Lot 301
  • 301

AN UNDERGLAZE BLUE AND COPPER-RED SEAL PASTE BOX AND COVER QING DYNASTY, KANGXI PERIOD |

Estimate
10,000 - 15,000 USD
Sold
47,500 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • Porcelain
  • Diameter 5 in., 12.7 cm
of compressed circular form over a tapered foot, the domed cover painted in the 'Master of the Rocks' style with a landscape, in the lower half of the composition a scholar crossing a stone bridge accompanied by an assistant carrying a qin heading toward a thatch-roofed hut beyond massive boulders, a fisherman plying the water nearby, on the opposite bank two scholars conversing under a tree and an attendant preparing a meal, the leaves of the trees picked out in copper-red, the sides of the box with a continuous mountain landscape studded with huts and trees (2), coll. no. 1595.

Provenance

Christie's New York, 29th March 2006, lot 447.

Catalogue Note

The palette and style of painting of the present piece relate closely to an early type of Kangxi porcelain known as Zhonghetang wares, all of which are inscribed with cyclical dates corresponding to 1671, 1672, and 1673, and were made, according to inscriptions on each, for the Zhonghetang (Hall of Central Harmony). Long assumed to be located in the Forbidden City, the exact location of this Hall has never been identified, leading to recent speculation about the source of the commission. For an example with a Zhonghetang mark, see a porcelain dish, dated 1672, illustrated in Kangxi Porcelain Wares from the Shanghai Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1998, pl. 6.

These elegant shallow boxes evolved as ideal containers for seal paste, which is thick, fibrous, derived from silk or plant matter with cinnabar or vermillion added for bright red color, and the perfect medium to adhere to carved stone, bone or metal seals. Receptacles for the paste were a necessary scholarly accoutrement and were made in various materials including lacquer, jade, ivory and porcelain such as the present example. The poignant depiction of the wandering scholar, longing for retreat in nature where lofty intellectual accomplishments might be fulfilled without interruption, was a theme familiar to any scholar-official. The painted scene served as a vicarious means of escape from the endless bureaucratic tasks and would have been a welcome addition to a scholar's studio.
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