very rare Cizhou sgraffiato ‘Special Blessings’ pillow, Northern Song dynasty, 11th-12th century

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Lot 885. A very rare Cizhou sgraffiato ‘Special Blessings’ pillow, Northern Song dynasty, 11th-12th century; 9 ¾ in. (25 cm.) wideEstimate USD 30,000 - USD 50,000© Christie's Image Ltd 2021

The concave top is carved through the white slip with the characters da (great) and ji (auspiciousness), between two blossoming floral stems, all reserved against a ring-punched 'fish-roe' ground. The sides are carved with panels enclosing chrysanthemum blossoms.

Literature: Kaikodo Journal, New York, Spring 2013, no. 50.

Exhibited: New York, Kaikodo, 2013.

NoteThe striking design on this pillow was created by cutting through a layer of thick white slip to reveal the body through designs which are incised, carved, and ring-punched. Such designs are commonly found on the wares of the Cizhou kilns, located in the vicinity of northern Henan and southern Hebei provinces.

This pillow belongs to a small group of Cizhou pillows decorated with characters conveying auspicious meanings. Compare the very similar pillow in a private collection in Berlin, also incised on the top panel with two characters, fu de (good fortune and virtue) and also carved on the front and back with conforming panels enclosing chrysanthemum blossoms, illustrated by R. Krahl, Yugutang, Berlin, 2000, no. 157. See, also, a similarly-shaped pillow bearing a date corresponding to 1071 in the collection of the British Museum, incised on the top with four-characters, jia guo yongan (home and country, everlasting peace), illustrated in The Worlds Great Collections, Oriental Ceramics (V), The British Museum, Tokyo, 1978, pl. 108.

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Pillow with Inscription, Northern Song dynasty, dated 1071. Made of Cizhou glazed ceramic, stoneware (+slip). Museum number 1914,0413.1. © The Trustees of the British Museum 

Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 18 march 2021