Lot 106
  • 106


6,000,000 - 8,000,000 HKD
6,175,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • d. 11.5 cm, 4 1/2  in.
the wide, flared cup with rounded sides rising to an everted rim, supported on a hollow splayed stem with horizontal bamboo-node ridges emphasised by incised lines, the interior crisply moulded around the well with two four-clawed dragons striding among flames in pursuit of a flaming pearl, one with the character yu (jade) in front of its foremost claw, set around a central medallion boldly painted in an outstanding shade of dark cobalt blue with a chrysanthemum spray within a moulded double-line border, all under a classic scroll at the rim, the exterior decorated in underglaze blue with a single three-clawed dragon with wide open jaws, a slender undulating body and scales finely detailed by cross-hatching, emitting flames and chasing a pearl between single line borders, the cup applied overall with a smooth transparent glaze slightly tinged to blue and thinning to white on the moulded designs on the interior, the interior of the stem and footring left unglazed and fired pale orange


Collection of Stephen Junkunc III (1905-1978).
Christie's Hong Kong, 25th October 1993, lot 718.


Blue-Decorated Porcelain of the Ming Dynasty, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1949, cat. no. 4.

Catalogue Note

While a number of 14th century blue and white stem cups of this form and decoration are known in museums and private collections, the present example is especially fine for the lively depiction of the dragon, the expertly applied crisp glaze and the vividness of the cobalt blue. It is evident that the piece was highly prized by its owners over the past seven centuries. The artist has executed the dragon chasing 'flaming pearls' in a free and vigorous fashion, bringing this mythical creature to life.  While the meaning of the yu character, found in the interior of the vessel moulded in front of a dragon's foremost claw, remains a matter of debate, it may represent a grading system with the yu, meaning 'jade', added to especially fine pieces. Some consider it part of the decoration representing the meaning 'jewel' (bao) and associated with the flaming pearl. For related stem cups, decorated both with dragons and phoenix, see those excavated from the Yuan city site at Jininglu in Inner Mongolia included in Chen Yongzhi ed., Porcelain Unearthed from Jininglu Ancient City Site in Inner Mongolia, Beijing, 2004, pl. 46 for a dragon stem cup, pls 42-4 for three stem cups decorated with phoenix, and p. 12 for several pieces packed together in a jar as found on site. Another example, excavated from the tomb of the eminent Ming official Wang Xingzu, datable to the fourth year of Hongwu (1371), in the Nanjing Museum, is published in Wang Qingzheng, Underglaze Blue and Red, Hong Kong, 1993, pl. 33; and a third, in the Art Museum, Chinese University of Hong Kong, was included in the exhibition Yuan and Ming Blue and White Ware from Jiangxi, Jiangxi Provincial Museum, Nanchang, 2002, cat. no. 15. Compare a related stem cup, but with stiff leaves encircling the foot, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (I), Shanghai, 2000, pl. 12.

See also a stem cup in the British Museum, London, published in Jessica Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, pl. 1:24; two similar stem cups from the collections of Mrs O. Harriman and Lord Cunliffe, included in the exhibition Chinese Blue and White Porcelain: 14th to 19th Centuries, The Oriental Ceramic Society at the Arts Council Gallery, London, 1953-3, cat. nos 11 and 12 respectively; and a fourth example from the R.H.R. Palmer and Jingguantang collections, sold several times at auction and most recently in these rooms, 9th October 2012, lot 17, from the Meiyintang collection.