A rare 'Yaozhou' persimmon-glazed truncated vase (tulu ping), Northern Song-Jin Dynasty (960-1234)

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Lot 560. A rare 'Yaozhou' persimmon-glazed truncated vase (tulu ping), Northern Song-Jin Dynasty (960-1234); height 5 1/2 in., 14 cmEstimate 100,000 — 150,000 USD. Lot sold 122,500 USD. Courtesy Sotheby's.

of compressed high-shouldered form gently tapering to a flat base, the broad rounded shoulders surmounted by a short neck flaring to a wide lipped rim, the evenly applied rich russet-brown glaze with mellatic luster continuing into the interior of the neck and ending just above the unglazed base.

The dating of this lot is consistent with the result of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test no. P102g42.

Provenance: Christie's New York, 20th September 2002, lot 293.

Note: Persimmon-glazed wares were produced at several kilns in North China; the most famous being those of the Ding and Yaozhou kilns. The distinctive glaze was much admired at the time of production. Cao Zhao in his Gegu yaolun 'The Essential Criteria of Antiquities' of 1388 comments that it was more expensive than the famous Ding white ware. Perhaps the complexities involved in creating the wares helped contribute to its relative rarity and value. The Yaozhou variant of the persimmon glaze shares much in common with that of Ding; achieving the color involved an initial application of a thin bluish-black glaze, followed by another very thin coating of iron oxide.  With its gray body, Yaozhou persimmon ware is slightly less red than the white-bodied Ding ware and the metallic sheen a bit softer. The smooth, even glaze of the present piece conforms beautifully with the tulu ping form; an elegant shape produced for only a brief period of time in the Northern Song and Jin period.

No other example of a persimmon-glazed tulu ping appears to have been published. Of the persimmon-glazed vases that have been published, all are of ovoid form with a tapered base and are the less refined product of the Cizhou kilns. A broad shoulder vase with the glaze stopping above the base revealing the somewhat coarse body, now in the National Museum of Korea is  illustrated in Gakuji Hasebe, Ceramic Art of the World, Sung Dynasty, vol.12, Tokyo, 1977, no 123. Another, in the Sackler Museum at Harvard University, is illustrated in Robert D. Mowry, Hare's Fur, Tortoiseshell, and Partridge Feathers, Chinese Brown and Black-Glazed Ceramics, 400-1400, Harvard, 1995, no. 24, and another example, also of ovoid form but with handles, is in the Hong Collection and illustrated in Good Fortune Throughout History, An Exhibition of Black Glaze and Porcelain form Tzu-chou and Ji-chou Kilns, The National Museum of History, Taipei2004.  For discussion and illustrations of Yaozhou persimmon ware, compare Robert Mowry, op .cit., no. 20; Masterpieces of Yaozhou Ware, The Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 1997, nos. 47 and 48; and for a piece now in the Yaozhou Kiln Sites Museum excavated at the Huangbao kiln site Tongchuan city, Shaanxi Province, see Complete Collection of Ceramic Art Unearthed in China, Shaanxi, vol 15, no 147. Other persimmon-glazed wares attributed to either Shaanxi or Henan provinces are illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. I, 1994, nos. 435-7.

Tulu ping forms tend to vary mainly in the rotundity of the body, the slope of the shoulder and the height of the neck. For examples most closely related to the present form see a black glazed Ding ware vase illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures in the Palace Museum, Porcelain of the Song Dynasty, vol. 1, 1996 no. 201. Other examples are illustrated in Hasebe, op.cit., no. 231 (in Cizhou sgraffiato), and no. 48 (in Yaozhou carved celadon).

Sotheby's. Harmony of Form, Serenity of Color: A Private Collection of 'Song' Ceramics, New York, 23 march 2011