The inscription on this bowl is a poem by the Qianlong emperor dated to the Spring of the bingwu year of the Qianlong reign (equivalent to 1786 AD). In the poem the emperor comments on the silk-like rich glaze of the vessel which he describes as clear bright containing shades of purple. He comments on the rarity of 'Guan' wares of the Song dynasty, 'as if many are hidden under the thick earth'.
The Qianlong Emperor is well known for his vast art collection, which included an unsurpassed assembly of classic Song porcelains, and for his vast legacy of poems. His connoisseurship and interest in ceramics is documented in many poems he composed on 'Ru', 'Guan', 'Ding' and 'Jun' wares. Feng Xianming, Annotated Collection of Historical Documents on Ancient Chinese Ceramics, Taipei, 2000, pp. 271ff records more than 150 Qianlong poems about Song ceramics, many of which were inscribed on Song vessels. Most of these, formerly in Qianlong's imperial collection are today preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, and very few have ever appeared at auction.
The present bowl of the classic Northern Song shape is remarkable for its crackled glaze effect which is reminiscent of Song 'Guan' ware. 'Jun' bubble bowls can be found in many museums and private collections, especially in Japan where they were appreciated for their understated elegance; see a bowl from the Schoenlicht and H.M. Knight collections, sold in our London rooms, 13th December 1955, lot 76, and in our Hong Kong rooms, 18th May 1982, lot 109, now in the Matsuoka Museum of Art, Tokyo, illustrated in Toyo toji meihin zuroku, Tokyo, 1991, pl. 52.
Compare a 'Jun' bubble bowl in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, illustrated in Mary Tregear, Song Ceramics, Fribourg, 1982, pl. 165; another with purple splashes in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in Chugoku toji zenshu, vol. 12, Kyoto, 1983, pl. 6; two illustrated in John Ayers, The Baur Collection, Geneva: Chinese Ceramics, vol.1, Geneva, 1969, nos. A 31 and 32; and one from the estate of William Hines sold in these rooms, 3rd June 1987, lot 174.
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