When the owners of the current collection invited Daniel Pasgrimaud - who has been described by Daniel Alcouffe, a former Director of the Department of Art at the Louvre Museum, as ‘one of the greatest decorators of our time’ - to decorate their house on the Riviera in 1990, Pasgrimaud took inspiration from a number of the Chinese pieces in the collection. On the one hand, the pale celadon green of Chinese jades informed the colour palette of the grand salon, while the clear tones of Chinese monochrome porcelains provided inspiration for the décor in the dining room.

These monochrome porcelains include examples of iconic 18th century glazes. One of the most ethereal colours is the soft pale blue glaze seen on a pair of Yongzheng bowls (lot 504). This colour is known as clair de lune in the West and in China as tianlan 天藍, ‘Heavenly blue’. The main colorant of this glaze is cobalt, but only about 1% of cobalt was used to create the delicate colour. While the cobalt used in this glaze was not afflicted by the iron which was a feature of the cobalt used in the Yuan and early Ming dynasties, analysis has shown that both manganese and rubidium were present in 18th century clair de lune glazes (see E.T. Hall and A.M. Pollard, ‘Analysis of Chinese Monochrome Glazes by X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometry’, Scientific and Technological Insights on Ancient Chinese Pottery and Porcelain, Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, Academia Sinica (eds), Science Press, Beijing, 1986, pp. 382-6).

In contrast to the delicate cool tone of the Yongzheng clair de lune bowls, the current sale also includes a Qianlong chrysanthemum-shaped dish with a brilliant rouge-pink glaze (lot 501). Although the pink enamel that gave the famille rose palette its name was developed in the last years of the Kangxi reign, the colour seems first to have been successfully used as a monochrome under Yongzheng and continued in popularity into the Qianlong reign. Like its famille rose counterpart, the monochrome pink was coloured with colloidal gold, and could be used as a bright, translucent, colour or could be mixed with lead arsenate to produce a pastel pink. Chrysanthemum-shaped dishes with slender petals, like those on this dish, were made in both the Yongzheng and the Qianlong reigns, but those made for the Yongzheng Emperor have petals with slightly more pointed ends, while those from the Qianlong reign have more rounded tips. Palace records for the 27th day of the 12th month of the 11th year of Yongzheng's reign (1733) note a decree instructing Nian Xiyao 年希堯, Minister of the Imperial Household, to send "chrysanthemum dishes in twelve colours, one in each colour, for the inspection of the permanent guardian of the treasury and chief eunuch Samuha". Apparently 40 of each colour were sent to the palace. Interestingly, more than 12 colours in this form are known. A later order from the Qianlong emperor demanded four hundred and eighty chrysanthemum-shaped vessels of various forms, sizes and colours.

Among the highlights of the current collection are two pairs of yellow bowls. The larger of the pairs dates to the Kangxi reign and has a warm yellow glaze (lot 502), while the smaller pair dates to the Yongzheng reign and bears a citrus yellow glaze (lot 503). The warm-toned yellow, which is often referred to as ‘imperial yellow’, and sometimes called ‘chicken fat yellow’ in China, is lead-silicate glaze, which owes its colour to small amounts (about 3.5%) of iron oxide. It seems probable that the ‘imperial yellow’ was fired at a slightly higher temperature than other, similar, yellows in order to obtain a better colour and clarity. It could either be applied directly to the pre-fired body or on top of a colourless high-fired glaze. The former method typically gave a richer, warmer, colour, while the latter gave a more even, slightly fluid appearance. This yellow is especially highly-regarded because, according to Qing regulations, only the emperor, empress or dowager empress could use vessels which were of yellow both inside and out. Those of lesser status had to use vessels decorated with combinations of colours appropriate to their rank. In the early 18th century, a new yellow monochrome appeared, which was quite different from the translucent, warm, yellows produced using iron as a colorant. This new yellow, which was also low-firing, was lemon in tone and was opaque. The colorant for this citrus yellow was lead antimonate (lead and antimony). This new citrus yellow appears to have been especially favoured for use on small delicate cups like the current examples. The collector’s interest in yellow was not restricted to porcelain glazes.

The collection includes a number of rare yellow jades, ranging from archaistic vessels such as the vase and cover (lot 536) and phoenix ritual wine vessel gong (lot 535), to the charming jade camel (lot 533), which closely resembles in form the famous camel in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (see Chinese Jade Throughout the Ages, London, 1975, cat. no. 201).

The current sale also contains a striking ‘imperial’ yellow glass snuff bottle, which dates to the Qianlong reign and has been inscribed with an imperial poem (lot 581). Appropriately the poem has been incised into the surface of the snuff bottle and then the lines have been coloured vermillion, resembling the red ink which the emperor used to annotate palace memorials.

Rosemary Scott, Independent Scholar.





Lot 501. A ruby-glazed 'chrysanthemum' dish, Qing dynasty, Qianlong six-character seal mark in underglaze blue and of the period (1736-1795). Diamètre : 18 cm. (7 1/8 in.). Price realised EUR 199,080 (Estimate EUR 20,000 – EUR 30,000). © Christie's Limited Images 2022

L'aile imitant la forme des pétales d'une fleur de chrysanthème, l'intérieur du plat et le revers de l'aile sont recouverts d'une belle glaçure rouge rubis brillante.

ProvenanceAcquired by the father of V.W.S. (1890-1977) in China in the 1930s.
The V.W.S. (1918-1974) Collection.

Note: A chrysanthemum dish of the same colour, the same size, and also with a Qianlong mark, is illustrated in R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. 2, London, 1994, p. 245, no. 916. Chrysanthemum shaped dishes started to be produced under the Yongzheng reign and were manufactured in sets of twelve colours, including a ruby ground. A complete set from the Qing Court Collection, Beijing, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 37 - Monochrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1999, pp. 282-83, no. 257. A set of chrysanthemum dishes of different colours from the Yongzheng and Qianlong period is illutrated in J. Ayers, The Baur Collection, Geneva, vol. 3, 1972, nos. A496-A500.





Lot 502. A pair of yellow-glazed incised bowls, Qing dynasty, Kangxi six-character marks within double circles in underglaze blue and of the period (1662-1722). Diamètre : 12 cm. (4 3/4 in.). Price realised EUR 40,320 (Estimate EUR 60,000 – EUR 80,000). © Christie's Limited Images 2022

Reposant sur un petit pied droit circulaire ceint d'une bande de pétales, ils sont à décor incisé sur l'aile de médaillons floraux parmi les nuages stylisés, et au centre d'un médaillon floral.

ProvenanceAcquired by the father of V.W.S. (1890-1977) in China in the 1930s.
The V.W.S. (1918-1974) Collection.

Note: A similar bowl with Kangxi mark is illustrated by R. Krahl and C. von Spee in Chinese Ceramics from the Gulexuan Collection, Germany, 2003, pp. 128-9, no. 97, which was previously sold in Christie's London, 13 December 1976, lot 55. Another in the Percival David Foundation is included in the Illustrated Catalogue of Ming and Ch'ing Monochrome, London, 1973, no. A599. Bowls of this type continued to be made during the Qianlong and Daoguang periods, as evidenced by the preceding lot. See a similar bowl from the Georg Weishaupt (1906-2004) Collection sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 26 November 2014, lot 3371.







Lot 503. A pair of lemon-yellow-glazed wine cups, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng six-character marks within double circles in underglaze blue and of the period (1723-1735). Hauteur : 5,9 cm. (2 3/8 in.) ; Diamètre : 9,1 cm. (3 5/8 in.), socles en boisPrice realised EUR 214,200 (Estimate EUR 60,000 – EUR 80,000). © Christie's Limited Images 2022

L'extérieur de la panse évasée et le petit pied droit sont entièrement recouverts d'une belle glaçure brillante jaune citron.

Provenance: Acquired by the father of V.W.S. (1890-1977) in China in the 1930s.
The V.W.S. (1918-1974) Collection.

NoteSee a comparable pair of cups from the Percival David Foundation, illustrated in Sekai toji zenshu, vol. 15, Japan, 1983, p. 203, no. 292, and another pair illustrated in R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. 2, London, 1994, p. 240, no. 908.
A comparable single lemon-yellow-glazed cup with a Yongzheng mark and of the period was recently sold at Sotheby’s New York, 22 March 2022, lot 79.





Lot 504. A pair of 'clair-de-lune' glazed bowls, Qing dynasty, Yongzheng six-character marks within double circles in underglaze blue and of the period (1723-1735). Diamètre : 12 cm. (4 3/4 in.), socles en hongmuPrice realised EUR 100,800 (Estimate EUR 80,000 – EUR 120,000). © Christie's Limited Images 2022

Reposant sur un petit pied droit circulaire, la panse évasée est entièrement recouverte à l'extérieur d'une belle glaçure bleu pâle très brillante.

Provenance: Acquired by the father of V.W.S. (1890-1977) in China in the 1930s.
The V.W.S. (1918-1974) Collection (inventory number VWS 42).

NoteA pair of Yongzheng 'clair de lune' bowls of the same shape and the same size is illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Porcelains from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 1994, vol. 2, no. 839. See also a pair of Yongzheng 'clair de lune' bowls from the Professor E. T. Hall, C. B. E., sold at Christie's London, 7 June 2004, lot 270 and a pair of similar bowls from the Chicago Art Institute sold at Christie's New York, 12 September 2019, lot 745. 

Christie's. From Beijing to Versailles, the V.W.S. collection, Paris, 13-14 december 2022