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    Sale 2711

    The Imperial Sale, Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art

    27 May 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1807


    Price Realised  


    CHENGHUA PERIOD (1465-1487)

    Thinly potted with deep rounded sides rising to a flaring rim, supported on a tall slightly spreading hollow foot, the exterior boldly painted in a bright blue wash with a small qilin between two striding four-clawed kui dragons in mutual pursuit, each with long snouts, sinuous bodies and bifurcated floral scrolling tails and tongues, above a band of ruyi-lappets, the foot with a keyfret band below cloud scrolls, the interior of the bowl with a central roundel enclosing a similar dragon
    6 in. (15.4 cm.) diam.

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    A small number of Chenghua blue and white stembowls of this related pattern are published, depicting a pair of similar kui dragons and a single qilin, none of which bear a reign mark. Such examples include: one in the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, illustrated in the catalogue, Blue-and-White Ware of the Ming Dynasty, Book III, Hong Kong, 1963, pl. 6, pls. 6a-6d; one in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (II), The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Commercial Press Hong Kong, 2000, p. 30, pl. 28 (see fig. 1); one from the collection of H.R.H. Palmer, illustrated by Soame Jenyns, Ming Pottery and Porcelain, Faber and Faber, London, 1953, pl. 64A; and another is illustrated by J.A. Pope, Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, no. 29.343, pl. 62 and p. 110, where the author comments on the curious style of dragons on the bowl, 'only the two front legs are drawn, and the rest of the body trails off in a succession of ornate scrolls. At the shoulders are small wings; the proboscidiform snout extends upward, and from the tip of the protruding tongue springs the stem of a lotus with leaves and a blossom'. This description fits perfectly the dragons on the present lot.

    A number of bowls of this design bearing Chenghua reign marks are also known. Two bowls of this very rare pattern are published, one in the Shanghai Museum, illustrated in Underglaze Blue & Red, Woods Publishing Co., Hong Kong, 1987, pl. 81; and another included in the catalogue, The Special Exhibtion of Ch'eng-Hua Porcelain Ware, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2003, p. 44, fig. 18. A third bowl was sold at Christie's Hong Kong 1 November 2004, lot 828.

    Other Chenghua wares decorated with similar kui dragons include a blue and white cup with kui dragon roundels included in the the exhibition catalogue, A Legacy of Chenghua, Jingdezhen Institute of Ceramics and the T. T. Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1993, p. 210, pl. C61. A doucai jar with this motif is also illustrated, p. 304, pl. C108, as is a doucai cup, p. 260-261, C86, where the authors state: 'Foliated-dragons (Makara) on Ming imperial porcelains first appeared in underglaze-blue during the Xuande era, and in doucai they made their debut in the Chenghua era'. It has been noted that the semblance of these two versions greatly differs from each other, as the Xuande example looks powerful and full of vitality with its long snouted nose terminating into a ruyi-form mushroom and its mouth grasping a lingzhi-fungus, its paired horns thrust upward while pointing backward, and its scaly body likened to that of a snake or lizard. Completing the image are its four powerful claws. The Chenghua versions are docile and more genially imagined with a tablet-shaped nose resembling an elephant's trunk, curved buffalo-like horns, and animalised body, and three claws; in its mouth it holds a Buddhist baoxiang flower, ibid., p. 260.

    A Chenghua stembowl painted with the 'three friends' was sold at Christie's London, 10 June 1991, lot 121; and one with birds and foliage was sold at Christie's London, 5 June 1995, lot 121. A Chenghua bowl of this pattern was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 1 November 2004, lot 829.


    Property from a European Collection, previously sold at Christie's London, 10 June 1996, lot 76