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An extremely rare yellow-ground blue and white 'fruits' tianqiuping
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About the item

Robustly potted with a globular body rising to a cylindrical neck, the body richly painted in cobalt blue with leafy sprays of ripe peaches and pomegranates, interspersed with a beribonned bouquet of lotus flowers with elegantly meandering stems and a blooming peony sprig, all below a band of upright ruyi-heads alternating with small concentric rings and a further band of stylised pendent ruyi-heads alternating with palmette lotus motifs issuing tendrils, the neck with a thick central band of lotus scrolls issuing curling foliage below a band of pendent ruyi-heads, the rim and underside boredered with a band enclosing motifs of crashing, tumultuous waves, all against a brilliant yellow ground, the footring left unglazed and the base inscribed in undeglaze blue with a six-character reign mark within a white panel\nThis sumptuous vase represents the Qianlong emperor’s taste for fusing celebrated designs to result in a piece that is at once innovative and familiar. It displays the exceptional talent and creativity of potters working under the supervision of Tang Ying (1682-1756), the acclaimed Superintendent of the Imperial Kilns in Jingdezhen. From the age of sixteen Tang was employed by the Neiwufu (Imperial Household Department) in the Forbidden City where he was trained in the arts of enamelling and painting and exposed to the extensive imperial collection of artefacts that would serve as inspiration throughout his career. From 1728 porcelain manufacture in Jingdezhen rose to unprecedented levels under his direction, which had a far-reaching influence on ceramic manufacture both in China and the West. Tianqiuping decorated with fruit and flowers are extremely rare and the present vase appears to be unique for the striking yellow glaze that silhouettes the underglaze blue decoration. The most similar vase to the present, of the same form and decoration but lacking the yellow ground, was sold in our New York and London rooms, and most recently appeared again in these rooms, 9th October 2012, lot 121, from the collection of Alice Cheng (fig. 1). The prototype to this blue and white version, bearing a Yongzheng reign mark and of the period, from the Qing Court collection and still in Beijing, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (III), Hong Kong, 2000, pl. 83 (fig. 2). The simplicity of the Yongzheng version has been replaced with more ornate variations of the decorative bands encircling the mouth and shoulder, while the flower scroll that covered the neck has been condensed into a flower scroll band in the latter version. Redesigning the decorative bands allowed the craftsmen to cleverly produce vases suited to the differing tastes of the two emperors.\nThe blue and yellow combination first appeared on porcelain during the Xuande period (r. 1426-35) to result in a new genre of decoration. It is thought that such wares embellished in this fresh style formed a complete service for the emperor, with pieces produced under succeeding Ming emperors made to replace broken originals. This colour scheme continued into the Qing dynasty where it was employed for a greater range of ceramic designs; for example see several Qianlong mark and period meiping, such as one, the vase closely resembling the form of the Yongle original, sold in these rooms, 13th November 1990, lot 255 (fig. 3); another pair sold in our New York rooms, 31st May 1989, lot 183; and a meiping with broad-shoulders characteristic of the Qianlong period, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28th April 1996, lot 56. For examples of the Xuande originals see four broken dishes decorated with various fruit and flower motifs, excavated from the imperial kiln site at Jingdezhen, included in the exhibition Jingdezhen chutu Ming Xuande/ Xuande Imperial Porcelain Excavated at Jingdezhen, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1998, cat. nos 78-2, 82-2, 85-3 and 88.\nThe popular fruiting and flowering branches motif was devised during the Yongle period (r. 1403-24) and was a favourite motif of the Qing emperors. Julian Thompson, in Chinese Porcelain. The S.C. Tianminlou Collection, Hong Kong, 1987, p. 30, discusses this group of Ming-inspired blue and white wares as painted with ‘re-designs’ of Yongle patterns with changes to details, such as the borders, and with simulated ‘heaping and piling’ of cobalt blue to further heighten the sense of three-dimensionality. See a Yongle example in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Geng Baochang (ed.), Gugong Bowuguan can Ming chu qinghua ci, [Early Ming blue-and-white porcelain in the Palace Museum], Beijing, 2002, pl. 15, where the author notes that the vase embodies the archetypal Yongle style. See a Yongle blue and white meiping with fruit sprays included in this sale, lot 3023. While the decoration on the present vase is a Qianlong interpretation of the Yongle motif, it is intentionally painted in the Ming style to evoke the glorious past.\nAnother early-Ming period influence is the generous spacing left between the decorative elements. This effective design technique, first seen on Yongle blue and white pieces, allowed the artist to be more lively and free with his brushwork and to create a composition that is more painterly and less stylised. By the Qianlong period, the nonchalant charm of the Ming dynasty had evolved into a crisply organised motif; however they retain a sense of vitality in their juxtaposition with the precision of the ornate ruyi bands that encircle the shoulder and mouth.\nThis familiar design exuded new life by adorning a tianqiuping form. Named after its resemblance to a planet, the tianqiuping was first created in the Yongle period. The Qing craftsmen broadened the neck and lifted the shoulders slightly to create a more imposing form. The tianqiuping required a reinvention of the design, and the motifs were carefully composed to achieve an overall sense of harmony: two leafy branches of peach and pomegranate stretch across the body of this vase and are separated by two flowering branches, all of which are neatly composed in the form of inverted and upright triangles. Not only aesthetically pleasing, the design is rich in auspicious symbolism: the peach represents the wish for longevity, the pomegranate for numerous sons, and flowers were believed to ward off evil.
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condition

The vase is in very good condition except for some fine surface scratches and a few flakes to the yellow enamel, one of oval shape 0.4 x 0.2 cm above the persimmon (visible in illustration on page 28), and another of triangular shape 0.2 x 0.3 x 0.4 cm above the peony (visible in illustration on page 25), as well as one of 0.4 x 0.2 cm among the pomegranate (visible in illustration on page 29). There is also minor glaze pull on the yellow enamel of the narrow band above the foot. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

dimensions

53 cm., 20 5/8  in.

provenance

S. Marchant & Son, London.

consignmentDesignation

Property from an Important Asian Collection


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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