Important Chinese Art including Jades from the De An Tang Collection and Gardens of Pleasure – Erotic Art from the Bertholet Collection

Important Chinese Art including Jades from the De An Tang Collection and Gardens of Pleasure – Erotic Art from the Bertholet Collection

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 3695. A rare moulded Dingyao 'boys' bowl Northern Song - Jin dynasty | 北宋至金 定窰白釉印牡丹嬰戲及犀牛望月紋盌.

Property from the Houlezhai Collection 後樂齋收藏

A rare moulded Dingyao 'boys' bowl Northern Song - Jin dynasty | 北宋至金 定窰白釉印牡丹嬰戲及犀牛望月紋盌

Auction Closed

April 29, 06:28 AM GMT


1,500,000 - 2,500,000 HKD

Lot Details


Property from the Houlezhai Collection

A rare moulded Dingyao 'boys' bowl

Northern Song - Jin dynasty


北宋至金 定窰白釉印牡丹嬰戲及犀牛望月紋盌

20.7 cm

Collection of Dr Carl Kempe (1884-1967), no. CK457.

Sotheby's London, 14th May 2008, lot 264.



Gustaf Lindberg, 'Hsing-Yao and Ting-Yao', The Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, no. 25, Stockholm, 1953, pl. 90, fig. 78.

Bo Gyllensvärd, Chinese Ceramics in the Carl Kempe Collection, Stockholm, 1964, pl. 457.

Jan Wirgin, Sung Ceramic Designs, Stockholm, 1970, pl. 92b, fig. 21a.

Gustaf Lindberg,〈Hsing-Yao and Ting-Yao〉,《The Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities》,第25期,斯德哥爾摩,1953年,圖版90,圖78

Bo Gyllensvärd﹐《Chinese Ceramics in the Carl Kempe Collection》,斯德哥爾摩,1964年,圖版457

Jan Wirgin,《Sung Ceramic Designs》,斯德哥爾摩,1970年,圖版92b,圖21a

This bowl is outstanding for its intricately rendered scene of a rhinoceros seated on an island surrounded by tumultuous foaming waves, encircled in the well by three young boys. The depth and clarity of the design, from the naturalistic modelling of the landscape to the detailed rendering of the boy’s features and his clothing, makes this bowl particularly special and rare. Bowls with such sophisticated designs were made using a mould, a technique that began to be used at the Ding kilns in the late 11th or early 12th century and one that allowed for greater precision. These moulds were similar to those used for casting metal vessels, and indeed many designs on moulded Dingyao are also found on contemporary metalware. While no metal counterpart of this exact design appears to be known, a bronze mirror with boys flying through scrolling vines, unearthed in Changchun, Jilin province, now in the Jilin Provincial Museum, Changchun, is illustrated in Zhongguo qingtongqi quanji [Complete collection of Chinese archaic bronzes], vol. 16, Beijing, 1998, pl. 195.

Depictions of boys represent a classic motif of the Song dynasty, known on a variety of objects and media including silver, bronze textile and various types of ceramics. Ann Barrott Wicks in Children in Chinese Art, Honolulu, 2002, pp. 6-15, traces the origins of this motif back to the decorative arts of the Roman Empire, and in particular to depictions of putti, plump boys that later came to be associated with paradise in Christian art. These designs were adopted in Sasanian and Central Asian art and were brought to China through the Silk Road. See for example a gilt-bronze cup, supposedly imported from Central Asia and attributed to the 5th century AD, unearthed in Datong, Shanxi province, and illustrated in Jessica Rawson, Chinese Ornament. The Lotus and The Dragon, London, 1984, fig. 15.

The motif was quickly adapted to suit Chinese religious and philosophical beliefs, and by the Tang dynasty (618-907) it had developed into a fertility symbol. In Chinese Buddhism, the souls of those residing in Maitreya’s Pure Land, were believed to have been reborn through the calyx of a lotus flower. This theory may well have been influenced by the Shangqing school of Daoism and the belief that the visualisation of one’s embryonic state could lead to rebirth. In the eighth century, depictions of boys and lotus began to appear outside religious contexts, and by the Song period, they were believed to encourage the birth of sons and the continuation of a family line.

Dingyao bowls of this form, moulded with such lively and detailed motifs are rare. Two pieces probably from the same mould are preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei (Dingzhou hua ci. Yuan zang Dingyaoxi baici tezhan/Decorated Porcelains of Dingzhou. White Ding wares from the collection of the National Palace Museum, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2014, nos II-108 and 109), and fragments with very similar motifs were excavated from the Jiancicun site, Dingyao (Zhongguo gu ciyao daxi. Zhongguo Dingyao/Series of China’s Ancient Porcelain Kiln Sites: Ding Kiln of China, Beijing, 2012, p. 289, fig. 62). See also a bowl from the Carl Kempe collection, illustrated in Bo Gyllensvärd, op.cit., pl. 461, sold in our London rooms, 14th May 2008, lot 265, and again in these rooms, 8th October 2019, lot 3612.