The term Cizhou tends to be freely used for a wide variety of kilns using slip designs, distributed particularly over Hebei and Henan, the most important being the Cizhou type site at Guantai in Cixian (Ci county), the region formerly known as Cizhou, in the southernmost part of Hebei province. The Guantai kilns were renowned not only for their wide variety of decorative styles but also for their masterful yet free manner of execution. The potters wielded their carving knife, and later the brush, with a spontaneity like that displayed by literati painters of the time in their ink paintings. The most important styles, which were developed before painted decoration became prevalent, were the various sgraffiato designs that make decorative use of the contrast between white and black slip, as seen on this impressive vase.
Although features of this vase, such as the form and carved design, are familiar from other Cizhou vessels, no other closely related example appears to have been published. The closest examples in size and elaborate style of carving are two green-glazed versions, where the buff color of the body has been carved and the peony scroll reserved in the white slip; one of slightly larger size was included in the exhibition Charm of Black and White Ware: Transition of Cizhou Type Wares, Osaka Municipal Museum of Art, Osaka, cat. no. 104; and the other is published in Toji zenshu. So no Jishuyo, vol. 13, Tokyo, 1966, pl. 47.
The present type of vase is more commonly known in a much smaller size and with a simpler foliate peony design; see one in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, coll. no. C.38-1946; another published in Charm of Black and White Ware: Transition of Cizhou Type Wares, Osaka, 2002, pl. 36, and included in the exhibition The Classical Age of Chinese Ceramics: An Exhibition of Song Treasures from the Linyushanren Collection, Christie’s Hong Kong, 2012, cat. no. 49; and a third example sold in our London rooms, 9th November 2016, lot 113. The present example is however particularly unusual for the petals that radiate around the foot, as the foot was more generally left plain black with the petals above it.
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