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Priestley & Ferraro chinese art

C hinese

K orean C eramics W orks of A rt



C hinese and K orean C eramics and W orks of art

P riestley & F erraro chinese art 3 Bury Street, St James’s London SW1Y 6AB tel: +44 (0) 20 7930 6228 email: gallery@priestleyandferraro.com www.priestleyandferraro.com

1 A PAIR OF GILT AND SILVERED BRONZE TIGER’S-HEAD TERMINALS Warring States to Western Han dynasty, 3rd/2nd century BC Widths: 4.6 cm, 1¾ inches and 5 cm, 2 inches 戰國至西漢 銅鎏金銀虎首飾件一對 濶4.6釐米, 5釐米

The heads are very finely cast, acting as the terminals to unusual L-shaped bars. Each head is broad, with the suggestion of a short mane extending up to the alert pointed ears. The spherical orbs of the large, wide-open eyes gaze from beneath arched brows, flanking the wide snout. Each holds the mouth slightly open, revealing the teeth. A rich layer of gilding is applied over each head apart from on the eyes, which are silvered. The bar-fittings to which they are attached are not gilded, showing the brown metal with some malachite encrustation. Provenance: J.J. Lally & Co. Oriental Art, New York, 1994 Jean-Yves Ollivier Collection Bonhams London, “The Ollivier Collection of Early Chinese Art”, 8th November 2018, lot 3

The use of gold and silver applied to bronze figures of animals was increasingly popular from the Warring States period onwards. Such figures often formed part of the lavish embellishment of royal or noble chariots or pieces of furniture. The L-shaped bars to which the present heads form the terminals are very rare, but consistent with this type of use. A tiger head dated to the late Zhou dynasty was exhibited in the Venice exhibition of 1954 and illustrated in the catalogue, no. 91, p. 40 where it is noted that it was loaned from the Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst in Cologne. It is illustrated in full colour in Museum Für Ostasiatische Kunst Köln, p. 15. Another, larger, Zhou dynasty tiger head terminal is illustrated in the catalogue of the collection of King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden, no. 24.

2 A LARGE UNGLAZED POTTERY LONG-EARED OWL SHAPED VESSEL Western Han dynasty (206 BC – AD 9) Height: 28.3 cm, 11⅛ inches 西漢 陶鴞壺 高28.3釐米

The stylized bird is well modelled standing on sturdy legs. The head is set on each side with large round eyes, divided by a high aquiline beak with prominent nostrils and additional carved detailing of rings and striations. A circular aperture - the mouth to the vessel - occupies the top of the head, behind which rise two horn-like ‘ears’, each with deep concentric grooves following its form. The wings are folded flat against the sides of the body, with the long flight feathers indicated by diagonally scored bands. The tail feathers are similarly indicated by scoring. The solid base is flat. The pottery itself is of light brown colour, with areas of black speckling. Provenance: The Professor Conrad Harris Collection of Early Chinese Art Priestley & Ferraro Chinese Art, 2003 Exhibited: Priestley & Ferraro, ‘Animals for the Afterlife’, November 2002, cat. no. 13 The owl, with its unblinking binocular stare, silent flight and nocturnal habit, is a potent symbol in many of the world’s cultures, and China was no exception. For the people of the Shang dynasty (c.1500-1050 BC) it seems to have had a particular place, as is shown by the number of important jade and bronze figures of owls found in Shang tombs. Some scholars go so far as to suggest that the Shang were owl-worshippers. During the succeeding dynasties the status of the owl seems to have declined, becoming instead a symbol, for example, of lack of filial piety. Although rare compared to some other animals found in Han burial contexts, like horses or dogs, owls are sufficiently often depicted to raise doubts about an unambiguously negative view of the bird; after all, why would the occupant of the tomb want such a companion if it did not serve some positive purpose? Further evidence of this nuanced view of owls can be seen in the famous fu by the statesman Jia Yi (d.168 BC), called ‘The Rhapsody of the Owl’, wherein an owl perches on the corner of his mat “phlegmatic and fearless” – like the present owl - and occasions a meditation by the poet on life and death. An owl vessel of very similar shape and proportions but glazed in green rather than finely incised with detailing, was found during the work on Sanmenxia project, and is now in the Sanmenxia City Museum. A discussion of this owl vessel and two related ones can be found at: http://www.fx361. com/page/2019/0729/5362161.shtml Compare also a similar pottery figure of an owl, “The Hardy Collection of Early Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art from the Sze Yuan Tang”, Christie’s New York, 21 September 1995, lot 13.

3 A PAIR OF AMBER-GLAZED POTTERY FIGURES OF SADDLED HORSES Sixteen Kingdoms period (304-439) Heights: 45.5 cm, 17 ⅞ inches 十六國 褐黃釉陶鞍馬 高45.5釐米

Each horse is modelled standing square on a rectangular base, with the head raised and facing forwards. Disc-shaped bridle ornaments line the sides of the head, with a further disc on the top of the nose, between the deeply carved eyes and the flared nostrils and slightly open mouth with oval terminals to the bit. The ears are pricked, facing forwards, flanking the forelock dressed as a long tapering horn. The long mane is dressed to one side, with striations indicating the hair, pierced in the widest part by an aperture, presumably for the now-disintegrated reins. The saddle has high curved pommel and cantle, suggesting wood, with long rectangular saddle flaps, decorated at the tops with impressed cross-hatching and each with an attached toe-loop. The long tail falls straight down, striated to match the mane. A glaze of rich amber colour covers each horse overall, leaving the base unglazed showing the orangey-buff ware. Provenance: (Illustrated on the left) The Professor Conrad Harris Collection of Early Chinese Art Berwald Oriental Art, 2003

Figures of horses of this rare and characterful early type, from the period between the fall of the Han dynasty and the reunification of northern China by the Northern Wei dynasty, show several characteristics that may be described as transitional. For example, the amber glaze that covers them was used briefly on pottery models of horses in the Eastern Han dynasty (AD 25-220), while the forelock dressed as a horn is a standard feature of pottery (and presumably real) horses of the Northern Wei (386-535) and Northern Qi (550-577) periods. For two related examples, see Important Archaeological Discoveries in Connection with Infrastructure Developments in Shaanxi Province 2006-2010, p. 200.

4 A BLACK-GLAZED STONEWARE PHOENIX-PATTERN PILGRIM FLASK Sui dynasty (581-618) or early Tang dynasty (618-906) Height: 23.2 cm, 9⅛ inches 隋或唐 黑釉瓷葡萄鳳紋扁壺 高23.2釐米

The flask is stoutly potted, of lenticular section, formed from two vertical panels joined at the sides, with a short-necked heavy-rimmed mouth and a high flared foot both of conforming section. Each side is moulded in high relief in Hellenistic style within a heart-shaped panel with a rather dragon-like phoenix dancing on a lotus with one leg raised and wings displayed, framed by scrolling grapevine, within a border of small circles. The shoulders are set with palmette-shaped handles. A treacly-black glaze covers the flask, pooling thickly in the recesses of the decoration and showing as a light brown on the highlights. The underside of the foot is largely unglazed, showing the hard grey paste burnt to a very pale brown colour in the firing. Provenance: An old Hong Kong family collection Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 28th November 2019, lot 394

The flat-sided or ‘lentoid’ flask is an ancient form, found throughout the classical world from as early as the second millennium BC. The version that arrived in China, probably in the sixth century AD, remained strongly Hellenistic in feeling and in its mature expression in the seventh century, as here, must have seemed like the epitome of exotic westernness. Flasks of this form can be seen slung from the packs of seventh century pottery figures of camels, but whether they are stoneware flasks that the potters represented is unclear. It is more likely the flasks actually carried by travellers on the Silk Road were of some thinner and lighter material, perhaps metal. On the other hand, we can be confident that sancai glazed pottery versions of the form were intended for burial. This leaves the stoneware versions in a puzzling place: neither obviously functional nor for burial. Perhaps their resemblance to “real” flasks was an artistic conceit, and their purpose was simply as vases for home or temple. A number of related flasks are preserved in collections, varying in colour of glaze and size, but generally adhering closely to the form of the present piece. See for example, the flask in the British Museum with a thinner, lighter glaze that was formerly in the Eumorfopoulos collection, accession number 1936-1012.253. It is illustrated by Shelagh Vainker, Chinese Pottery and Porcelain, from Prehistory to the Present, pl. 45. The Nezu Museum has a smaller example, also with a thinner glaze, illustrated in Tang Pottery and Porcelain, no. 18, p. 23, and the MOA Museum of Art, Atami has a smaller, white-glazed example, illustrated in the same catalogue, no.13, p.13. For a larger version with horizontal handles rather than vertical but with the same scene of a phoenix among vine scrolls, grapes and palmettes on each side, see Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection. Volume One. No. 209, p. 129.

5 A PAINTED STRAW-GLAZED POTTERY FIGURE OF A CAPARISONED HORSE Sui dynasty (581-618) or early Tang dynasty (618-906), 7th century Height: 29.7 cm, 11 ¾ inches 隋或唐早期 彩黃釉陶鞍馬俑 高29.7釐米

The horse is finely modelled standing square on a rectangular base. The bridled head, with large long-lidded eyes, flared nostrils and pricked back ears, is held lowered on the arched neck, with a tassel or bell tucked under the throat. A forward-combed forelock extends up to a hogged mane. The elaborate saddle has a bridge-shaped pommel protruding through an aperture in the seat, above long flared mud-flaps against which rest the stirrups. The structure is secured at the front by a breast strap decorated with tassels and at the back by a crupper strap, passing under the long flattened tail, decorated with “apricot leaf” pendants. A strap with an eyelet is attached behind the saddle. A straw-coloured glaze is applied overall, with considerable traces of black pigment on the bridle and straps, and traces of red and tiger-skin like decoration to the saddle.

This horse is an excellent example of the kind favoured during the early Tang period, and still retains characteristics of the pre-Tang era such as the long flattened tail and the arched neck with lowered head. This type of elaborate saddle, with the pommel helping to prevent slippage by protruding through the material of the seat, and with the long flared mud-flaps, is replaced with a simpler style in the eighth century. Horses which are both glazed and painted are rare and appear to have died out when the sancai glaze technique was invented towards the end of the 7th century. For a discussion of this, see Imperial China. The Art of the Horse in Chinese History, no. 123, p. 140, where an equestrienne glazed and painted like the present horse is illustrated that was excavated in 1971 from the tomb of Zheng Rentai in Liquan County, Shaanxi, datable to 664 AD. For another equestrienne, with comparable horse, excavated from the same tomb, see The Cream of Xianyang Relics, p. 95. Zheng Rentai (601-663) was a famous general under Emperor Gaozong of Tang. A very close comparison to the present horse can be found in the collection of David W. Dewey, illustrated in the catalogue Celestial Horses & Long Sleeve Dancers. The David W. Dewey Collection of Ancient Chinese Tomb Sculpture, p. 153 (left) and discussed p.152, where a Sui dynasty date is assigned.


Tang dynasty (618-906) Diameter: 15.3 cm, 6 inches 唐 銅狻猊葡萄紋鏡 直徑15.3 釐米

The mirror is of circular form, with a stepped raised rim of triangular section decorated with a narrow scroll border. The centre of the mirror is set with a large knop in the form of a crouching lion-like beast, underneath whose body passes the aperture for suspension. Around the knop, filling the central field, cast in high relief, are six cavorting lion-like creatures on a ground of scrolling grapevine with large bunches of grapes. Each of the creatures has a knobbly spine with fur parted to each side and a long tail. The outer field, marked off by a grooved raised border, is decorated in a similar style, with a frieze of running animals and birds, comprising eight lion or wolf like creatures and six birds, one of which is a cockerel with full tail feathers, on a ground of scrolling grapevine. The patina is of good silver colour, with some cuprite and malachite encrustation on the specular side.

‘Lion and grapevine’ mirrors were made over a number of years during the Tang dynasty, and show a stylistic evolution. The present mirror, for instance, still has the inner and outer fields clearly demarcated, and by a grooved border, whereas in slightly later mirrors the border is plain but the decoration shows a tendency to climb over it. This suggests a dating to the last decades of the seventh century. The identity of the beasts on such mirrors is unclear. Western collectors have tended to see in them a similarity with lions, but this seems fanciful, while Chinese collectors nowadays describe them as suanni, an ancient imaginary animal that is sometimes identified with the real lion. In fact, the iconography arrived from the West, along the Sik Road, and its source should be sought there. One possible origin is the ‘senmurv and palmette’ pattern, from Central Asia. For an identical mirror in a private collection in Korea, see Bronze Mirrors from Ancient China, no. 27, p. 124-5; for another, in the Shanghai Museum, see Ancient Bronze Mirrors from the Shanghai Museum, no. 87, p. 250.

7 A PAINTED POTTERY FIGURE OF A COURT LADY HOLDING A DISH OF FRUIT Tang dynasty (618-906), first half 8th century Height: 46 cm, 18 inches 唐 彩繪陶捧盤仕女俑 高46釐米

The plumply elegant figure stands on a shaped base with the body swaying slightly forward. She wears a long dark robe belted below the waist and falling in long folds to the base. Her arms, hidden by capacious sleeves, are raised in front, holding on the open palms a lobed dish set with two fruit, one melon-like and one more elongated, both with their original pigment. Her head is held cocked slightly to one side, with a double-winged chignon above crisply-cut features still retaining substantial traces of pink and black pigment. Provenance: Private Hong Kong collection to 1999 Private New York collection Christie’s New York, 14th-15th September 2017, lot 1109 Exhibited: Priestley & Ferraro, ‘Paint, Patina, Polish and Glaze’, London, 2000, no. 10

The great majority of figures of court ladies from this period are simply modelled standing and are not engaged in any activity. The present figure, who proffers fruit on a small tray, is a great rarity. A larger figure in the same attitude, but lacking the tray, is in the Xi’an Museum, often displayed as one of the impressive set of court ladies in the museum’s collection. Pottery figures of plump court ladies like the present example, perhaps more than any other, bring home to us the sense of plenty that permeated the upper echelons of Tang society. The archetype for the court lady is Yang Guifei, the beguiling consort of the emperor Xuanzong (r. 712-756). According to the story, the emperor was almost sixty when he fell in love with the young Yang Guifei, previously the wife of one of his sons. She was witty, charming, and enjoyed music and dance. Forgetting matters of state, he heaped gifts on her: one statistic is that seven hundred weavers were employed making damasks and gauzes for her. Her family, from Sichuan, however, took advantage of her rise to favour, and she herself made an unwise friendship with a certain uncouth border general, An Lushan, even going so far as to adopt him as her son. In 755 An Lushan raised the standard of revolt, and prosecuted his rebellion so successfully that in 756 the emperor was forced to slip out of the capital, Chang’an, during the night. A little way outside the city, at Mawei, his soldiers mutinied and demanded the death of Yang Guifei. Helpless, the emperor ordered her to be strangled with a silk cord. The capital was later recovered, and Xuanzong was able to return as ‘retired emperor’, but life at court was never again to reach the same level of brilliance.


Five Dynasties period (907-960) Diameter: 16 cm, 6 ¼ inches 五代 定窯白瓷花口盤 直徑16釐米

The dish sits high on a splayed footrim of tapered cross-section. The interior has a flat circular field from which spring jutting straight angled sides. The rim, slightly everted, is confidently cut into four lobes, each of which is fashioned as a bracket-shaped lotus petal. A fine white slip covers the dish, including the base, and onto this is applied a clear glaze, leaving only the narrow footrim unglazed, showing the white ware. Provenance: Mrs Charles Carr Priestley & Ferraro Chinese Art, 2003

During the late Tang dynasty and the Five Dynasties period potters at several kilns experimented with barbed flower-like shapes whose ultimate derivation was from contemporary silver such as the dish illustrated in Zhenjiang Chutu Jin Ying Qi “Gold and Silver Wares Unearthed in Zhenjiang”, no. 19. The variety and energy of their work laid the groundwork for the classic, and gentler, forms of the Song dynasty. For a discussion of the types of these dishes, see Zhuo Cao, Song Ceramics and Modern Life, no. 8, p. 90, where the author identifies a high-footed type, like the present dish, and illustrates an example, fig. 4, that was excavated from the Dingyao kiln site. For another related dish excavated at the Ding kiln site, see Special Exhibition: “Ding Ware: The World of White Elegance - Recent Archaeological Findings”, no. 06, p. 103. Another, slightly smaller version, excavated in 1952 is in the Hunan Provincial Museum and illustrated in Selection of Ding Ware, The Palace Museum’s Collection and Archaeological Excavation, no. 75, pp. 184-5.


Five Dynasties period (907-960) or Liao dynasty (907-1125) Width: 14.5 cm, 5 ⅝ inches 五代或遼 白瓷瓜棱罐 濶14.5釐米

The jar is of compressed globular form supported on a low foot with a broad, shallow footrim. The sides are divided into five generous lobes, opening directly to the wide mouth with outwardly angled mouth-rim. A fine translucent cream-tinted glaze is applied overall, over a white slip, falling short of the foot to reveal the fine white body.

A white-glazed five-lobed jar of similar shape and quality was discovered in the tomb of Yelu Yuzhi, c. 941, illustrated: http://www.minzushi. org/altaic/qidan/11792.html. Yelu Yuzhi was a cousin of the founder of the Liao dynasty, Yelu Abaoji. He, and his wife Chonggun, who died a year later, were buried with an impressive accompaniment of precious artefacts drawn from several cultures apart from their own, notably that of China. So, while we may deduce that the present jar was of a type held in high esteem by the Qidan nobility, we cannot say with certainty where it was made. Judged by quality alone, an attribution to the Xing kilns in Hebei is tempting, but the quality of some of the products of the Liao kilns, particularly white wares, rivalled those of the Chinese kilns at this time. A similar white-glazed, five-lobed jar is in the Capelo collection, illustrated in Forms of Pleasure. Chinese Ceramics from Burial to Daily Life, no. 28, p. 84. For a related jar, though with a lower neck, to accept a cover, see Appraisal of Song and Liao Ceramics no. 87, p. 45.


Dengfeng kilns, Early Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), 10th/11th century Height: 17.2 cm, 6 ¾ inches 北宋早期 登封窯剔刻花卉紋花罐 高17.2釐米

The vase is of upright ovoid form with a wide mouth supported on a low splayed foot. The sides are deeply carved in sgraffiato technique through a thick layer of slip to the ground beneath with a bold design of a globular peony-like flower with multiple petals and swiftly scored veining, borne on a fleshy stem with two large arrow-head shaped leaves, similarly striated with veining. The shoulders are encircled by a border of pendent arc-shaped elements incised with spirals, separated by lens-like shapes, below a shallow collar around the mouth. The carved-away areas of decoration are applied with a dark dressing beneath a layer of clear glaze. Unglazed slip covers the lower part of the body and the underside of the base, leaving the well made stout footrim clear, showing the grey ware burnt to a light brown colour in the firing.

The sgraffiato wares of the late Five Dynasties and early Northern Song periods, as exemplified by the wares made at the Dengfeng kilns, like the present vase, represent the high point in the history of carved Chinese ceramic wares, displaying a barely controlled energy that comes with the enthusiatic exploitation of a novel technique. The wide-mouthed upright form of the present vase is rare, and appears only to have been made by kilns of the Cizhou family, of which Dengfeng is one. For a closely comparable, though slightly more cylindrical, example excavated in 1999 from a Song dynasty tomb, see Complete Collection of Ceramic Art Unearthed in China 12: Henan, p. 141

11 A YAOZHOU MOULDED DUCKS AND LOTUS BOUQUET PATTERN BOWL Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) Diameter: 15.1 cm, 6 inches 北宋 耀州窯印一束蓮雙鴨紋盌 直徑15.1釐米

The bowl is of open form with gently rounded sides supported on a low foot. The interior is impressed with a design of two long-necked ducks swimming amid lively waves over which is laid a ribbon-tied bouquet of lotus, with a single large blossom, two furled leaves and an arrowroot leaf so that the elements of the bouquet take up natural positions within the ‘pond’. A glaze of characteristic grey-green colour is applied inside and out, deepening in tone in the recesses of the decoration. The base is also glazed, leaving only the shallow knife-pared footrim unglazed, showing the fine grey ware.

The rare pattern impressed on the inside of the bowl is an early example of the ‘lotus bouquet’ motif that was to become so popular on blue and white porcelain in the early fifteenth century. Here it is artfully blended with a typical ‘pond’ style of decoration, with the place of the more usual third duck replaced by the main blossom of the bouquet. For another bowl of the same design, see Song through 21st Century Eyes. Yaozhou and Qingbai Ceramics, p.132, fig. 2-32. For another example of the use of a lotus bouquet in a moulded Yaozhou design, but with boys rather than ducks, see the Palace Museum website: www.dpm.org.cn/collection/ceramic/ 227550.html. Waterbirds, waves and lotus were all popular motifs on Yaozhou moulded wares of the late Northern Song dynasty that relate closely to the present bowl. For example, a smaller version is in the collection of the V&A Museum, London and is illustrated by Rose Kerr, Song Dynasty Ceramics, no. 51, p. 56 (centre illustration, V&A: C.624-1918). It was found in Korea and given to the museum by Aubrey Le Blond. Another smaller bowl is illustrated in Chinesische Keramik, Meisterwerke aus Privatsammlungen, no. 50, p. 79; and for a version in the Yaozhou Museum, Shaanxi, see Zongguo Yaozhouyao “Yaozhou Kiln of China”.


Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) Diameter of stand: 15.2 cm, 6 inches Diameter of cup: 10.5 cm, 4⅛ inches 北宋 青白六出盞及托 托 直徑15.2釐米 盞 直徑10.5釐米

The cup is supported on a high splayed foot. The gently rounded sides are delicately potted, rising to a flared rim divided by notches into six lobes. The stand is dish-shaped with a lipped flat rim lobed to match the cup, encircling the central holder of circular stepped form, all raised on a splayed foot composed of six fused petal-like lobes each pierced with a ruyi-shaped aperture. Both cup and cupstand are covered in a translucent pale blue glaze pooling to a deeper tone in the recesses of the decoration. The undersides of both have unglazed areas with characteristic burnt traces of the iron kiln support. Provenance: Tai Sing Fine Antiques Ltd, Hong Kong, 5th July 2000 From the Xingyangtang Collection, sold in Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 30th November 2018, lot 628

A pair of very similar cups and stands were included in the exhibition Qingbai Wares of the Song Dynasty, Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, illustrated catalogue no. 17. For another qingbai cup and cupstand, but of slightly differing form, see The British Museum Book of Chinese Art, edited by Jessica Rawson, p.29, no. 9, where it is noted that the copying of silver originals, as here, led potters to develop this exceptionally delicate ware.

13 A LONGQUAN CELADON HANDLELESS MALLET-SHAPED VASE Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) Height: 16 cm, 6 ¼ inches 南宋 龍泉窯青瓷紙槌瓶 高16釐米

The vase is finely potted with a broad body with slightly tapered straight sides, angled shoulders and a tall cylindrical neck beneath a wide, almost flat rim. A generously applied glaze of grey-green colour covers the vessel inside and out, including the base, leaving only the footrim unglazed, showing the grey ware burnt to an orange-brown colour beside the edge of the glaze. Provenance: Collection of Oskar Gerson, acquired during the 1920s-1930s, Germany, and thence by descent Bonhams San Francisco, 25th June 2014, lot 6281

The origin of the ‘mallet’ vase form is somewhat mysterious but seems to derive from a type of Islamic glass bottle. For an example of such a glass bottle found in the tomb of Princess Chen of the Liao dynasty, dated 1018, see Liao Chen Guo Gong Zhu Mu, fig. 14-2. For a discussion of handleless mallet vases of various types, including glass, Korean celadon, Ru ware and Zhanggongxiang ware, see Qing Gong Chuanshi 12 zhi 14 Shiji Qingci Bo Zhan, “Precious as the Morning Star: 12th-14th Century Celadons in the Qing Court Collection”, no. 45, pp. 44-47. It is possible that on the path to the creation of the ceramic form, bronze intermediates were also made, as discussed by Rose Kerr, Song Dynasty Ceramics, p.92. The pronounced bluish tone of the grey-green glaze on the present vase suggests that the potters were seeking to emulate the wares made for the court by the Ru and Zhanggongxiang kilns, both of which made handleless mallet vases. For a vase of similarly broad proportions in the Nezu Museum, see Heavenly Blue: Southern Song Celadons, no. 5, p. 37 and for another, in the Palace Museum, see Ceramics Gallery of the Palace Museum. Part I, no. 136, p. 199. A slightly taller Longquan celadon mallet vase of similar proportions, excavated from a Song tomb in Chengdu, Sichuan province and now in the collection of the Sichuan Museum, is illustrated in Wen Wen Yu Se, Zhao Ci Ou, Longquan Yao Qingci Yishu, “Warm and Smooth, the Colour of Jade, the Shining Wares of Ou - The Art of Longquan Celadon”, p. 55.  


Jin dynasty (1115-1234) Diameter: 19.3 cm, 7 ⅝ inches 金 定窯印折枝花卉紋盌 直徑19.3釐米

The bowl is of open form with delicately potted gently rounded sides, supported on a low tapered foot. The interior is crisply moulded with six radiating petal-shaped compartments with raised line borders. Each compartment is impressed with a different flowering plant, semi-naturalistically rendered. Each plant has two blossoms, buds, two groups of three leaves and a butterfly fluttering above. The plants comprise camellia, peony, dianthus, aster and two others. In the centre of the bowl is a flat circular field, impressed with a smaller version of dianthus, with two butterflies. A glaze of ivory tone covers the bowl inside and out, falling in ‘tear-drops’ on the exterior. The glaze extends over the well made narrow footrim to cover the base. Only the mouthrim, on which the bowl was fired, is left unglazed, showing the fine white ware and traces of a metal rim Provenance: Cheng Te-k’un, prior to October 1950 Bluett & Sons Ltd., London, 1950 Collection of Lord Cunliffe. The Rt. Hon. Rolf, 2nd Baron Cunliffe of Headley (1899-1963) The Cunliffe Collection, Bonhams London 11th November 2002, lot 16 The Reid Collection, Bonhams London 7th November 2019, lot 65

Bowls of this handsome type, with six petal-shaped compartments, were made in carved and moulded forms, and even in different glaze colours. For a moulded example close to the present piece in the National Palace Musuem, but with different flowers, see Decorated Porcelains of Dingzhou, p. 220, and for another, partial, example, excavated from the Ding kiln site in Quyang County, Hebei, see Selection of Ding Ware, no. 112, p. 260.

15 A YAOZHOU MOON WHITE BOWL Jin dynasty (1115-1234) Diameter: 19 cm, 7 ½ inches 金 耀州窯月白釉盌 直徑19釐米

The bowl is of open rounded form with finely potted sides of an even thickness maintained all the way up to the rim. A lustrous pale ‘moon white’ glaze is applied inside and out and on the base. The foot is low and of accurately made square cross-section with an unglazed footrim showing the very pale grey ware burnt to a characteristic speckled light brown tone. Provenance: An old Asian family collection Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 28th November 2019, lot 304

‘Moon white’ wares are a fascinating category of Yaozhou wares, quite different in appearance to the typical carved wares of the Northern Song dynasty. It is believed that they were made at the beginning of the Jin period, perhaps soon after the turmoil associated with the taking of north China by the Jurchens in 1126 had died down. It is tempting to see the focus on glaze and form, as opposed to decoration, as a response to the fashion epitomised by Longquan celadon wares and Jun wares, with their simple undecorated shapes and thick lustrous glazes. Even the form of the present bowl is quite Jun-like. This may be, but the Yaozhou kilns were already consummate masters of the plain glaze and simple form before the Northern Song, long before the Longquan and Jun kilns took up the style, so it may have seemed to the Shaanxi potters as a natural reversion to what they themselves had pioneered. A similar bowl is in the Kwan collection, illustrated in Song Ceramics from the Kwan Collection, no. 91, p. 218.  

16 A MOULDED DINGYAO TWIN-FISH AND CHI-DRAGON PATTERN WASHER Jin dynasty (1115-1234), 12th century Diameter: 11.5 cm, 4 ⅝ inches 金 定窰印雙魚蟠螭紋洗 直徑11.5釐米

The washer is of well potted shallow form with a wide central field and steep rounded sides, supported on a shallow footrim. The interior is crisply impressed with a design of two large scaly fish leaping amid cresting waves. A pair of chi-dragons with scrolling foliate tails encircle the well, below a border of key fret. The washer is applied inside and out, and over the footrim, with a fine ivory-coloured glaze, leaving only the mouth rim unglazed to reveal the fine white ware. Provenance: Bonhams New York, 9th September 2019, lot 857

It is interesting to compare the ‘twin-fish’ theme on the present washer with the more well-known version seen on the slightly later Lonquan celadon wares. In the latter the fish, which circle each other endlessly, are taken as a symbol of a happy marriage. Perhaps the same meaning attaches here also, but the determined character of the fish as they battle through the foaming waves brings to mind also the carp that leap the Dragon Gate falls of the Yellow River, denoting success in the civil service examinations, a meaning perhaps better aligned with the function of the vessel as a brush washer. No exact match for the pattern appears to have been published, but for a Ding washer of the same shape and with a scene of swimming fish with a key fret border, but lacking the chi-dragons, in the Qing Court collection, see Porcelain of the Song Dynasty (I), The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum no. 83, p. 92; and for a washer with swimming fish and key fret design, in the collection of the Palace Museum, see Selection of Ding Ware, no. 106, p. 248.

17 A PURPLISH-BROWN PAINTED BLACK-GLAZED GLOBULAR BOTTLE Jin dynasty (1115-1234) Height: 19 cm, 7 ½ inches 金 黑釉花卉紋小口瓶 高19釐米

The bottle is of well potted globular form tapering slightly to the foot and supporting a short neck with capstan-shaped mouth. The exterior of the bottle is applied with a lustrous black glaze swiftly painted in a purplish-brown with a metallic sheen with a design of stylized leafy floral sprays. The base is also glazed leaving only the bevelled footrim unglazed, showing the fine buff-coloured ware.

Bottles of this form were intended for storing wine and would have been sealed with a cloth-wrapped bung tied off with cord, for which the distinctive shape of mouth was perfectly designed. For a bottle of the same type and size although with the more usual russet-coloured decoration, see Hare’s Fur, Tortoiseshell, and Partridge Feathers, Chinese Brown- and Black-Glazed Ceramics, 400-1400, no. 53, p. 161-163.

18 A CARVED KOREAN CELADON LOTUS-PATTERN FLOWER-SHAPED DISH Goryeo dynasty (918-1392), 12th century Diameter: 11.8 cm, 4⅝ inches 高麗 十二世紀 青瓷刻蓮花紋碟 直徑11.8釐米

The dish is of shallow footless form with steeply rounded low sides rising to a sharply everted notched six-lobed rim. The well is carved in flat relief with six panels each enclosing a large lotus blossom, with striated detailing, around a wide central circular field decorated in a similar style with two further blossoms on curling stems. A glaze of blue-green colour covers the inside of the dish, pooling in the recesses of the decoration to bring the design into sharper relief. The exterior, including the footless base, is similarly glazed, burnt to a browner tone in places, and shows three small widely spaced spur-marks. Provenance: Private Japanese Collection Published: ‘Korean Ceramics’, Inoue Oriental Art, Japan, 2018, no. 4

Goryeo ceramics are highly various, and – unlike with Chinese ceramics from the same period - it is quite rare to find matching examples. Perhaps this can be accounted for by considering the wealth of models afforded to the Korean potters from across China, as well as from their own impressive repertory of forms. In the case of the present small dish, there are echoes of Chinese silver, of qingbai, of Dingyao and even of Ruyao, but the whole is unmistakably Korean. For another lobed Korean dish, in the Fitzwilliam Museum, see Korean and Chinese Ceramics, no.51, p. 25.

19 A GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF AN ATTENDANT Ming dynasty (1368-1644) Height: 13 cm, 5 ⅛ inches 明 鎏金銅使者立像 高13釐米

The figure of a youthful attendant is well cast, standing with feet slightly apart on a lotus petal base. He wears a short jacket over a knee-length robe, tied with a bow in front. The hem of the robe flutters as if in a breeze. Both collar and hem are finely incised with a zigzag pattern, while the side panels are incised with a floral pattern on a punched ground. His hands are folded within his sleeves, held up in front and supporting a ruyi sceptre, as if in the act of proffering it. His face has clearly cast features, beneath a scholar’s headdress. The figure and base are separately constructed, and both are applied overall with rich gilding.

No closely comparable figure appears to have been published. The ruyi sceptre (literally, “as you wish” sceptre) has been an important symbolic object in Chinese art at least since the Han dynasty but its origins are much debated. Its primary function is as a conferrer of authority, particularly imperial authority, but it was quickly assimilated also into the icongraphy of Buddhism. By the Ming dynasty the tradition of giving ruyi sceptres as symbols of good fortune was already established and it may be that this is what is represented in the present figure. Alternatively the figure can be read as a Buddhist acolyte.

20 A PAIR OF LIMESTONE DRUM-SHAPED GARDEN STOOLS Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 16th/17th century Height: 38.5 cm, 15 ⅛ inches 明 石灰岩鼓墩一對 高38.5釐米

The seats are of stoutly proportioned drum shape encircled just below the flat seat at the top and at the bottom of the sides, just above the base, with rows of bosses suggesting nail heads. The sides of one are decorated with two large quatrefoil motifs alternating with two roundels of flowers, carved in relief. The sides of the other have matching quatrefoil motifs and roundels of fruiting branches. The decoration is set off against a lightly scored ground, between incised line borders. The tops of each are well worn from use, showing the fine-grained dark grey stone. The form of drum on which these garden stools is based is of great antiquity, dating back at least to the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) when drums of this shape, called jiangu were set up horizontally on poles. The nails used to secure the animal hides to the two ends of the drum persist in the iconography of the form throughout its existence, well into the Qing dynasty. The first furniture that copied the form of the jiangu was probably made of bamboo or wood though none has survived. The particular characteristics of the versions made of ephemeral organic materials such as bamboo openwork, can sometimes be seen copied in the more durable materials. We can see that furniture of this form suitable for use outdoors was already in existence by the Song dynasty by examining the Ladies’ Classic of Filial Piety, the first part of which is preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei. It consists of nine texts with illustrations. In one of these are depicted six court ladies seated on large drum-shaped stools around a large low table, receiving instruction in Confucian etiquette from a seventh lady seated sage-like on the end of the table. Their stools all have a quatrefoil diaper pattern, perhaps suggesting a brocade covering. For a discussion of this painting, see “The “Ladies’ Classic of Filial Piety” and Sung Textual Illustration: Problems of Reconstruction and Artistic Context”, by Julia Murray. Despite a rather earlier attribution, the painting is believed to date from the later Song period. In the Ming dynasty, celadon versions made at Longquan, blue and white versions made at Jingdezhen, and colourful fahua versions all appear. Like the present stone stools, it is fair to presume that the porcelain stools were intended, at least sometimes, to be used outdoors on the terraces or in the open pavilions of the extensive gardens of the wealthy Ming families. Indoors, stools of this form, exhibiting sophisticated joinery, were made of hardwoods including huanghuali and zitan. For a Longquan version of the same size and with similar ‘drum-nail’ fastening features, and floral designs, see My Favorites Exquisite Celadons Made in Guacang, p. 112-113. A further Longquan example, with phoenix amongst flowers, is illustrated in Celadons from Longquan Kilns, no. 285, p. 295.


18th century Height: 7.5 cm, 3 ⅞ inches 十八世紀 白玉山上三獅擺件 高7.5釐米

The carving is superbly executed in the form of three mythical lions on a rock. A lioness and a cub are seated on a high rock above a swirling stream of water in which a second cub is playing, all beneath an overhanging crag. The stone is of highly polished pale green colour with a small amount of russet suffusion at the top of the rock. Provenance: Sotheby’s Paris, 16th December 2010, lot 16 Collection of Adolf Georg ‘Ago’ von Maltzan (1877-1927) and in the family since

No closely comparable jade carving appears to have been published. The specific nature of the subject suggests a rebus of auspicious meaning, but it remains so far unidentified. The mirror-like polish of the jade, especially on the outer side of the rock, is characteristic of the finest imperial work. Adolf Georg ‘Ago’ von Maltzan (1877-1927), the former collector of the carving, was the German Ambassador to the USA. Earlier in his diplomatic career, in 1912, he was appointed Legation Secretary in Beijing, a posting that would have afforded him the chance to acquire the present piece.

22 A PEKING KNOT LOTUS AND BAT PATTERN SILK KANG CUSHION COVER Qing dynasty (1644 -1911), 19th century Dimensions: 238 x 132.5 cm; 93 ¾ x 52 ¼ inches 清 十九世紀 籽綉緞蝙蝠八寶纏枝蓮花紋炕墊 長238釐米 濶132.5釐米

The cover is of characteristic rectangular form finely embroidered overall in Peking knot in shades of silvery blue, magenta and brown, on an ivory-coloured ground. The centre is decorated with a large medallion featuring a many-petalled stylized lotus blossom, surrounded by four bats with musical stones, amid dense scrolling lotus and further smaller bats. Enclosing this medallion is a large rectangular field decorated in a similar palette, with scrolling lotus and other flowers interspersed with the ba bao, the attributes of the Eight Immortals. Outside this is a broad border similarly decorated but with the addition of geometric scrollwork in blue and pink.

It is perhaps not surprising that the fineness of the seedlike embroidery on textiles like the present one should have caused much interest, but along with it has come considerable confusion about the nomenclature of such stitches. Traditionally called ‘Peking knot’ in the West, it is also called ‘forbidden stitch’ (supposedly from the idea that it was forbidden to young girls as it would cause eyestrain, or because it was restricted to the imperial palace), or ‘French knot’. The general term for such stitches is ‘seed stitch’ and this is also the term generally used in China. The kang was a large raised platform that could be heated from below. In northern China, during the long winter months, the kang would be the centre of the house, and would also be used as a sleeping platform. Textiles like the present one would have fitted over a large cushion covering the top of the kang.

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C hronology

Neolithic Period

circa 6500 - 1900 B.C.


circa 1500 - 1050 B.C.

Zhou Western Zhou Spring and Autumn Period Warring States Period Qin Han Western Han Eastern Han

1050 - 221 B.C. 1050 - 771 B.C. 770 - 475 B.C. 475 - 221 B.C. 221 - 207 B.C. 206 B.C. - A.D. 220 206 B.C. - A.D. 9 A.D. 25 - 220

Three Kingdoms Period Jin Western Jin Eastern Jin

221 - 280 265 - 420 265 - 316 317 - 420

Sixteen Kingdoms Period

304 - 439

Northern Dynasties Period Northern Wei Eastern Wei Western Wei Northern Qi Northern Zhou Southern Dynasties Period

386 - 581 386 - 535 534 - 550 535 - 557 550 - 577 557 - 581 420 - 589

Sui Tang Liao Five Dynasties Period Jin

581 - 618 618 - 906 907 - 1125 907 - 960 1115 - 1234

Song Northern Song Southern Song

960 -1279 960 -1127 1127 - 1279

Yuan Ming Qing

1279 - 1368 1368 -1644 1644 - 1911

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