• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2130

    Chinese Export Porcelain

    21 January 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 88



    Price Realised  


    On the front a finely painted European gentleman in his backswing, about to strike the golf ball at his feet, behind him the sandy links lined by trees under a cloudy sky, below are crossed golf clubs and a ribbon with the motto VI ET ARTE, on the other side a neoclassical shield with gilt script monogram AC (?), sides and interior finely enameled with spring flowers, spearhead-edged blue diaper borders inside and out
    14 in. (35.5 cm.) diameter

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    This extremely rare and charming subject seems to be known in just one other example, illustrated by Hervouët and Bruneau, op. cit., p. 83. Though with differing borders the bowls share essentially the same golfing scene, and carry the same By Strength and Art motto, a motto used by the Scottish Chisholm family, who held Erchless Castle at Comer from the 15th century until 1937. This bowl's monogram seems to support a Chisholm provenance.

    Golf was well enough established in Scotland in the mid-16th century that the Archbishop of St. Andrews issued a decree on the subject. Mary, Queen of Scots was seen playing in 1567. In 1754 the St. Andrews Golfers published the first official "Rules of Golf" and by the later 18th century Scottish golfers had established golfing societies and clubs and the 18-hole course.

    Interestingly, though, it now seems that the game's origins may lie in China. Prof. Ling Hingling of Lanzhou University published in 2005 Song dynasty records describing a game played with 10 variously shaped clubs and a ball, and noted that a Tang official is recorded as asking his daughter to dig holes as targets. A Ming Dynasty handscroll purportedly shows the emperor Xuande (r. 1425-35) and retinue before a pavilion on what appears to be a putting green complete with flagged pins. While there is no question but that the modern links game developed in Scotland, its connections to China are not perhaps as remote as we once thought.