Lot 3415. A blue and white 'narrative' baluster vase, Kangxi period (1662-1722); 17 1/2 in. (44.5 cm.) high. Estimate HKD 240,000 - HKD 350,000. Price realised HKD 400,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2013
The vase is sturdily potted with an elongated baluster body rising from a splayed foot supported on a shallow foot ring to a flaring neck moulded with a horizontal raised band. It is delicately painted in various shades of blue with a continuous scene depicting Han Xin on horseback being pursued by Xiao He and his attendants, underneath a full moon in a wooded landscape amidst mountains partially shrouded by wispy clouds. The neck is painted with sprays of bamboo. The base is inscribed with an apocryphal Jiajing mark, stand.
Provenance: Sir Francis William Stronge, KCMG, HMB (1856-1924).
Note: Sir Francis William Stronge was a senior British diplomat and joined the diplomatic service in 1879. It is recorded that he served at the Supreme Court in Shanghai in 1885. Thereafter, he continued his diplomatic career in various countries around the world including Hungary, Turkey, Mexico and Chile.
The current vase depicts the popular tale of general Han Xin evading the Han emperor-to-be Liu Bang, out of frustration that his talents were not recognised. Liu Bang's minister Xiao He acknowledged Han Xin's competence and pursued him in the middle of the night and convinced him to continue his service to Liu Bang's quest to unify China and establish the Han dynasty. This narrative became a popular Yuan dynasty drama and was incorporated into the decorative repertoire of Yuan porcelains, such as a blue and white meiping excavated from the tomb of the early Ming general Mu Ying, exhibited in Splendors in Smalt: Art of Yuan Blue-and-white Porcelain, Shanghai Museum, 2012, Catalogue, pl. 64.
This motif is perpetuated on porcelains in the succeeding centuries, as can be seen on the present vase which belongs to a group of porcelain wares produced during the 17th century, bearing designs of narrative scenes from historical texts, novels and dramas, possibly tailored to the taste of the burgeoning literati-gentry class in late Ming and early Qing society.
Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art (Including The Su Zhu An Collection of Inkstones), Hong Kong, 27 November 2013