Christie's Hong Kong, 28th November 2006, lot 1505.
The Exquisite Chinese Artifacts, Collection of Ching Wan Society, National History Museum, Taipei, 1995, p. 149. cat. no. 87.
A Classic Yuan Meiping
This gracefully shaped vessel combines many of the classic features of Yuan blue-and-white, that made this style so highly popular, both in China and abroad. Related meiping jars have been found in hoards in China and have equally been preserved in Iran and Turkey. In China, the meiping shape, which at least since the Qing dynasty has been transformed into a flower vase, was a traditional form of jar for storing wine, the contents sealed in with a piece of cloth that was tied around the neck. It was popular at least from the Song dynasty onwards and can often be seen in use in paintings showing scenes of daily life in the comfortable surroundings of the upper classes. It is thus a vessel form that evokes the pleasures of convivial gatherings of friends accompanied by some fermented or distilled grain-based drink, which are so often described in Chinese poetry.
The so-called 'cloud collar' with barbed pointed panels seen here around the shoulder is a characteristic design of the Mongol period, when it is found in many different contexts. It echoes a form of Mongol dress that appears to have been popular not only in China, but also further west. A page from the Great Mongol 'Book of Kings', painted in Iran in the 1330s, for example, shows a courtier presenting an offering to the king dressed in a brown coat with a golden cloud collar around the shoulders. Another page from the same book depicts Alexander the Great enthroned in a similar dress; and a Yuan dynasty painting of two riders shows one of them carrying a bow case also decorated with a cloud collar; all three paintings were included in the exhibition The Legacy of Genghis Khan. Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, cat. nos 39, 46 and 178 (illustrated as figs 37, 51 and 15), the first and last from the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., the second from the Musee du Louvre, Paris.
Similar meiping designs, with a cloud collar with ruyi panels at the shoulder, a peony scroll around the centre and petal panels at the foot are known with a variety of subsidiary patterns in and between the panels, and vary also in the narrow dividing borders between the main bands of the design. Only one other meiping with similar phoenix panels appears to be recorded, a piece donated to the ancestral shrine of the Safavid royal house at Ardabil by Shah Abbas I (r. 1587-1629) and later moved to the Chehel Sotun, a palace built by Shah Abbas II (r. 1642-66) in Isfahan, Iran, see John Alexander Pope, Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, Washington, D.C., 1956, pl. 25 (no.29.412) (fig.1). This Ardabil meiping has lotus sprays instead of scrolls between the panels on the shoulder and the peony scroll around the centre is more loosely composed.
Three similar vessels are known with wild geese in the ruyi panels and also with slight variation in the supporting designs: one with lingzhi sprays between the panels on the shoulder, from the collection of S.H. Pao, was sold in our London rooms 15 April 1980, lot 237, and included in the exhibitions An Anthology of Chinese Ceramics, Min Chiu Society, Hong Kong, 1980, cat. no. 71, and Jingdezhen Wares. The Yuan Evolution, Fung Ping Shan Museum, Hong Kong, 1984, cat. no. 133; another in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, with a cover, but the peony scroll with smaller blooms, and lacking the scroll motifs at shoulder and foot, was included in the exhibition Chinese Art Under the Mongols. The Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 1968, cat. no. 138, and is illustrated in Suzanne G. Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, New York, 1989, pl. 134; its pair, without a cover, formerly in the Elphinstone and Alfred Clark collections, was included in the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1935-6, cat. no. 1475, and is illustrated in Sir Harry Garner, Oriental Blue and White, London, 1954, pl.17, and in Soame Jenyns, Ming Pottery and Porcelain, London, 1988 (1953), pl. 16.
Another meiping with similar decoration, with four different birds in the ruyi panels, but of different proportions and the motifs painted in a distinct outline-and-wash style suggesting a somewhat later date, was sold in these rooms 25th April 2004, lot 285. Pope, op.cit., pl. 26, further illustrates a meiping with different nature scenes in the panels, also from the Ardabil Shrine and now in the Chehel Sotun, Isfahan.
Other meiping of this type are known with flower motifs only in the ruyi panels around the shoulder. A meiping with cover, with seasonal flowers in the panels, now in the S.C.Ko Tianminlou collection, was sold in our London rooms, 10th December 1985, lot 191, and is illustrated in Zhongguo taoci quanji [Complete series on Chinese ceramics], vol. 11, Shanghai, 2000, pl. 148; one with alternating chrysanthemums and peach blossoms and with lotus sprays replacing the scrolls at the shoulder and foot, from the collections of Ernst Schaefer of Krefeld and the Su Lin An Collection, exhibited in Tokyo 1977 and Osaka 1978, and illustrated in So Gen no bijutsu 1980, pl.202, was sold in our London rooms, 2nd April 1974, lot 188, and again in these rooms 31st October 1995, lot 308, and at Christie's Hong Kong 7th July 2003, lot 640.
Six blue-and-white meiping were discovered together with many other pieces of Yuan blue-and-white among contemporary underglaze red, monochrome white and celadon pieces, in an opulent Yuan dynasty hoard at Gaoan, Jiangxi province, including two with white lotus flowers among waves in the panels around the shoulder; see Liu Jincheng, ed., Gaoan Yuandai jiaozang ciqi/The Porcelain from the Cellar of the Yuan Dynasty in Gao'an, Beijing, 2006, frontispiece and pp. 54. and 60. (fig.2).
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