An exceptionally rare white marble pear-shaped bottle and cover, Sui-Tang dynasty, 7th century




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Lot 295. An exceptionally rare white marble pear-shaped bottle and cover, Sui-Tang dynasty, 7th century. Height 12⅜ in., 31.5 cm. Estimate: 80,000 - 120,000 USD. © Sothebys.

Property from an American Private Collection.

ProvenanceSotheby's New York, 22nd September 2005, lot 297.

Note: It is extremely rare to find vessels of this early date made of marble, a medium that was then used for carving figural or animal sculptures. A few white marble vessels, such as a footed cup, a shallow dish and a box, have been excavated from a Tang dynasty tomb in Xingyuan village, Yanshi, Henan province, illustrated in Kaogu, no. 10, 1984, pls 7:6 and 8:2, with line drawings on p. 911, figs 9:1 and 6 and p. 912, fig. 10:4. Another Tang cup stand carved with floral and cloud motifs was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 1st December 2010, lot 3234.

Vessels of similar form, particularly with the characteristic neatly fitted, recessed cover, are known since the late 6th century in white stoneware and closely resemble this white marble version. A Sui dynasty (581-618) small covered jar of depressed pear-shape with a countersunk cover, excavated at Houchuan, Shanxian, Henan province is illustrated in Zhongguo taoci quanji / Complete series on Chinese ceramics, vol. 5, Shanghai, 2000, pl. 13; a smaller white stoneware bottle of similar form but lacking the cover, is illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. 1, London, 1994, pp 120-1, pl. 197; another is illustrated in Masahiko Sato, Chinese Ceramics. A Short History, New York and Tokyo, 1981, p. 53, fig. 74. 

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, New York, 23 March 2022