Lot 239. An extremely rare molded wucai 'dragon' zun-form vase, Mark and period of Wanli (1573-1619). Height 25¼ in., 64.2 cm. Unsold (Estimate: 150,000 - 250,000 USD). © Sotheby's 2022
the rim with a six-character mark in underglaze blue within a rectangular cartouche.
Provenance: French Private Collection.
Note: Richly painted in underglaze blue and bright enamels, this vase belongs to a well-known group of Wanli (r. 1573-1620) altar vases modeled after archaic bronze wine containers, such as zun or gu. Although vessels of this type can vary in proportions, it is extremely rare to find them molded in relief as on the present piece, and only one other example is known. Previously in the collection of Yokogawa Tamisuke, the closely related molded zun is now in the Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo (accession no. TG-903) and illustrated in Mayuyama, Seventy Years, vol. 1, Tokyo, 1976, pl. 914.
Two vases of this form and design, but without the molded decoration to the body, are preserved in museums: one, formerly in the collection of Russell Tyson, now in the Art Institute of Chicago (accession no. 1964.669); the other in the Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo, illustrated in Chinese Ceramics in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, 1987, pl. 739.
There is also a smaller version of this type of vessel with the upper section more compressed: one measuring 49.2 cm in height, the iron-red enamels slightly less vibrant, is illustrated in Ryoichi Fujioka and Gakuji Hasebe ed., Sekai tōji zenshū / Ceramic Art of the World, vol. 14: Ming Dynasty, Tokyo, 1976, pl. 222; a pair of vases (48.5 cm) with a very similar style of painting to the present, sold at Christie’s New York, 22nd March 2007, lot 316; and another is also illustrated in Mayuyama, op.cit., 1976, pl. 917.
Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, New York, 21 september 2022