Lot 19
  • 19


500,000 - 700,000 USD
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  • Porcelain
inspired by a metalwork prototype, elegantly potted with a broad cylindrical body molded with two ribbed fillets between two registers of molded chrysanthemum petals, rising to a rounded shoulder and waisted neck with a bulbous mid-section and flaring gently to a broad spout, finely painted in an early Ming style with simulated 'heaping and piling' with detached foliate panels and sprays encircling the body, the neck with bands of varying stylized florets, the rim with floral tassels suspending from ruyi heads, the base with a six-character seal mark in underglaze blue


Nagel Stuttgart, 12th November 2004, lot 1570.

European Private Collection (by repute). 

Nagel Stuttgart, 5th November 2010, lot 1239.


The ewer is in overall good condition. There are minor firing imperfections to the lute line at the neck and shoulder, including slight unevenness to the lute line and small burst glaze bubbles resulting in subtle pooling of the glaze and cobalt. The surface has minor expected wear commensurate with age, including fine superficial scratches (particularly around the aforementioned lute line).
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.

Catalogue Note

This exceptionally rare and elegant ewer represents the height of early Qing porcelain production at the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province. Made during the reign of the Yongzheng emperor, it illustrates the emperor’s pursuit of innovative designs and forms as well as the replication of historical masterpieces as a reminder of the nation’s glorious past. Such developments were realized through the exceptional talent and creativity of potters working under the instruction of Tang Ying (1682-1756), the most accomplished superintendent at Jingdezhen during the early Qing period.

The distinctive form of this ewer is likely derived from European or Middle Eastern metalwork, although the model on which is was based is still to be identified. Whilst its intended purpose is also unknown, this form is known as huajiao or flower watering jug, although the shape is equally well suited to pouring wine. The form clearly found favor with the Yongzheng emperor, as a range of examples, both with and without handles, can be found in blue and white as well as with monochrome glazes. 

Compare a closely related ewer of the same form and design in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Gugong Bowuyuan cang. Qing dai yuyao ciqi [Porcelains from the Qing dynasty imperial kilns in the Palace Museum collection], vol. II, Beijing, 2005, pl. 44 (fig. 1); and two closely related handled ewers, also in the Beijing Palace Museum, the first with scattered floral sprays encircling the bulbous middle section of the neck, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red, vol. 3, Hong Kong, 2000, pl. 109; the other with a floret scroll band at the neck, illustrated in Gugong Bowuyuan cang. op. cit., pl. 43. Further related examples include one sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 26th October 1993, lot 169 and illustrated in Imperial Perfection. The Palace Porcelain of Three Chinese Emperors. A Selection from the Wang Xing Lou Collection, Hong Kong, 2004, pl. 8, and another, formerly in an English private collection, sold at Christie's London, 7th November 2006, lot 196.  

For examples applied with a white glaze, see one formerly in the collections of Sir Harry Garner and Edward T. Chow, illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. II, London, 1994, pl. 794, and another in the Grandidier Collection in the Musée Guimet in Paris, illustrated in Oriental Ceramics. The World's Greatest Collections. Musée Guimet, vol. 7, Tokyo, 1982, pl. 170; and a third in the Palace Museum illustrated in Gugong Bowuyuan cang. op. cit. pl. 90. 

A handled example applied with a flambé glaze, also in the Qing court collection, is illustrated in op. cit, pl. 143; another was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 21st March 1979, lot 101. A ewer of this form but applied with a teadust glaze is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Monochrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 244. A number of incised celadon-glazed ewers of similar form have been sold at auction, including one with a handle, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 20th May 1980, lot 80; and one without a handle, sold in these rooms, 15th June 1983, lot 316, and later at Christie's Hong Kong, 28th November 2005, lot 1312. 

Among the most distinctive features of this group of ewers are the bands of molded chrysanthemum petals encircling the lower body and shoulder. Porcelain wares inspired by the multi-layered petals of chrysanthemum flowers were a particular innovation of the Yongzheng period, as evidenced by a number of dishes, bowls and teapots in chrysanthemum form. In her article 'In the Path of Tao Qian: "Chrysanthemum" Wares of the Yongzheng Emperor', Arts of Asia, May-June 2015, pp 72-85, Hajni Elias expands on the symbolic associations of the chrysanthemum flower and the close associations with one of China's most famous poets, Tao Qian (365–427). Retiring from his official position in 405, during the tumultuous Six Dynasties period (222-589), Tao Qian spent a quiet life tending to his chrysanthemums and writing poetry. A painting formerly in the Qing court collection, and therefore likely treasured by the Yongzheng emperor, entitled Scholar of the Eastern Fence, by the early 13th century court artist Liang Kai (circa 1140-1210), shows Tao Qian in a landscape, holding a chrysanthemum flower in his hand. The Yongzheng emperor was a devout Daoist and the imagery of Tao Qian's decision to spend his life contemplating nature, and his direct association with the chrysanthemum flower, would have no doubt resonated with him and may have served as inspiration for commissioning the manufacture of chrysanthemum-form porcelain wares.