• Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works  auction at Christies

    Sale 2196

    Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art Including Property from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections

    15 September 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 377

    A VERY RARE AND UNUSUALLY LARGE FAMILLE VERTE CHARGER

    KANGXI SIX-CHARACTER MARK IN UNDERGLAZE BLUE WITHIN A DOUBLE CIRCLE AND OF THE PERIOD (1662-1722)

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A VERY RARE AND UNUSUALLY LARGE FAMILLE VERTE CHARGER
    KANGXI SIX-CHARACTER MARK IN UNDERGLAZE BLUE WITHIN A DOUBLE CIRCLE AND OF THE PERIOD (1662-1722)
    With shallow rounded sides rising to a slightly everted rim, the interior finely painted with a scene of court ladies practicing the 'Four Scholarly Pursuits' in garden pavilions, including playing weiqi, playing the qin, painting and calligraphy, while two ladies converse at a bridge where fish and water weeds can be seen in the rushing water below, all in a rich famille verte palette with gilt highlights
    20 7/8 in. (53 cm.) diam., box


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    This unusually large famille verte charger is beautifully decorated in overglaze enamels and gold with a design of elegant ladies engaged in the four 'scholarly pursuits' of painting and calligraphy, playing the qin, and playing Chinese chess (weiqi). The two ladies playing chess, in particular, wear beautiful robes, which are decorated with finely-painted roundels - in gold on the outer blue robe and in black on the outer pale green robe. Even the details of the servants' dress are well painted.

    The palette of this charger is distinctive, with minimal use of yellow or iron red, and greater use of various greens and cobalt blue enamel. As the blue enamel had only recently been developed when this charger was painted, it may be that the color-scheme was devised especially to draw attention to the new color. Previously, underglaze blue had been used with the famille verte enamel palette because of the difficulty of producing a good blue enamel using Chinese cobalt, which contains manganese. However, it had been found that the main famille verte palette was greatly enhanced by being painted onto a more opaque white glaze, through which the underglaze blue could not properly be seen. This was the spur to the development of the successful blue enamel seen on this charger.

    The composition of the charger is also interesting. The interior is visually divided by a shallow terrace, onto which two of the pavilions open. Two ladies are seated in a smaller pavilion to the left, while four female figures can be seen around a table on the ground floor of the two-storey building on the right. The two most elegantly attired ladies are seated playing chess, watched by two standing figures, one of whom holds a fan decorated with bamboo. Seen through a moon-shaped opening on the right is a lady who stands deep in thought in front of a hanging scroll. She has a brush in her hand, and is about to paint or write on the scroll. At the window in the upper storey a lady sits playing the qin. Another lady, apparently coming to join the groups, has stopped on a bridge in order to talk to a servant carrying a basket.

    The four 'scholarly pursuits' in which these ladies are engaged are usually associated with men, but they could also represent the pastimes of an accomplished lady. For example, elegant court ladies are shown 'Playing Chess in the Pavilion of Leisure' on an album leaf representing the third month from a collection of twelve album leaves showing the activities of court ladies in each month of the year by the court artist Chen Mei (c. 1694-1745), which is illustrated in The Golden Exile - Pictorial Expressions of the School of Western Missionaries' Artworks of the Qing Dynasty Court, Macao Museum of Art, 2002, p. 121, no. 45. These depictions so pleased the Qianlong emperor that in 1741 he had them copied in ivory by the famous carver Chen Zuzhang and added inscriptions of his own.

    Provenance

    From the Louis Van der Heyden A. Hauzeur Collection, no. 63.
    Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 23 May 1978, lot 160.


    Pre-Lot Text

    VARIOUS PROPERTIES


    Literature

    Sotheby's, Hong Kong: Twenty Years 1973-1993, Hong Kong, 1993, p. 164, no. 199.