Lot 137. A fine and large 'Jian' 'hare's-fur' teabowl, Song dynasty (960-1279). Diameter 5 3/8 in., 13.7 cm. Estimate 35,000 — 45,000 USD. Lot sold 43,750 USD. Photo Sotheby's
of deep rounded form with steep gently curved sides rising from the short foot to the slightly indented rim, covered inside out with a lustrous dark bluish-black glaze with fine reddish-brown streaks, radiating from the core with similar streaks on the exterior, pooling in petal-shaped loops above the foot to reveal the purplish-brown body, the base marked san.
Provenance: Sotheby's London, 12th July 2006, lot 42.
Note: The inscription on the base of this bowl reads san (three). See another bowl, its base inscribed with two characters that could be read sanshiliu (thirty-six), sanshijiu (thirty-nine) or sanshi da (thirty large), from the kilns at Shuiji, Jianyang county, Fujian province, and now in the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University of Art Museums, Cambridge, Mass., illustrated in Robert D. Mowry, Hare's Fur, Tortoiseshell, and Partridge Feathers, Cambridge, Mass., 1995, p. 211, pl. 77, where the author notes that 'the exact significance of the inscription is unknown, although they are assumed to be potters' marks relating to the operation of the kilns, the ownership of individual pieces, or the distribution of the wares after firing.' James Marshall Plumer in Temmoku. A Study of the Ware of Chien, Tokyo, 1972, p. 73, suggests that numerals may refer to a particular kiln or to the precise location within a kiln where the bowls would be fired. 'The variations in glaze color, glossiness, streaking, and texture, presuppose different results in different areas of the kiln.' ibid., p. 73.
Compare several hare's fur bowls recovered from the Jian kiln site in Jianyang, illustrated in Kaogu jinghua, Beijing, 1993, pl. 285, where 'gold' and 'silver hare's fur' glaze is distinguished. See also a bowl, from the Shatzman collection, included in the exhibition Dark Jewels, Auckland Art Museum, Auckland, North Carolina, 2003, cat.no. 16; and a slightly smaller example, from the Muwen Tang collection, sold in our London rooms, 12th November 2003, lot 64.
Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, New York, 11 september 2012