also a slightly larger guan-type vase of this form and with Yongzheng mark and of the period, sold at Christie’s New York, 19th September 1996, lot 305; and another sold at Christie’s London, 18th June 2002, lot 66.

Vases of this form are also known in other monochrome glazes inspired by Song dynasty wares; a flambé-glazed vase in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in Qingdai yuyao ciqi [Qing imperial porcelains], vol. 1, pt. II, Beijing, 2005, pl. 131. A vase of related form covered in a robin’s egg glaze, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, was included in the Museum’s Special Exhibition of K’ang-hsi, Yung-cheng and Ch’ien-lung Porcelain Ware from the Ch’ing Dynasty, Taipei, 1986, cat. no. 54.

Sotheby's. Imperial Porcelain - A Private Collection, London, 6 November 2019