A rare carved 'Cizhou' offering bowl, Jin-Yuan dynasty (1115-1368)

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Lot 391. A rare carved 'Cizhou' offering bowl, Jin-Yuan dynasty (1115-1368). Width 12½ in., 31.7 cm. Estimate: 40,000 - 60,000 USD. © Sothebys.

ProvenanceHong Kong Private Collection, acquired by the early 1990s.

Note: The octagonal form featuring incurved facets enclosing a central well is extremely rare. The usage of this type of vessel is still unknown. Variously described as mortars, inkstones, washers or offering bowls, related vessels have been historically attributed by scholars to the Dangyangyu kilns in northern Henan, one of the several Henan kilns that were producing 'Cizhou' ware.

Compare a related vessel of circular form, described as a 'brush bath' from the Frederick M. Mayer collection illustrated in Henry Trubner, Chinese Ceramics from the Prehistoric Period through Ch’ien Lung, Los Angeles, 1952, cat, no. 229; the same vessel was attributed to the Tangyangyu (Dangyangyu) kiln by Jan Wirgin, published in 'Sung Ceramic Designs', The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Bulletin No. 42, Stockholm, 1970, pl. 50:i, and illustrated alongside pillows with similar leaf-scroll designs of this type. Compare another example from the M. Calmann Collection, exhibited at National Museum of History, Taipei, illustrated in Terre de Neige, de Glace, et d’Ombre: Quatorze Siecles d’histoire de la ceramique chinoise a travers les collections du Musee Guimet, Taipei, 1999, cat. no. 115. Even though it was historically believed to be an inkstone, the museum catalogue described it as a mortar because it is 'too big' to be used for ink grinding.

Only one other example of octagonal shape appears to be published, which is in the Meiyintang Collection and illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. 3 (II), London, 2006, pl. 1535. Qin Dashu in 'Baiyou tihua zhuangshi de changsheng, fazhan ji xiangguan wenti [The emergence and development of white wares with sgrffito designs and related questions]', Wenwu, no. 11, Beijing, 2001, pl. 24, attributes the Meiyintang piece to the Dangyangyu kiln and described it as a washer.

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