Lot 31
  • 31


120,000 - 180,000 GBP
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  • stoneware, copper, paulownia wood
the shallow flared sides rising from a flat base to an everted rim, the interior delicately carved through the pale russet-brown slip revealing the ivory-white ground depicting a stylised luxuriant lotus spray, the large lotus leaf with furled edges and combed veins, borne on elegant foliate tendrils issuing lotus blooms and trefoil arrowheads, all beneath a transparent glaze, the rim bound with copper, Japanese wood box


Mayuyama & Co. Ltd., Tokyo.


Sō ji meihin ten [Exhibition of Sung Ceramics Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Japan Ceramic Society], Tokyo, 1955, cat. no. 72.
Chūgoku Sō Gen bijutsu ten [Chinese Art of the Sung and Yuan Periods], Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, 1961, cat. no. 224.
Tō Sō meitō ten [Exhibition of Tang-Song Ceramics], Japan Ceramic Society, Tokyo, 1964, cat. no. 129.
Chūgoku bijutsu ten series: Sō Gen no bijutsu [Chinese art exhibition series: The art of Song and Yuan dynasty], vol. 4, Osaka Art Museum, Osaka, 1978, cat. no. 1-109.
Teiyo hakuji [White porcelain of Ding yao], Nezu Institute of Fine Arts, Tokyo, 1983, cat. no. 146.
Special exhibition charm of black & white ware: Transition of Cizhou type wares, Osaka Municipal Museum of Art, Osaka, 2002, Part 3-9.
Chūgoku tōji bi wo miru kokoro [Chinese Ceramics, Enlightening through Beauty], Sen-oku Hakuko Kan Bunkan, Tokyo, 2006, cat. no. 19.


Tōki zuroku shina hen (Jo) [A pictorial catalogue of pottery, China], vol. 7, Tokyo, 1938, pl. 80.
Fujiō Koyama, ed., Sekai tōji zenshū. Sō Ryō [Collection of world ceramics. Song and Liao dynasty], Tokyo, 1961, pl. 80.
Ryūsen Shūhō. Sōgyō shichijū shūnen kinen/Mayuyama: Seventy Years, Tokyo, 1976, vol. 1, pl. 366.
Tsuguo Mikami, Tōki koza chūgoku II: Sō [Ceramics course China, II: Song], vol. 6, Tokyo, 1982, pl. 12.


This rare dish is in good condition with the exception of a 2.5cm., long hairline rim crack extending a further 2.4cm., as a glaze line into the medallion, over-painting to a 5cm., x 0.6cm., section of the well, a 3mm., diam., glaze flake to the interior and minor glaze firing imperfections including burst glaze bubbles and kiln grit.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Ding wares with sgraffiato decoration are extremely rare and valuable. This decorative technique, which requires excellent skill, is labour intensive and was used only very rarely by the Ding ware potters. It is very rare to find sgraffiato Ding wares either in public or private collections or even in archaeological discoveries. The present dish appears to be unique. The potter’s competent sgraffiato design has rendered the lotus blossoms and leaves lively and charming, with a striking contrast of the brown design and the white ground.

It is extremely rare to find any sgraffiato Ding ware vessels. No other Ding ware dishes or bowls feature sgraffiato design like this piece, which has been exhibited and published on numerous occasions. A Ding ware vase with peony design from the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, decorated in the same sgraffiato technique, is ranked as Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government. It also has been exhibited and published on numerous occasions. It was included, for example, in the touring exhibition Song Ceramics, Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 1999, cat. no. 42 (also at the Tobu Museum of Art, Tokyo, and the Hagi Uragami Museum, Hagi); and is illustrated in The Beauty of Asian Ceramics: from the Collection of The Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, Osaka, 2014 , pl. 20 (Fig. 1). Another rare sgraffiato Ding ware vessel is a meiping with peony design from the British Rail Pension Fund, formerly on loan at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, now in the Meiyintang collection and on loan to the Rietberg Museum, Zurich, illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 1994-2010, vol. 3, no. 1440, and sold at Sotheby’s New York, 7th November 1980, lot 114; in these rooms, 12th December 1989, lot 75; and at Christie’s Hong Kong, 31st October 1994, lot 527.

This kind of sgraffiato decoration is more often seen on Ding ware pillows, although examples are also rare. In the Palace Museum, Beijing, there is a pillow with lotus design related to the present dish, with an ink inscription on the base, written in AD 1168, during the reign of the Shizong Emperor of the Jin dynasty; see Li Huibing ed., The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Porcelain of the Song Dynasty (I), Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 89 (Fig. 2). The Palace Museum also owns another related pillow with floral scroll design, which was included in the exhibition Selection of Ding Ware. The Palace Museum's Collection and Archaeological Excavations, Beijing, 2012, cat. no. 100. In the collection of the National Museum of China is a pillow with a floral scroll design and an ink inscription of AD 1143 inscribed on the base, published in the exhibition catalogue Ding Kiln of China, Beijing Art Museum, Beijing, 2012, p. 351, figs. 11-12. Compare also a pillow in Tianjin, illustrated in Porcelains from the Tianjin Municipal Museum, Beijing & Hong Kong, 1993, pl. 29; also illustrated in Feng Yongqian ed., The Complete Works of Chinese Ceramics, Shanghai, 2000, vol. 9, pl. 157. For an even rarer excavated example see a peony design pillow unearthed in Dingzhou, Hebei, in Mu Qing, The Art of Ding Wares, Shijiangzhuang, 2002, fig. 200.

The lotus blossom and leaf pattern seen on this sgraffiato dish is a most characteristic motif of the Ding kilns and is seen in carved or incised form of many Ding wares. A deep eight-lobed bowl incised with such lotus pattern was included in the exhibition Decorated Porcelains of Dingzhou: White Ding Wares from the Collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2014, cat. no. II-80. A similar lobed bowl, incised with a peony in the centre and lotuses around the well, formerly in the collections of Mrs. Alfred Clark and Sakamoto Goro, was sold in these rooms, 2nd March 1971, lot 135; and at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 8th April 2014, lot 11. Similar lotus patterns are also seen on moulded Ding wares, see an example unearthed at the Ding kiln site by the School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University, included in the exhibition Ding Ware: The World of White Elegance, Recent Archaeological Findings, Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 2013, cat. no. 43.

The sgraffiato technique used for this dish involves application of a brown slip over the Ding ware body, which is then carved and incised to form the lotus pattern and to reveal the white body beneath. The contrast of colours makes the design particularly vivid and attractive. The sgraffiato technique was used frequently on products of the Cizhou kilns in Cixian county, Hebei, but their body material, glaze and workmanship are inferior to those from the Ding kilns. See discussions by Qin Dashu, ‘A study of the relationship between Cizhou and Ding Wares’, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, vol. 65, 2000-2001, pp. 1-18; and a slightly different version of this article, ‘A study of the relationship and mutual influences of the Cizhou and Ding kilns’, in Li Baoping, Bruce Doar and Susan Dewar eds., Porcelain and Society. China Archaeology and Art Digest, vol. 3, no. 4, June 2000, pp. 39-58. For a general discussion on aesthetics of Song ceramics see Liu Tao, Notes on Song Dynasty Ceramics, Beijing, 2014.