A Dehua Scholars Group 17th Century (Lot 1504) The group is modelled to depict Wen Chang, the Daoist God of Literature, seated on a rocky ledge above four followers holding various scholarly objects including a ruyi sceptre and scrolls, with a recumbent donkey resting below. 8 ¼ in. (21 cm.) high
Dehua, or Blanc de Chine, figures, were made in Fujian province and became a popular export in the 18th century. After one look at this group, it is no wonder that the Europeans and the Chinese alike developed a taste for pieces that were covered in this subtle, creamy glaze. What I find particularly entertaining is the subject matter. This group depicts Wen Chang, the Daoist god of literature, accompanied by his assistants, Kuixing (the god of the four stars) and Zhuyi (the distributor of examination results). This figural group would have been a must-have for any aspiring student hoping to pass their civil service examinations to embark on a successful and prosperous career.
Two Pairs of Famille Rose ‘Romance of the Western Chamber’ Dishes Yongzheng Period (1723-1735) and Qianlong Period (1736-1795) (Lot 1511) 9 1/8 in (23.2 cm.) diameter
These dishes depict scenes from the Romance of the Western Chamber (Xixiang Ji), a story of love between a young scholar and an official’s daughter against her mother’s wishes. Love at first sight, secret rendezvous, bandits, intrigue: no wonder it was considered licentious by traditional moralists! It is also no surprise that it has become one of the most famous classic Chinese tales. You can see the various stages of this story in these dishes, as well as in other lots in the sale.
A Pair of Blue and White Pudding Moulds Early Qianlong Period (1736-1795) (Lot 1563)
Each mould is modelled with fluted swirling sides and with a wavy rim and decorated on the exterior with stylised foliage below a composite band. 3 7/8 in. (9.9 cm.) diameter
This pair of pudding moulds is a rare example of exclusively European forms of kitchenware commissioned from Chinese potters in Jingdezhen. In 18th century England, pudding was a popular household dish, but in 18th century China, this food was certainly the opposite. It makes me wonder whether these potters, faithfully following designs after metal or ceramic originals, would have had any inkling of how such moulds would have been used halfway across the world! From pieces such as these we get a fascinating glimpse into the world of everyday European objects being produced in a truly extraordinary fashion.
A Famille Rose Miniature Five-Piece Garniture Qianlong Period (1736-1795) (Lot 1594)
The garniture comprises a pair of beaker vases and a set of three baluster vases and covers, each decorated with branches of peony below an iron red hatched pattern at the rim. The largest 4 ½ in. (11.5 cm.) high
This five-piece garniture is interesting for two reasons: one, the subject matter — the blossoming peony decoration alludes to wealth, honour and prosperity; and two, the skill that would have been required of the potter to create miniature pieces in such elegant proportion. During the 18th century, five-piece garnitures of varying sizes were exported in large quantities to noble houses in Europe to decorate walls and mantlepieces, and to furnish entire rooms. These would be a great start or addition to one’s “China cabinet” collection.
A Rose-Imari ‘Provinces’ Barber’s Basin Circa 1720 (Lot 1607) The center is decorated with the arms of Meggelen, named on a banner below, flanked by pink, iron red and gilt flowering peony and butterflies, the flaring rim with shaped panels of flowers. It is pierced for hanging. 10 5/8 in. (27 cm.) diameter
This basin bearing the arms of Mechelen in modern-day Belgium, is an excellent example of a European commission produced in China — it belongs to one of several series of vessels made in the 1720s depicting the arms of the main towns of the United Netherlands, England and France. Twenty-three different arms have been recorded, and it is likely that they would have been ordered by the Dutch to commemorate the Triple Alliance formed by these countries in 1717. It’s fascinating that the European coat of arms is surrounded by Chinese-style embellishments, and that the plate itself was decorated in enamels that were typical of Export porcelain at the time — a true mix of East and West.
Browse and bid on these and other fine collectibles in our online auction, Precious Cargo: Chinese Export Porcelain and Works of Art, now through 17 November 2015.