ming

The Yidetang Collection was assembled by a remarkable man, distinguished both in his professional life and in his passion for treasuring fine Chinese ceramics and works of art. While the selection in this sale, “Dragons from the Empire – Imperial Ceramics from the Yidetang Collection”, is only a small part of this exceptional collection, we hope that it provides a glimpse through a window, through the eye of the dragon, into the essence of the collector.

Each of these ceramics share robust provenance, acquired at international auctions or from well-known dealers. Many were in highly distinguished private collections before coming onto the market. The range of acquisition reflects the collector’s delight in travelling to the sale rooms and galleries in London, and elsewhere, where he also delighted in visiting and studying in institutional collections, such as the Percival David Foundation.

These journeys were indicative of the collector’s insatiable appetite to search out the fine and the beautiful. And here we have presented another journey, that of the dragon depicted on imperial porcelains through almost half a millennium of extraordinary technical accomplishment. From the Yuan dynasty blue and white dragon ewer (lot 2928), which is the earliest dragon form in this group, retaining the sinuous characteristics of Song forms, through the early Ming dragon of the Xuande lobed bowl, the only such one in private hands, (lot 2927) and the mid Ming, to the glories of the Qing examples, each piece is a testament to the collector’s search for an ideal. In any form, whether it is the clarity of glaze in the Jiaqing gilt-decorated celadon-ground jar and cover (lot 2938) or the exquisite enamelling of the Qianlong pinkground small bowl and cover (exceptionally also depicting the phoenix) (lot 2955) each rendition reveals the collector’s love for vivacious, powerful and characterful dragons. He liked gravitas tempered by beauty and loveliness tempered by strength. In offering this flight of imperial dragons, we seek and are honoured to portray part of the personal world of the Yidetang collector.

Jonathan Stone
Asian Art Co-Chairman
Deputy Chairman.

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A very rare early Ming blue and white lobed bowl, Xuande six-character mark in underglaze blue within a double circle and of the period (1426-1435)

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Lot 2927. A very rare early Ming blue and white lobed bowl, Xuande six-character mark in underglaze blue within a double circle and of the period (1426-1435); 8 in. (20.2 cm.) diam., box. Estimate HKD 1,000,000 - HKD 2,000,000Price realised HKD 6,850,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021.

The deep bowl is finely potted with ten bracket-shaped lobes standing on a correspondingly shaped foot ring. The exterior is painted on each panel in bright blue tones with characteristic ‘heaping and piling’ effect, with a shaped cartouche alternately enclosing an ascending or descending dragon amidst clouds, all between double-lines at the rim and foot. The interior is painted with a medallion containing a single dragon.

ProvenanceA Far Eastern Family Collection
Sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 31 October 2000, lot 856.

Note: The present bowl belongs to a rare group of lobed vessels from the Yongle and Xuande periods. Only two other almost identical bowls but both smaller in size appear to have been published: the first (17.9 cm. diam.) from the T. Y. Chao Collection, was sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 18 November 1986, lot 40; the other (18.4 cm. diam.) in the Shanghai Museum, is illustrated by Wang Qingzheng, Underglaze Blue and Red, Shanghai, 1987, no. 133. Compare also with two other lobed bowls painted with fish among aquatic plants, one smaller (18.4 cm. diam.) is in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Special Exhibition of Selected Hsuan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, Taipei, 1998, pp. 334-335, no. 140 (fig. 1); the other larger (23 cm.) was sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 5 April 2017, lot 101.

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fig. 1. Hollyhock-shaped bowl with underglaze-blue decoration of fish and aquatic plants in a lotus pond, mark and period of Xuande. Diameter: 18.4 cm © Collection of National Palace Museum, Taipei.

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An Exceptionally Large, Fine And Important Blue And White Lobed 'Fish Pond' Bowl, Mark and Period of Xuande (1426-1435). Diameter 23 cm. Lot sold 229,037,500 HKD at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 5 April 2017, lot 101. Photo: Sotheby's.

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The unusual lobed form is also found on stem bowls and washers of this period, such as the examples in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, see ibid., for stem bowls with dragon roundels (no. 111), floral roundels (no. 112), cartouches containing pairs of phoenix (no. 113), and cartouches containing a single dragon identical to the present design (no. 114) (fig. 2); and for washers with dragon and phoenix roundels (no. 182), and cartouches with dragons (no. 183). (fig. 2 Collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei.)

 

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Lot 2928. A Rare Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Ewer, Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368); 8 7/8 in. (22.5 cm.) high, box. Estimate HKD 800,000 - HKD 1,500,000Price realised HKD 937,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021.

The pear-shaped ewer is painted with a three-clawed dragon in pursuit of a pearl, with its bifurcated tail supporting a flaming pearl. The curved spout is painted with a classic scroll on each side and connected to the neck with an openwork s-shaped form strut, opposite to the loop handle applied with a lug at the top.

ProvenanceSold at Sotheby’s London, 16 June 1999, lot 787.

NoteIt is rare to find a Yuan ewer painted with dragons. Similar dragon motif is more often found on stem bowls and vases of the Yuan dynasty, see for example, a stem bowl in the Shanghai Museum, and a yuhuchunping in the Qingzhou Museum, included in the exhibition Splendors in Smalt: Art of Yuan Blue-and white Porcelain, Shanghai, 2012, no. 21 and no. 66, respectively.

For Yuan ewers of this form but painted with a different design, see an example painted with lotus pond illustrated in Mitsugi, Chinese Porcelain Collections in the Near East, Topkapi and Ardebil, Hong Kong, 1981, vol. I, p. 37 top; and another painted with floral sprays, sold at Sotheby’s London, 11 May 2011, lot 138.

A Very Rare Blue And White Square Censer And Cover, Wanli Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Rectangle And Of The Period (1573-1619)

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Lot 2929. A Very Rare Blue And White Square Censer And Cover, Wanli Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Rectangle And Of The Period (1573-1619); 8 5/8 in. (22 cm.) high, box. Estimate HKD 300,000 - HKD 500,000Unsold. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021.

The censer is painted on each side with a pair of dragons confronted on a flaming pearl, raised above four shaped legs painted with rolling and crashing waves, with a pair of rectangular openwork handles applied on either side of the mouth rim. The sides of the tiered cover are painted with the Eight Trigrams below a finial in the form of a qilin seated on its haunches. 

Provenance: Sold at Bonhams London, 8 November 2012, lot 38.

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Note: It is very rare to find a Wanli censer of this form complete with cover. Two nearly identical Wanli censers are in the Qing Court collection, one in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated on the cover of Porcelain of the National Palace Museum,Blue-and-White Ware of the Ming Dynasty, Book VI, Hong Kong, 1963, no. 9 (fig. 1); the other missing its cover, is in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (II) , Shanghai, 2000, p. 190, no. 177. (fig. 1 Collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei)

A Very Rare Large Iron-Red Decorated Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Bowl, Chenghua Period (1465-1487)

Lot 2930. A Very Rare Large Iron-Red Decorated Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Bowl, Chenghua Period (1465-1487); 8 5/16 in. (22.7 cm.) diam., boxEstimate HKD 1,500,000 - HKD 2,600,000Unsold. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021.

The bowl is decorated with four iron-red five-clawed dragons striding above underglaze-blue waves and interspersed with ruyi clouds below a diaper-pattern band at the mouth rim. The interior is decorated with a double-circle medallion containing a single iron-red dragon surrounded by blue clouds.

Provenance: The Regal Collection, formed from the late 19th century over two generations in Pennsylvannia, USA
Sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 8 October 2008, lot 2551.

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Note: The present bowl is a very rare example combining the use of underglaze blue and iron red from the Chenghua period. A nearly identical bowl (21.6 cm. diam.) dated to the Chenghua period is in the Palace Museum, Beijing, see The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red (II), Hong Kong, 2000, p, 246, no. 222 (fig. 1). Another related bowl (21.4 cm. diam.) without the iron-red decoration is in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Cheng-hua Porcelain Ware, Taipei, 2003, p. 120, no. 106. Compare also with a smaller bowl of this pattern with a flared rim and a darker tone of iron-red and blue excavated from Zhushan at Jingdezhen imperial kiln site, dated to the Zhengtong-Tianshun period (1436-1464), included in the exhibition catalogue Jingdezhen Porcelain Wares in Mid Fifteenth Century China, Hong Kong, Shanghai, 2019, p, 179, no. 10. (fig. 1 Collection of the Palace Museum, Beijin)

A Fine Small Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Lobed Jar, Wanli Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Circle And Of The Period (1573-1619)

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Lot 2931. A Fine Small Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Lobed Jar, Wanli Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Circle And Of The Period (1573-1619); 4 1/8 in. (10.2 cm.) high, boxEstimate HKD 300,000 - HKD 500,000Price realised HKD 375,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021.

The jar is potted with four lobes, one panel is painted with an ascending dragon in pursuit of a flaming pearl, while the other three panels are similarly painted with a descending dragon, all above a band of rolling waves crashing breaking against outcrops around the base. The short cylindrical foot is painted with a band of classic scroll.

Provenance: Sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 27 October 2003, lot 616.

An Incised Blue And White ‘Dragon’ dish, Wanli Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Circle And Of The Period (1573-1619)

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Lot 2932. An Incised Blue And White ‘Dragondish, Wanli Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Circle And Of The Period (1573-1619); 8 ½ in. (21.5 cm.) diam., boxEstimate HKD 300,000 - HKD 500,000Price realised HKD 375,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021.

The interior is painted with a double-line medallion enclosing a sinuous five-clawed dragon amidst clouds. The reverse is incised and reserved in white with five dragons on a ground of underglaze-blue waves.

ProvenanceA European private collection
Sold at Sotheby’s London, 5 December 1995, lot 271.

A Massive Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Dish, Jiajing Six-Character Mark Within A Double Rectangle In Underglaze Blue And Of The Period (1522-1566)

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 Lot 2933. Massive Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Dish, Jiajing Six-Character Mark Within A Double Rectangle In Underglaze Blue And Of The Period (1522-1566); 22 7/8 in. (58 cm.) diam., boxEstimate HKD 1,500,000 - HKD 2,500,000. Price realised HKD 1,625,000.  © Christie's Images Ltd 2021.

The dish is painted with a medallion on the centre of the interior with an ascending dragon and descending dragon in pursuit of a flaming pearl amidst clouds and above foaming waves. The exterior is painted with nine dragons in various attitudes above waves, with four pairs confronted on a flaming pearl. The reign mark is inscribed within a double-rectangle below the mouth rim on the exterior. The base is unglazed.

ProvenanceSold at Christie’s London, 16 November 1999, lot 187.

NoteIt is very rare to find such large Jiajing-marked dishes painted with a pair of dragons on the interior and nine dragons on the exterior. Compare a smaller dish (49.2 cm. diam.) painted with a similar design, but in a slightly different arrangement from the collection of Dr Ip Yee, sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 19 November 1984, lot 185; a smaller dish (50 cm. diam.) painted with a single dragon on the interior, and a pair of dragons on the exterior in the Topkapi Saray Museum, illustrated by J. Ayers and R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Vol.II, no.923; and a dish of similar size (57.5 cm. diam.) painted with cranes in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (II), Hong Kong, 2000, p. 131, no. 121.

A Rare Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Dish, Zhengde Four-Character Mark In Underglaze Within A Double Circle Blue And Of The Period (1506-1521)

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Lot 2934. Rare Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Dish, Zhengde Four-Character Mark In Underglaze Within A Double Circle Blue And Of  The Period (1506-1521); 8 3/8 in. (21.2 cm.) diam., boxEstimate HKD 800,000 - HKD 1,200,000Price realised HKD 1,000,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021.

The dish is finely painted in vibrant inky-blue tones in the centre with a leaping dragon amongst a dense lotus meander, the well with two further striding dragons amid lotus scrolls. The underside is painted with a similar design above a band of ruyi heads. The base is covered with a transparent glaze and inscribed with the reign mark.

ProvenanceHong Rui Tang Collection, Hong Kong
A Private Collection of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, sold at Sotheby’s London, 5 December 1995, lot 395.

Note: The design of five-clawed dragons amidst dense lotus scrolls is one of the most prevalent motifs seen on Zhengde porcelain. Its imperial provenance is further substantiated by the inclusion of a dish of this design on the sixth scroll of the imperial collection of the Yongzheng Emperor, the Guwan Tu, Scroll of Antiquities, dated to the sixth year of his reign (1728), from the Percival David Collection and now housed in the British Museum.

Zhengde-marked dishes of this design are found in museums and private collections worldwide, such as one (19.8 cm.) in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (II), Hong Kong, 2000, p. 68, no. 63; one (19.6 cm.) in the Shanghai Museum, published in Wang Qingzheng, Underglaze Blue and Red, Hong Kong, 1987, no. 154; one (20.2 cm.) in the Tianminlou Collection, illustrated in Blue & White Porcelain from the Collection of Tianminlou Foundation, Shanghai, 1996, no. 56; one (19.9 cm.) illustrated in Mayuyama, Seventy Years, vol. 1, Tokyo, 1976, no. 807; one (19.5 cm.) from the Meiyintang Collection, sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 9 October 2012, lot 19. Three slightly larger ones are known: two in the British Museum, illustrated by Jessica Harrison-Hall in Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, no. 8:15 (23.8 cm.), and no. 8:16 (24.8 cm.), and the third (24 cm.) from the R.F.A. Riesco Collection, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 27 November 2013, lot 3116 (Price realised: HK$3,880,000)(fig. 1).

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fig. 1 A rare blue and white 'Dragon' bowl, Zhengde four-character mark within double circles and of the period (1506-1521), 9 1/2 in. (24 cm.) diam. Estimate HKD 6,000,000 - HKD 9,000,000Price realised HKD 7,840,000 at Christie's Hong Kong, 27 November 2013, lot 3116© Christie's Images Ltd 2013 

Cf. my post: A rare blue and white 'Dragon' bowl, Zhengde four-character mark within double circles and of the period (1506-1521)

A Very Rare Underglaze-Blue And Aubergine-Enamelled ‘Dragon’ Bowl, Wanli Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Circle And Of The Period (1573-1619)

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Lot 2935. A Very Rare Underglaze-Blue And Aubergine-Enamelled ‘Dragon’ Bowl, Wanli Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Circle And Of The Period (1573-1619); 6 1/8 in. (15.5 cm.) diam., box. Estimate HKD 2,000,000 - HKD 3,000,000Price realised HKD 3,625,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021 

The exterior is painted and enamelled with a pair of ferocious five-clawed dragons striding amid clouds in pursuit of flaming pearls, above a key-fret band encircling the foot.

ProvenanceThe Jingguantang Collection: Magnificent Chinese Works of Art, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 3 November 1996, lot 573.

ExhibitedSelected Treasures of Chinese Art: Min Chiu Society Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition, Hong Kong, 1990-1991, Catalogue, no. 147.

NoteWanli bowls of this shape and pattern are very rare and are found with different colours. A small number of them combines the use of underglaze blue and overglaze enamels, as in the case of the present bowl, and on another bowl decorated in underglaze blue with green and black enamels in the Percival David Foundation, illustrated in Oriental Ceramics, vol. 6, fig. 179. Others from this group are found with only overglaze enamels, such as a yellow-enamelled iron-red decorated bowl in the Tokyo National Museum, see collection number: TG-2539, and another sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 8 October 2010, lot 2681. Some of the overglazed examples are also incised, such as three aubergine and yellow-enamelled bowls, one in the British Museum, illustrated by J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, pp. 330-1, pl. 11:143; one in the C. P. Lin Collection, illustrated in Ming and Qing Chinese Arts, Hong Kong, 2014, p. 207, no. 107; and a third sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28 November 2018, lot 2923 (fig. 1).

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fig. 1 A rare aubergine-ground and yellow-enamelled ‘dragon’ bowl, Wanli six-character mark in underglaze blue within a double circle and of the period (1573-1619); 6 in. (15.1 cm.) diam. Estimate: HK$1,200,000.00 - HK$2,000,000.00 (USD 153,810 - USD 256,350). Price realised HKD 3,700,000 at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28 November 2018, lot 2923© Christie's Image Ltd 2018.

Cf. my post: A rare aubergine-ground and yellow-enamelled ‘dragon’ bowl, Wanli six-character mark and of the period (1573-1619)

A Rare Large Dated sancai-Glazed Pottery ‘Dragon’ Censer, Dated Wanli 40th Year By Inscription, Corresponding To 1612 And Of The Period

Lot 2936. A Very Rare Underglaze-Blue And Aubergine-Enamelled ‘Dragon’ Bowl, Wanli Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Circle And Of The Period (1573-1619); 21 in. (53.5 cm.) high, wood stand, wood cover with soapstone finialEstimate HKD 400,000 - HKD 600,000Price realised HKD 1,062,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021 

The exterior of the censer is boldly carved in high relief around the sides with a pair of scaly four-clawed dragons emerging from clouds and confronted below a black flaming pearl on the neck, with a yellow ruyi collar pendent from the upright rim incised in a panel on one side with the dated inscription, Da Mingguo Wanli sishi nian suici renzi jiyue zhizao, ‘Made in the auspicious month of the renzi cycle in the 40th year of the Wanli reign of the Great Ming dynasty’, flanked by a pair of upright handles carved with a vertical ribbed band between a ruyi terminal below and another overhanging above, all supported on three cabriole legs emerging from lion-masks.

ProvenanceFalk Collection, no. 57
Sold at Christie’s New York, 16 October 2001, lot 150.

NoteThis magnificent censer belongs to a tradition of vigorously modelled, brilliantly glazed, large tripod censers dating back at least to the Yuan period. In 1964 a 14th century tripod censer (37 cm. high) with a dragon on one side and a phoenix on the other was excavated from the site of the Desheng Gate of the Yuan dynasty capital Dadu, modern Beijing, see Christie’s Education, Treasures from Ancient Beijing, New York, 2000, p. 16, no. 5. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has in its collection a tripod censer (43.5 cm. high) with a dragon and phoenix in high relief, illustrated in Oriental Ceramics, The Worlds Great Collections, vol. 11, Tokyo, 1982, no. 20, which is dated by inscription to the 7th year of Zhengde, equivalent to AD 1512.

Incense Burner, dated by inscription to the 7th year of Zhengde, equivalent to AD 1512, Ming dynasty (1368–1644)

Incense Burner, dated by inscription to the 7th year of Zhengde, equivalent to AD 1512Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Stoneware with relief decoration under colored glazes, H. 17 1/8 in. (43.5 cm) (without lid); W. 13 in. (33 cm). Gift of Mrs. Harry Payne Bingham, 1962, Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 62.101.1. © 2000–2021 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The present censer is even larger, 52.4 cm. high, and is dated by inscription to the 40th (renzi) year of Wanli, equivalent to AD 1612, and may be seen as the culmination of this tradition, which appears to begin sometime in the Yuan dynasty as a by-product of the tile-making industry. There was a flourishing industry making glazed architectural tiles in bright colours in southern Shanxi. Some of these tiles were for important buildings, made when the structure was under construction, when it was dedicated or when it was refurbished. In these instances an inscription was often applied to one of the tiles to commemorate the occasion. A large tile decorated in high relief in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is of this type and bears an inscription dated to the 27th year of Jiajing (equivalent to AD 1548) and states that the tile was part of the restoration to a temple in Zhili province; see R. Scott and R. Kerr, Ceramic Evolution in the Middle Ming Period, Percival David Foundation, 1994, p. 26, no. 37. In many instances, when the temples or other important buildings were constructed or refurbished, impressive new ritual vessels were also commissioned and inscribed with the appropriate date. It is probable that the present censer, with its large size, splendidly modelled high relief dragons and dated inscription, was made for such an occasion.

A Massive wucai ‘Dragon’ gu-Form Vase, Wanli Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Rectangle And Of The Period (1573-1619)

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Lot 2937. A Massive wucai ‘Dragon’ gu-Form Vase, Wanli Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Rectangle And Of The Period (1573-1619); 29 in. (73.5 cm.) high, box. Estimate HKD 600,000 - HKD 800,000812,500. Price realised HKD 812,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021

Modelled after an archaic bronze gu, the well-proportioned vase is decorated on the exterior with four horizontal registers depicting a total of twenty dragons in flight above waves and rocks. The mid-section is applied with four lion-form masks, and the unglazed base is pierced with four circular apertures for ventilation. 

ProvenanceSold at Christie’s London, 19 June 2001, lot 49.

NoteThe present vase is notable for its colourful enamels and impressive size. Compare with a very similar vase (75.2 cm.) sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 7 October 2015, lot 3662; and another example (74 cm.) decorated with dragons and phoenix in the Idemitsu Collection, illustrated in Chinese Ceramics in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, 1987, no. 203. Compare also with a slightly shorter blue and white version (69.4 cm.) in the Musée Guimet, illustrated in Oriental Ceramics, The Worlds Great Collections, vol. 7, Tokyo, 1981, fig. 81.

A Very Rare Gilt-Decorated Celadon-Glazed Ground ‘Dragon’ Jar And Cover, Jiaqing Six-Character Seal Mark In Iron Red And Of The Period (1796-1820)

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Lot 2938. A Very Rare Gilt-Decorated Celadon-Glazed Ground ‘Dragon’ Jar And Cover, Jiaqing Six-Character Seal Mark In Iron Red And Of The Period (1796-1820); 12 ¾ in. (32.6 cm.) high, box. Estimate HKD 4,500,000 - HKD 5,500,000 Price realised HKD 7,450,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021

The cylindrical jar is decorated around the exterior in gilt with a pair of five-clawed dragons with black-enamelled eyes striding in pursuit of flaming pearls amid clouds, flames and bats, between bands of alternating bats and ruyi heads, and bands of foliate scrolls, below a band of wan emblems encircling the neck and a band of keyfrets around the foot. The domed cover is decorated with bats in flight amid clouds, centered by a bud-form finial, surrounded by keyfrets repeated at the rim. The interior and the underside are enamelled turquoise. 

Provenance: Sold at Sotheby’s New York, 2 June 1993, lot 404
Sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 5 November 1996, lot 924.

Note: The present vase is a superb example of the finest porcelain made by the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen during the Jiaqing period. An entry from the Palace Archives dated to the 28th day of the 4th month of the Jiaqing 6th year shows a list of porcelain presented to the Emperor Jiaqing from Akdangga, the Superintendent of the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen at the time. The list contains ‘a pair of gilt-decorated abarello jars in Song-glaze’, which refers precisely to the present type of jars. According to the Taocheng jishi bei (Commemorative Stele on Ceramic Production) composed in 1735 by Tang Ying, the Superintendent of the Imperial kilns from 1728-1756, the celadon-glaze, like that seen on the present jar, was made in imitation of the Song-dynasty qingbai wares made in the Hutian kilns, Jiangxi province.

Only one other example of this type but missing cover appears to be known, which was sold at Christie’s London, 18 June 2002, lot 37. For other Jiaqing-marked vases with gilt decoration on celadon ground, see four garlic-mouth vases (18 cm.) in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, access numbers: zhongci-005117 – zhongci-005120. Compare also with a pair of Qianlong-marked gilt-decorated celadon-ground archaistic vases from the J.M. Hu Collection, sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 8 April 2010, lot 1803.

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From J.M. Hu Collection. A fine and very rare pair of archaistic celadon-ground gilt-decorated vases, Seal marks and period of Qianlong (1736-1795);  26.6 cm., 10 1/2 in. Est. 8,000,000—12,000,000 HKD. Lot Sold 35,380,000 HKD at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 8 April 2010, lot 1803Photo Sotheby's 2010

Cf. my post: A fine and very rare pair of archaistic celadon-ground gilt-decorated vases, Seal marks and period of Qianlong (1736-1795)

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Lot 2939. wucai ‘Dragon And Phoenix’ Three-Tiered Box, Kangxi Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Circle And Of The Period (1662-1722); 12 ¾ in. (32.6 cm.) high, box. Estimate HKD 300,000 - HKD 500,000Price realised HKD 375,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021

The box comprises a circular cover and two circular trays. The top of the cover is decorated with a roundel enclosing a pair of confronted dragon and phoenix in flight amid clouds. The sides of the cover and trays are similarly decorated. The upper tray is inscribed on the interior in red with the character tian, ‘Heaven’, and the bottom tray is inscribed with the character di, ‘Earth’. 

Provenance: Purchased in London, circa 1990s
Sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28 May 2014, lot 3426.

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Lot 2940. A Fine And Rare Underglaze-Blue And Green-Enamelled ‘Dragon’ Dish, Yongzheng Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Circle And Of The Period (1723-1735); 8 5/16 in. (21 cm.) diam., box. Estimate HKD 300,000 - HKD 500,000Price realised HKD 750,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021

The dish is painted on the centre of the interior with a double-line underglaze-blue medallion enclosing a ferocious five-clawed ascending dragon in pursuit of a flaming pearl amidst clouds outlined in blue and filled with green enamel. The exterior is similarly decorated with a pair of dragons in pursuit of flaming pearls.

Note: It is rare to find a dish of this design with a Yongzheng mark. A nearly identical dish is in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Catalog of the Special Exhibition of Kang-his, Yung-cheng and Chien-lung Porcelain Ware from the Ching Dynasty in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1986, no. 43. For Yongzheng-marked examples sold at auction, see a pair sold at Christie’s Paris, 13 June 2007, lot 208, and a one sold at Christie’s New York, 13 September 2012, lot 1533.

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A Green-Glazed Blue And White 'Dragon' Dish, Yongzheng Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Circle And Of The Period (1723-1735); 8 3/8 in. (21.3 cm.) diam. Sold for USD 62,500 at Christie’s New York, 13 September 2012, lot 1533. © Christie's Images Ltd 2012

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Lot 2941. A Fine And Rare Iron-Red Decorated café-Au-Lait ground ‘Dragon’ Dish,Yongzheng Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Square And Of The Period (1723-1735); 5 ¼ in. (13.4 cm.) diam., box. Estimate HKD 1,500,000 - HKD 2,500,000Price realised HKD 4,375,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021

The dish is finely painted in iron red with a ferocious five-clawed dragon in pursuit of a flaming pearl amid flames and clouds on the central medallion, with a border of rolling and crashing waves interspersed with jagged mountains on the exterior, all reserved on a café-au-lait glaze.

Provenance: E. T. Hall Collection, no. 288
S. Marchant & Son, London.

Exhibited: Oriental Ceramics Society, London; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Iron in the fire: the Chinese Potters exploration of iron oxide glazes, 1988, Catalogue, no. 81.
S. Marchant & Son, London, Imperial Porcelain of Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong, 9 June-25 June 1996, Catalogue, p. 39, no. 23.

Note: The visually striking combination of café-au-lait ground and iron-red decoration is very rare, and only two other pairs of dishes bearing this design appear to be known, one was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 1 October 1991, lot 846, the other was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 30 May 2005, lot 1470.

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Lot 2942. A Rare Reserve-Decorated Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Dish, Jiajing Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue And Of The Period (1522-1566); 8 3/16 in. (22.3 cm.) diam., box. Estimate HKD 300,000 - HKD 500,000Price realised HKD 750,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021

The centre of the interior is decorated with a scaly five-clawed dragon leaping amid ruyi-clouds and flames above waves crashing against rocks, within a double-circle repeated at rim. The exterior is decorated with ten mythical animals gambolling amidst clouds and waves. All reserved on a brilliant purplish-blue ground. The base is covered with a blue wash over the underglaze-blue mark.

Provenance: Sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 29 October 2001, lot 540.

Note: This unusual type of reverse decoration is a very distinctive technique of the Jiajing period. A dish of this design is in The Avery Brundage Collection at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, illustrated in Chinese Ceramics, London, 1996, no. 429.

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Lot 2943. Fine Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Bowl, Kangxi Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Circle And Of The Period (1662-1722); 6 ¼ in. (16 cm.) diam., box. Estimate HKD 300,000 - HKD 500,000. Price realised HKD 2,000,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021

The well potted bowl is finely painted with a pair of five-clawed scaly dragons striding in pursuit of flaming pearls.

Provenance: Sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 2 May 2000, lot 664.

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Lot 2944. A Rare Doucai Yellow-ground ‘Dragon’ Dish, Kangxi Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Circle And Of The Period (1662-1722); 8 3/8 in. (21.2 cm.) diam., box. Estimate HKD 200,000 - HKD 300,000Price realised HKD 937,500.© Christie's Images Ltd 2021

The dish is decorated on the interior with a double-line medallion enclosing a front-facing five-clawed dragon and a flaming pearl amid clouds. The reverse is decorated with a dragon and phoenix in flight amidst clouds above rolling waves and rocks, interspersed with a flaming pearl. All reserved on a pale lemon-yellow ground.

Provenance: T.T. Tsui Collection
Sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 29 April 1996, lot 754.

LiteratureThe Tsui Museum of Art - Chinese Ceramics IV, Qing Dynasty, Hong Kong, 1995, no. 119.

Exhibited: Hong Kong Museum of Art, no. 175.

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Lot 2945. A Fine Underglaze-Blue Lemon Yellow-Ground ‘Dragon’ Ogee Bowl, Qianlong Six-Character Seal Mark In Underglaze Blue And Of The Period (1736-1795); 6 ¾ in. (17.2 cm.) diam., box. Estimate HKD 500,000 - HKD 800,000Price realised HKD 625,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021

The bowl is painted on the exterior in underglaze blue with a pair of dragons in flight amidst clouds, and painted on the centre of the interior with a dragon medallion, all reserved on a rich lemon-yellow enamel.

Provenance: Sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 1-2 October 1991, lot 858
Sold at Christie’s London, 18 June 2002, lot 39.

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Lot 2946. A Rare Large Ming-Style Blue And White Reserve-Decoratd ‘Dragon’ Vase, meiping, Qing Dynasty, 18th Century; 14 ½ in. (36.8 cm.) high. Estimate HKD 2,000,000 - HKD 3,000,000Price realised HKD 2,500,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021

The vase is strongly potted with a broad rounded shoulder, the tapered body is finely incised and reserved in white with a sinuous five-clawed dragon in pursuit of a flaming pearl amidst ruyi-clouds and above turbulent waves crashing against rocky boulders, all reserved on an inky-blue cobalt ground imitating the Ming-style ‘heaping and piling’ effect. The base is unglazed.

ProvenanceSold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 30 April 2001, lot 657.

Note: Two closely related meiping of comparable height are known, one (36.1cm.) is in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, published by René Lefebvre d’Argencé in Chinese Ceramics in the Avery Brundage Collection, p. 114, no. LII C, where it is dated Ming dynasty, 16th century, but later published by He Li in Chinese Ceramics A New Comprehensive Survey, San Francisco, 1996, pp. 290-91, no. 592, and re-dated to the Yongzheng period; the other from The Studio of the Clear Garden, was sold at Christie’s New York, 22 March 2018, lot 604 (36.8 cm.)(US$732,500)(fig. 1).

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fig. 1. A Rare Large Ming-Style Blue And White Reserve-Decorated 'Dragon' meiping, 18th Century; 14 ½ in. (36.8 cm.) high. Sold for USD 732,500 at Christie’s New York, 22 March 2018, lot 604© Christie's Images Ltd 2018.

The white areas of the Asian Art Museum meiping have a network of crackling which may have occurred during its rapid cooling after the firing process. The same crackling also occurs on a similar reserve-decorated vase of this form but smaller (23.8 cm.) in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Blue-and-white Ware of the Ming Dynasty, Book I, Hong Kong, 1963, p. 64, no. 12 (fig. 2). Originally catalogued as early Ming, it is possible that it also dates to the early Qing period. The Taiwan example is discussed by Soame Jenyns, T.O.C.S., vol. 31, 1957-59, ‘Visit to Pie-kou, Taiwan’, p. 56, pl. 15a.

A blue and white reserve-decorated meiping, dated Yongle period, 23

fig. 2 A blue and white reserve-decorated meiping, dated Yongle period, 23.8 cm high. Collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei.

The present meiping and the other similar examples are based on Yongle prototypes such as the similarly decorated vase but of slightly different form illustrated in the Chang Foundation exhibition catalogue, Imperial Hongwu and Yongle Porcelain Excavated at Jingdezhen, Taipei, 1996, no. 66 (fig. 3). On this excavated meiping, the body of the dragon is also carved under the clear glaze and is shown against a rich blue ground of breaking waves bordered above and below by bands of petal lappets. On the later Yongzheng meiping, the blue wave ground has become more of a dark blue wash and the breaking waves are confined to a band at the bottom. 

A blue and white reserve-decorated meiping, Yongle period

fig. 3 A blue and white reserve-decorated meiping, Yongle period. Excavated from Zhushan, Jingdezhen. Collection of the Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute.

A Gilt And Iron-Red Decorated Blue And White Seal Paste Box And Cover Maoqin Dian Mark In Gilt And Iron Red, Jiaqing Six-Character Seal Mark In Underglaze Blue And Of The Period (1796-1820)

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Lot 2947. A Gilt And Iron-Red Decorated Blue And White Seal Paste Box And Cover, Maoqin Dian Mark In Gilt And Iron Red, Jiaqing Six-Character Seal Mark In Underglaze Blue And Of The Period (1796-1820); 9 in. (23 cm.) diam., box. Estimate HKD 2,000,000 - HKD 3,000,000Price realised HKD 4,000,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021 

 The domed cover is finely painted with a pair of three-clawed dragons in gilt and outlined in iron red with flames rising from their haunches as they circle a rectangular cartouche enclosing the characters Maoqin Dian (Hall of Merit and Diligence) in seal script, all reserved against a ground of pencilled pale underglaze-blue clouds. The box is similarly decorated with a pair of dragons.

Provenance: J.M. Hu Collection
Sold at Sotheby’s New York, 15 September 1999, lot 91.

Note: The cover of the present seal paste box is inscribed with the mark Maoqin Dian (Hall of Merit and Diligence), which is the name of a hall within the Qianqing Palace in the Forbidden City constructed in the 14th year of the Jiajing period (1535). Maoqin Dian was one of the Emperor’s main study during the Qianlong and Jiaqing periods, where they read palace memorials and appreciated calligraphy and paintings. Thus, many of the Imperial seals were kept at Maoqin Dian for direct access. The three-clawed dragons on the present box suggest that it was made during the first four years of the Jiaqing period when his father, the Emperor Qianlong, reigned as the Emperor Emeritus.

Six other seal paste boxes and covers of this type are known. One is in the Palace Museum, Beijing, which still has traces of cinnabar seal paste inside the box, included in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Small Refined Articles of the Study, Hong Kong, 2009, no. 288 (fig. 1); one sold at Sotheby’s New York, 23 October, 1976, lot 322, then sold at Poly Beijing, 6 December 2011, lot 4983; one sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 13 December 1977, lot 539; one sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 8 November 1982, lot 163; one sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 13 January 1987, lot 519; one from the collection of Abigail Adams, sold at Christie’s New York, 29 March 2006, lot 445, now in the Studio of Measure, exhibited in No Doubts, Christie’s Shanghai, 2014, see Catalogue no. 35; and the pair to the present box, sold at Sotheby’s New York, 4 June, 1985, lot 77.

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fig. 1 Collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.

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Lot 2948. Rare Iron-Red Decorated ‘chilong’ Garlic-Mouth Vase,Yongzheng Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Square And Of The Period (1723-1735); 7 ½ in. (19.5 cm.) high, box. Estimate HKD 600,000 - HKD 800,000Price realised HKD 1,625,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021

The exterior is painted in shades of iron red with three chilong with sinuous bodies and split tails chasing each other.

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Note: A bottle of this rare design and form is in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Kangxi, Yongzheng, Qianlong: Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum collection, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 240, no. 69 (fig. 1); another from the J. M. Hu Collection, was sold at Christie’s New York, 28 March 1996, lot 388. (fig. 1 Collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.)

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Lot 2949. A Blue And White ‘Dragon’ Jar, Qianlong Six-Character Seal Mark In Underglaze Blue And Of The Period (1736-1795); 7 7/8 in. (20 cm.) high, box. Estimate HKD 500,000 - HKD 800,000Price realised HKD 437,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021

The exterior is finely painted in underglaze blue with a pair of five-clawed dragons in flight and in pursuit of flaming pearls amidst clouds and flames, below a band of Eight Buddhist Treasures at the shoulders and above a band of upright petals at the foot.

Provenance: Sold at Christie’s London, 9 June 1997, lot 95.

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Lot 2950. A Very Rare Large Underglaze-Blue And Copper-Red Decorated Pear-Shaped Vase, yuhuchunping, Qianlong Six-Character Seal Mark In Underglaze Blue And Of The Period (1736-1795); 19 ¼ in. (49 cm.) high. Estimate HKD 2,000,000 - HKD 3,000,000Price realised HKD 4,750,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021 

The vase is painted in underglaze red with two ferocious five-clawed dragons striding amidst underglaze-blue clouds in pursuit of a flaming pearl, above a band of foaming waves and a classic scroll encircling the spreading foot. 

Provenance: Sold at Sotheby’s London, 11 June 1991, lot 205
Sold at Christie’s New York, 16 September 1999, lot 328.

Note: The combination of underglaze-blue and copper-red on porcelain is one of the most difficult techniques accomplished by potters at the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen. The firing of the highly-temperamental copper-red posed a significant challenge to potters, making the present vase with its well-controlled vivid copper-red and vibrant tone of underglaze blue a very rare and successful example of the High Qing imperial kilns.

The present vase is further distinguished by its large size, which would have made it even more difficult to fire successfully. No other Qianlong-marked underglaze-blue and copper-red yuhuchunping of this size and design appears to have been published. Similar Qianlong-marked examples decorated with dragons are found in the form of bottle vases and tianqiuping, such as the ones in the Palace Museum, Beijing, see The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (III), Shanghai, 2000, no. 209 (bottle vase, 45 cm.), no. 210 (tianqiuping, 47 cm.), no. 211 (tianqiuping, 55 cm.).

Compare also to a group of unmarked underglaze-blue and copper-red yuhuchunping dated to the Yongzheng period in the Qing court collection, including one (44 cm.) decorated with peaches and bats (fig. 1), a smaller one (31.5 cm.) with peaches, and one with a lotus scroll (30 cm.), see ibid., pp. 212-214, nos. 193-195.

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fig. 1 Collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.

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Lot 2951. A Very Rare famille Rose lemon Yellow-Ground ‘Nine-Dragon’ Deng And Cover, Qianlong Impressed Six-Character Seal Marks And Of The Period (1736-1795); 10 ¾ in. (27 cm) high, box. Estimate HKD 4,500,000 - HKD 5,500,000Price realised HKD 11,050,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021

The bowl is brilliantly enamelled with a pair of dragons striding above waves in pursuit of a flaming pearl below a key-fret band, supported on a tall stem decorated with two bands of dragons, all raised on a domed foot with two further dragons above waves. The similarly decorated cover is surmounted by an iron-red spherical finial. The bright enamels are reserved on a lemon-yellow ground. There is an impressed mark on the underside of the cover and the underside of the bowl.

Provenance: Sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 29 April 1997, lot 692.

Note: The present deng was a ritual vessel made by imperial command for the main hall of the Temple of Imperial Ancestors. The vessel deng was used in antiquity as a food vessel for meat soup during banquets among nobles, and had since been adopted as a ritual vessel. It is different from the vessel dou in that it has a spherical finial on the cover as opposed to a rope-twist handle.

In Qianlong 13th year (1748), regulations on ceramic ritual vessels made for state temples were promulgated. According to the regulation, deng made for the main hall of the Temple of Imperial Ancestors had a yellow ground with elaborate design of dragons and waves. A coloured illustration showing such deng was included in Huangchao liqi tushi (The Illustrated Regulations for Ceremonial Paraphernalia of the Imperial Dynasty)(fig. 1), which is nearly identical to the present example. An imperial edict issued in the 13th year of the Qianlong reign indicates that the porcelain ritual vessels were made at the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen under the supervision of Tang Ying.

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fig. 1 Taimiao Houdian deng tu [Illustration of the deng vessel in the Rear Hall of the Imperial Ancestral Temple]’, Huangchao liqi tu [Illustrations of ceremonial paraphernalia for State rituals] Courtesy of Woolley and Wallis. 

A very similar Qianlong-marked famille rose yellow-ground deng was included in the Chinese University of Hong Kong exhibition Ching Porcelain from the Wah Kwong Collection, 1973, no. 47. Compare also with two famille rose yellow-ground deng dated to the 18th-19th century in the Huaihai Tang Collection, include in the Chinese University of Hong Kong exhibition For Blessings and Guidance: the Qianlong Emperors Design for State Sacrificial Vessels, 2019, see Catalogue, p. 187 (fig. 2).

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fig. 2 A pair of famille rose yellow-ground deng, Qing dynasty, 18th-19th century. Courtesy of the Huaihai Tang Collection.

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Lot 2952. A Rare doucai and Iron-Red Decorated ‘Dragon’ Dish, Kangxi Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Circle And Of The Period (1662-1722); 8 3/8 in. (21.2 cm.) diam., boxEstimate HKD 400,000 - HKD 600,000Price realised HKD 875,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021 

The dish is painted on the interior with an iron-red five-clawed dragon in pursuit of a flaming pearl amid flames and billowing underglaze-blue clouds, emerging from rolling waves crashing against an angular outcrop outlined in underglaze blue and enamelled in aubergine and varying tones of green. The exterior is painted with a pair of iron-red dragons striding through underglaze-blue clouds. The eyes of the dragons are highlighted in black enamel.

Provenance  Bluett & Sons, London
A private collection, formed in England and the Republic of Ireland
Sold at Sotheby’s London, 19 June 2002, lot 47.

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Lot 2953. A Fine And Rare Underglaze-Blue And Iron-Red Decorated ‘Dragon’ Bowl, Yongzheng Six-Character Seal Mark In Black Enamel And Of The Period (1723-1735); 5 in. (12.6 cm.) diam., boxEstimate HKD 280,000 - HKD 350,000Price realised HKD 525,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021 

The bowl is painted on the exterior with a pair of iron-red dragons in pursuit of flaming pearls amid underglaze-blue clouds above a band of upright petal lappets. The centre of the interior is painted with a medallion enclosing a dragon in similar design.

ProvenanceSold at Sotheby’s New York, 19 March 1997, lot 311.

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Lot 2954. Fine And Rare wucai Dragon’ Cup, Yongzheng Six-Character Mark In Underglaze Blue Within A Double Circle And Of The Period (1723-1735); 5 in. (12.6 cm.) diam., box. Estimate HKD 1,000,000 - HKD 1,500,000Price realised HKD 1,250,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021 

The finely potted cup is painted in bright enamels and underglaze blue with two sinuous four-clawed dragons in flight in pursuit of flaming pearls amidst clouds.

ProvenanceSold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 16 May 1989, lot 337
Sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 1 November 2004, lot 1103.

Note: No other Yongzheng cup of this design appears to be published. The present cup was probably made early in the Yongzheng period, as it compares closely to late Kangxi cups and bowls, such as a Kangxi-marked doucai bowl painted with dragon medallions in the Shanghai Museum, illustrated in Kangxi Porcelain Wares, Hong Kong, 1998, no. 159 (fig. 1), which is also potted with deep rounded sides rising to a straight rim, and inscribed with a mark in three vertical columns, possibly by the same hand as the potter who inscribed the present cup given the similarity in the modulation of each stroke and the spacing between strokes. The manner in which the dragons and clouds are painted is also similar, although the use of turquoise enamel was not found on the Kangxi example.

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fig. 1 Collection of the Shanghai Museum

2955

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Lot 2955. An Extremely Rare Imperial yangcai puce, Blue, And Black-Enamelled ‘Dragon And Phoenix’sgraffito pink-Ground Tea Bowl And Cover, Qianlong Six-Character Seal Marks In Iron Red And Of The Period (1736-1795); 4 in. (10.2 cm.) diam., box. Estimate HKD 2,000,000 - HKD 3,000,000Price realised HKD 6,730,000.  © Christie's Images Ltd 2021

The bowl is finely enamelled in puce enamel with a dragon and phoenix in flight with eyes picked out in black amid blue-enamelled clouds above a band of conjoined ruyi heads and a band of dots around the foot, against a pale pink-enamelled sgraffito ground incised with feathery scrolls. The cover is similarly decorated. The top of the cover and the base of the bowl are inscribed with the iron-red reign marks reserved on a turquoise enamel. The interiors are covered with a transparent glaze.

Provenance: Sold at Sotheby’s New York, 23-24 April 1975, lot 342
Sold at Sotheby’s New York, 16 September 2008, lot 125.

NoteThis exquisite tea bowl and cover is a masterpiece of the 18th-century imperial kilns at Jingdezhen. It is a successful combination of colour, composition and texture on a three-dimensional space. The making of this bowl and cover was an especially difficult one that required the utmost finesse and precision. After the initial firing, the bowl and cover were enamelled in pale pink and then exquisitely painted with a pair of dragon and phoenix in puce enamel, with clouds and other secondary elements in blue enamel. Of special note is the pale pink-enamelled ground, which was finely incised with a feathery scroll in a design known as jinshang tianhua, ‘flower brocade’, which did not appear on porcelain prior to the Qianlong reign, and was particularly effective in creating a more textured surface and a more layered effect conveying a sense of depth.

There are two versions of this ‘flower brocade’, applied to the two most esteemed types of porcelains made for the Qianlong court falangcai and yangcai. In one group the delicate scroll or lattice on the background enamel was painted, while in the other the design was incised into the background enamel. The current bowl and cover belongs to the latter group, yet distinguishes itself from other examples in this group by having the scroll design incised into the background enamel after, as opposed to before, the enamelled design on top.

The painting of the puce-enamelled dragon and phoenix is exceptionally fine and is comparable in quality and style to the painting of the phoenix found on the pink-enamelled blue and white moonflask from the Shorenstein Collection, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 1 December 2010, lot 2968 (fig. 1).

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fig. 1 A pink-enamelled blue and white moonflask, Qianlong mark and period, from the Shorenstein Collection, 19 1/4 in. (48.9cm.) high. Price Realised  HKD 123,860,000 (USD 16,015,135) at Christie’s Hong Kong,
1 December 2010, lot 2968. © Christie's Images Ltd 2010.

Cf. my post: A magnificent large pink-enamelled blue and white moonflask, Qianlong six-character sealmark and of the period (1736-1795)

No other tea bowl and cover with the same intricate design and colour combination appears to have been published. Similar examples are found with iron-red decoration reserved on a white-enamelled sgraffito ground, such as a tea bowl and cover in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Kangxi Yongzheng QianlongQing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1995, p. 332, no. 13, opposite to a similarly decorated cup and cup stand, see ibid., p. 333, no. 14; another tea bowl and cover in the Nanjing Museum, illustrated in Treasures in the Royalty: The Official Kiln Porcelain of the Chinese Qing Dynasty, Nanjing, 2003, p. 276; one from the Collections of Mrs. Henry J. Bernheim, and The Met Museum, sold at Christie’s New York, 15 September 2016, lot 967 (fig. 2); and a pair of cups in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Special Exhibition of Kang-hsi, Yung-cheng and Chieng-lung Porcelain Ware from the Ching Dynasty, Taipei, 1986, p. 154, no. 128.

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fig. 2 An iron-red decorated sgraffito bowl and cover, Qianlong period, from the Collections of Mrs. Henry J. Bernheim and The Met Museum, 4 ¼ in. (10.7 cm.) diam., sold for USD 161,000 at Christie’s New York, 15 September 2016, lot 967© Christie's Images Ltd 2016

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Lot 2956. A Rare Copper-Red Decorated ‘Dragon And Phoenix’ Vase, meiping, Qing Dynasty, 18th Century; 13 ½ in. (34.3 cm.) high, boxEstimate HKD 600,000 - HKD 800,000. Price realised HKD 812,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021

The high-shouldered vase is painted in underglaze red of brilliant raspberry tone with a dragon and phoenix in flight amidst a peony scroll, their eyes picked out in underglaze blue, below bands of conjoined ruyi-heads, classic scroll and trefoil scroll around the neck, and above a band of upright petal lappets above the foot.

Provenance: Sold at Christie’s Paris, 11 June 2008, lot 110.

Note: It is rare to find a copper-red decorated vessel with the ‘dragon and phoenix’ design and fired with such a vibrant and even tone. The ‘dragon and phoenix’ design is more often found on doucai vases of this period, such as a larger meiping with cover (43.6 cm. high) dated to the Qianlong period, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum,Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colours, Hong Kong, 1999, p.259, no. 237.

Christie'sImportant Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Hong Kong, 28 may 2021