Lot 11
  • 11

A RARE 'JIAOTANXIA' GUANYAO LOBED PEAR-SHAPED VASE SOUTHERN SONG DYNASTY

Estimate
5,000,000 - 7,000,000 HKD
bidding is closed

Description

  • ceramic
with a baluster body elegantly rising from a splayed foot to a flared rim, the sides skilfully divided into ten lobes interrupted by two angular edges, covered overall save for the footring with a bluish-green glaze suffused with a fine network of luminous golden-beige crackles, the unglazed footring fired to a reddish-brown colour

Provenance

Collection of the Chang Foundation, Taipei.

Literature

James Spencer (comp.), Selected Chinese Ceramics from Han to Qing Dynasties, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1990, cat. no. 43.

Catalogue Note

This extraordinary piece embodies the ideals of Song court aesthetics in its understated simplicity that veils the depth of expertise and skill required in creating such a vessel. It is extremely thinly potted, with sharp and precise outlines, created by vertical moulding in two halves, an unusual way of forming in the Song dynasty (960-1279). On account of its grey body that has fired a dark purplish brown, where it is exposed at the foot, and its muted opaque grey-green glaze that shows a fine web of crackles, the present piece can be attributed to one of the guan (‘official’) Hangzhou kilns that were established in the Southern Song capital to produce ceramics for the court after the move of the Song imperial house to the south in 1127 had precluded access to products of the northern manufactories, such as the Ru kilns of Baofeng in Henan. Body and glaze of this piece are characteristic of pieces considered to have been produced by the Jiaotanxia (‘Below the Suburban Altar’) kilns, which have been tentatively identified with kiln sites discovered at Wuguishan in the south of Hangzhou.

The ten-lobed form with its quatrefoil-oval section, evoking fruit shapes at the body and flowers at the rim and foot, is similarly known from the Longquan kilns, but Longquan examples are less elegant in shape, more thickly and heavily potted, and differ in material. Two related vases have been recovered from a hoard at Jinyu village near Suining in Sichuan province, an area invaded by the Mongols in 1234, to whom the town fell in 1242; see Fūin sareta Nansō tōki ten/Newly Discovered Southern Song Ceramics. A Thirteenth-Century “Time Capsule”, Odakū Museum, Tokyo, 1998, cat. nos 16 and 17. Although in the catalogue both vases have been attributed to the Longquan kilns, they seem in every respect fundamentally different. One (cat. no. 17) shows the characteristic un-crackled blue-green glaze and the brick-red fired biscuit of Longquan wares, and is of sharp lozenge-shaped section; this vase has been included by Zhu Boqian, the main archaeologist of the Longquan region, in his publication Longquan yao qingci/Celadons from Longquan Kilns, Taipei, 1998, pl. 18. The other (cat. no. 16) is close to the present piece, of similar, elegantly lobed, quatrefoil-oval section, with a crackled grey-green glaze and dark brown body, and thus seems more in line with Jiaotanxia wares. A fragment of a slightly larger vase of this type was unearthed at the Jiaotanxia kiln complex and is illustrated in Sekai tōji zenshū / Ceramic Art of the World, Tokyo, 1955, vol. 10, p. 191, fig. 28c.

Archaeological excavations of the Jiaotanxia kilns have revealed a vast kiln complex with numerous workshops and one dragon kiln that extended over eighty metres. Among the products of the kilns, thinly potted vessels made from dark bodies covered in thick glazes similar to this vase have been recovered. Zhu Boqian in ‘A Pearl among Greenwares: Guan Ware of the Southern Song’, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramics Society, vol. 56, 1991-1992, pp. 29-30, notes that this thick crackled glaze was achieved through the application of different layers of glaze that were fired successively. The combination of a dark body with layers of greenish-grey glaze resulted in an effect similar to the highly treasured material, jade.

A closely related vase is illustrated in George J. Lee, Selected Far Eastern Art in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 1970, pl. 37; another was sold in these rooms, 27th October 1992, lot 20; two were sold in our New York rooms, 23rd/24th May 1974, lot 325, and 2nd June 1993, lot 294; and a further example from the Maxwell Vos collection, was sold in our London rooms, 13th March 1973, lot 171.

See also a slightly larger vase of this form in the Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, included in the Museum’s exhibition Chinese Arts of the Sung and Yüan Periods, Tokyo, 1961, cat. no. 189; one published in Henry Trubner and William Jay Rathbun, Asiatic Art in the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, 1973, pl. 191; another from the collection of Richard Bryant Hobart, sold in our New York rooms, 23rd May 1969, lot 53; and a fourth sold in these rooms, 16th November 1973, lot 66.
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