YUAN OR EARLY MING DYNASTY, 14TH CENTURY
THIS IS A PREMIUM LOT. CLIENTS WHO WISH TO BID ON PREMIUM LOTS MAY BE REQUESTED BY SOTHEBY'S TO COMPLETE THE PRE-REGISTRATION APPLICATION FORM AND TO DELIVER TO SOTHEBY'S A DEPOSIT OF HK$1,000,000, OR SUCH OTHER HIGHER AMOUNT AS MAY BE DETERMINED BY SOTHEBY'S, AND ANY FINANCIAL REFERENCES, GUARANTEES AND/OR SUCH OTHER SECURITY AS SOTHEBY'S MAY REQUIRE IN ITS ABSOLUTE DISCRETION AS SECURITY FOR THEIR BID. THE BIDnow ONLINE BIDDING SERVICE IS NOT AVAILABLE FOR PREMIUM LOTS.
the small pear-shaped ewer resting on a slightly splayed foot, set with a curved spout opposite an arched handle attached to the body with two knobs of clay at the base and an eyelet on top for attaching to the eyelet on the domed cover, the cover fitted with a cylindrical ring on the interior for a secure fit to the ewer, all below a bud-shaped knop, incised on the ewer and curling around its sides with a five-clawed dragon, surrounded by flames, with incised pendant-petal lappets enclosing foliate motifs and pearls on the cover, all beneath a thick, unevenly applied glaze of dark liver-red, draining to white at edges and luting line on the body, the interior glazed white
Red Dragon for a Connoisseur's Desk
Small pear-shaped ewers of this shape are documented to have been made continuously from the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) to the Jiajing period (1522-66) and have experienced a revival in the Kangxi reign (1662-1722) of the Qing dynasty, yet very few examples survive and only one other copper-red piece appears to be recorded, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, besides fragmentary discarded examples, excavated at the Jingdezhen imperial kiln sites. In fact, extremely few copper-red glazed or decorated vessels of any kind appear to have passed the strict quality controls at the imperial manufactories.
These small ewers may have been used for various purposes. A use as a water dropper for the scholar's desk is suggested by Jiang Jianxin (Jingdezhen chutu Ming Xuandeguanyaociqi/Xuande Imperial Porcelain Excavated at Jingdezhen, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1998, p. 217),since similar vessels are sometimes depicted in paintings together with writing utensils, e.g. apparently in the nearly contemporary painting Elegant Gathering in the Apricot Garden by XieHuan (c. 1370 – c. 1450); Sarah Wong ('A Jiajing Yellow-glazed Porcelain Ewer and Cover', Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition: Twelve Chinese Masterworks, Eskenazi, London, 2010, p. 36) suggests ausage at table to dispense vinegar, as one such piece is recorded in a Ming imperial order; and a use as wine ewer has often been assumed.
The proportions of these ewers vary slightly according to the period. The development of this form over time is recorded in Geng Baochang, Ming Qing ciqi jianding [Appraisal of Ming and Qing porcelain], Hong Kong, 1993, where line drawings of the changing proportions are reproduced, p. 24, fig. 37 and various types are listed, p.25. Their development is also traced and discussed in detail in Wong, op.cit., pp. 31-7, where several related vessels are illustrated.
Only one closely comparable red-glazed piece appears to be preserved, a ewer and cover in the Palace Museum, Beijing, of similar proportions, decoration and glaze, with the white body similarly showing through at the rims, luting line and foot, and equally decorated with an incised dragon, see The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Monochrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 1, where it is attributed to the Yuan dynasty (fig. 0). This piece and the present ewer appear to be among the earliest examples of this type, the red glaze being most closely related to that of the late Yuan, or the Hongwu period (1368-98) in the early Ming dynasty.
The waste heaps of the Ming imperial kilns at Jingdezhen appear to have yielded no sherds of similar ewers prior to the Yongle reign, but a fragmentary red-glazed ewer with incised dragons was discovered in the Yongle stratum, see Jingdezhen Zhushan chutu Yongle guanyao ciqi [Yongle Imperial porcelain excavated at Zhushan, Jingdezhen], Capital Museum, Beijing, 2007, pl. 29 (fig. 1), together with a red ewer with reserved white dragons, pl. 30; and an undecorated monochrome red ewer of Xuande mark and period is published in Jingdezhen chutu Ming Xuande guanyao ciqi, op.cit., cat. no. 43-1 (fig. 2).
The Yongle stratum further yielded dragon-decorated examples in monochrome white, painted in underglaze red, and in green-and-yellow, see Jingdezhen Zhushan chutuYongle guanyao ciqi, op.cit., pls 8, 53 and 109; while an undecorated, unmarked monochrome yellow ewer, several Xuande-marked blue-and-white and a blue-and-turquoise ewer of this form were found in the Xuande stratum; see Jingdezhen chutu Ming Xuande guanyao ciqi, op.cit., pls 43-2, 44-1, 2, 3; and Jingdezhen chutu Mingdai yuyao ciqi [Porcelains from the Ming imperial kilns excavated at Jingdezhen], Beijing, 2009, pl. 70. All these examples had been deliberately broken, presumably because they were considered flawed.
Compare also a brown-glazed ewer, attributed to the Hongwu period, but of different proportions and a monochrome white example attributed to the Yongle period, both excavated in Beijing and today in the Capital Museum, illustrated in Shoudu Bowuguan cang ci xuan [Selection of porcelains from the Capital Museum], Beijing, 1991, pls 87 and 94; and another dark brown ewer attributed to the Yongle period, sold in these rooms, 26th October 1993, lot 55. A monochrome white ewer of the Yongle period in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Monochrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 102.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.