"There is in the possession of Mr Peter Boode an interesting white stem cup which was originally sent to the Eumorfopoulos Collection by Wu Lai-hsi. This piece has a bluish-white glaze turning faintly yellow at the footrim. The unglazed flat base of the hollow stem shows a paste that has been discoloured by firing. The outside of this stem cup is decorated with an elephant, a lion and a horse, in delicately drawn white slip; on the inside of the bowl is the incised mark of T’ien Shun. If this piece is a genuine example of the imperial ware of this period it would according to the records of Kiangsi have been made between the ting chao year of T’ien Shun, which was 1457 when the manufacture of imperial porcelain is said to have been resumed, and the emperor’s death in 1464."
The stem cup has had an eventful auction history. When it appeared for the first time at auction in July 1960, it sold for the princely sum of £2,600, rising to £12,000 in 1977. The next time it appeared in 1981, there was some doubt over it, and it was catalogued as 15th century with a later added mark. However, the following year it was accepted again as mark and period. Clearly the mark is under the glaze, which is consistent with the vessel, and the form and structure is completely distinct from early 15th century stem cups of the Yongle and Xuande period. Furthermore, the eccentric design of galloping winged horses and elephants corresponds closely to those found on Chenghua tian jars created several years later, such as the one sold in our London rooms, 14th November 2001, lot 102, strengthening the case that this extremely rare stem cup is in fact a unique product of the Interregnum period, where ongoing excavations continue to transform our knowledge of this relatively unexplored period of Chinese ceramics.
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