Stephen Bushell, the scholar who advised Mr. Walters, describes the glaze and some of its associated terminology in Oriental Ceramic Art: Illustrated Examples from the Collection of W. T. Walters, 1899, New York, 1981 where he comments that he prefers the expression ‘peach bloom' to ‘peach blow’, ‘because the latter is only applicable to the flower and the former corresponds to the peau de peche’ (p.163). The many beguiling Chinese names to more accurately describe the range of tonality achieved by glaze range from ‘bean red’, ‘apple-red’, ‘apple green’, ‘beauty's blush’ and ‘baby's face’, to the gray end of the spectrum, including ‘baby-mouse skin’ and ’horse's lung’.
The rightfully acclaimed glaze, a lustrous, copper-red flecked with pale green was notoriously difficult to achieve due to the temperamental nature of the copper pigment. The attractive glaze is found only on a small group of vessels for the scholar's table and is one of the most iconic groups of porcelain created under the Kangxi Emperor. The group is considered to include eight forms; three types of waterpots, a seal paste box and cover and four vases of differing form, among which is exemplified by the present example. A complete set of which is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, illustrated in Oriental Ceramics. The World's Great Collections, vol. 2, Tokyo, 1982, col. pl. 28.
Copper-red glazes had been largely abandoned at Jingdezhen since the early Ming dynasty and were revived and drastically improved only during the Kangxi reign. Recent research by Peter Lam and other leading scholars indicate that the famous 'peachbloom' group was produced during the early years of the Kangxi period under the supervision of the skilled Zang Yingxuan, who was sent to Jingdezhen in 1681 to oversee the rebuilding of the kilns and serve as imperial supervisor. To manage the fugitive copper-lime pigment, it is believed to have been sprayed via a long bamboo tube onto a layer of transparent glaze and then fixed with another layer, so as to be sandwiched between two layers of clear glaze. The spotted green flecking, referred to as pingguo qing 'apple green', is possible through a technique using varied concentrations of copper that, when exposed during firing, oxidize to form green spots and modulation.
Other examples are found in major institutions and collections including one in the Qing Court Collection, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Monochrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 18; the Shanghai Museum, illustrated in Kangxi Porcelain Wares from the Shanghai Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1998, pl. 204; the National Palace Museum, Taipei illustrated in Catalogue of a Special Exhibition of Ch’ing-Dynasty Monochrome Porcelains in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1981, pl. 2. Another from the Baur Collection illustrated by John. Ayers, The Baur Collection, Geneva, vol. III, 1972, pl. A302.
See two vases of this form and decoration sold in our Hong Kong rooms, one on 8th October 2006, lot 1017 and the other on 23rd October 2005, lot 314; and another from the Jinguantang Collection sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 3rd November 1996, lot 557. A vase of this type from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, sold at Christie’s New York, 15th September 2016, lot 913. See also the example from the J. Insley Blair collection sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28th November 2012, lot 211.
The vase comes from one of the grandest art collections in New York City in the early 20th century. Mae Caldwell Manwaring Plant Hayward Rovensky was one of the most prominent society figures of her day. Mrs. Rovensky was first married to Seldon B. Manwaring whom she divorced in 1914. One month later she married Morton Freeman Plant, a railroad and steamship magnate. The Fifth Avenue mansion she shared with Morton Plant gained renown in 1918 when Mr. Plant traded it to the jeweler Cartier in exchange for a pearl necklace for his wife and the building remains the New York showroom for Cartier today. Upon his death in 1918, Mrs. Plant was one of the wealthiest women in America. In 1919 she married Colonel. William Hayward, United States District Attorney for the Southern Region of New York. Col. Hayward had won considerable recognition for his prosecutions during the early years of the Prohibition era. In 1954 she married John Edward Rovensky, a banking and financial leader. When she died two years later at her home, Clasendon Court in Newport, Rhode Island, her will instructed that $6,000,000 be given to charities of his choosing but in her name. Among the recipients, the Wadsworth Athenaeum was given this vase in her memory. Rovensky also auctioned off a large part of her collection. This significant event was held at Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 'The Art Collection of the Late Mrs. John E. Rovensky (Formerly Mrs. Morton F. Plant)' from 15th-19th January, 1957, and offered major works of art in multiple collecting areas.
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