Compare a related cup, but even closer to the Chenghua original, with similarly rendered rockwork, flowers and feathers of the cocks, from the Edward T. Chow Collection, illustrated in Cecile and Michel Beurdeley, La Ceramique Chinoise, Fribourg, 1974, col. pls 71 and 72 right, together with a Chenghua (left) and Kangxi (middle) version, sold in these rooms, 25th November 1980, lot 139; and another sold twice in these rooms, 17th November 1975, lot 39, and 3rd May 1994, lot 143.
The design of a cock and a hen with chicks in a garden setting was a design innovation of the Chenghua reign, although the subject was a well-known topic of Song dynasty painting. By the Yongzheng period, developments in enamel technology saw the invention of glossy black enamel that was added to the tails of the cocks to capture the richness of the birds as well as provide an attractive calligraphic contrast with the doucai palette. The black on Chenghua cups was actually a dark colour derived by adding khaki-green enamel to underglaze blue, while the black enamel developed in the Kangxi period was matt and relatively unstable so required a layer of clear pale green or purple to be applied over the top.
Chicken cups of the Yongzheng period are more commonly found produced in the Chenghua shape but painted with a freer interpretation of the design, with elements such as one cock bending down with its tail in the air, the eight chicks spaced more evenly around the surface and significantly altered proportions of rockworks and plants; see one from the collection of Mrs Walter C. Sedgwick, included in the Oriental Ceramic Society exhibitions Enamelled Polychrome of the Manchu Dynasty, London, 1951, cat. no. 100, and Arts of the Ch’ing Dynasty, London, 1964, cat. no. 194, illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. 4, pt. II, London, 2010, pl. 1745, sold in these rooms, 14th November 1989, lot 230; one illustrated in Julian Thompson, The Alan Chuang Collection of Chinese Porcelain, Hong Kong, 2009, pl. 52; and a pair included in the Min Chiu Society Thirtieth Anniversary exhibition Selected Treasures of Chinese Art, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1990, cat. no. 165, sold in these rooms, 27th April 1993, lot 182, and again, 8th April 2014, lot 3109. Further cups of this type include one sold in these rooms 28th April 1998, lot 815; one sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 29th April 2002, lot 608, and again in these rooms, 2nd May 2005, lot 608; another sold in these rooms, 15th May 1990, lot 284, and again at Christie’s Hong Kong, 27th May 2009, lot 1822; and a fourth cup sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 3rd June 2015, lot 3144.
For examples of the Chenghua original, see eight in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, of which six were included in Chenghua ciqi tezhan/Special Exhibition of Ch’eng-hua Porcelain Ware, 1465-1487, National Palace Museum, Taipei, cat. nos 132-7; one from the Sir Percival David Collection, and now in the British Museum, London, included in the exhibition Flawless Porcelains. Imperial Ceramics from the Reign of the Chenghua Emperor, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London, 1995, cat. no. 22; another from the Mrs Leopold Dreyfus and Meiyintang collections, sold in these rooms, 8th April 2014, lot 1; and two from the Edward T. Chow Collection, sold in these rooms, 25th November 1980, lot 139.
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