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YUAN DYNASTY (1279-1368)

YUAN DYNASTY (1279-1368)
The vase is painted and shaded in a rich inky blue tone with a peony scroll bearing four large blooms on the body, variously shown in profile, full-faced, and pendent, between a band of cash pattern and a band of classic scroll. The shoulders are painted with a cloud-collar band filled alternately with lotus scrolls and with flying geese among chrysanthemum scrolls, below a further classic scroll. All above upright petal panels around the foot, all divided by narrow decorative borders.
15 9⁄16 in. (39.6 cm.) high
Chang Wei-Hwa, Taipei, 1989
Selected Chinese Ceramics from Han to Qing Dynasties, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1990, pp. 182-183, no. 72
Sale room notice
This Lot is Withdrawn.

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Lot Essay

A Classic of Yuan Dynasty Blue and White Porcelain
Rosemary Scott
Independent scholar
Visiting ceramics research fellow, Palace Museum, Beijing

Amongst the most iconic of the large forms seen in Yuan dynasty blue and white porcelain is the tall meiping vase with elegant tapering shoulders, exemplified by the current vessel. The generous size and smooth sides of these vases afforded the ceramic decorator ample scope to create complementary designs, and one of the most successful and popular decorative schemes involved the division of the decoration vertically into three major decorative bands encircling the vessels. The tradition of dividing the decoration on tall meiping vessels into three encircling bands was already established in China in the Northern Song dynasty (AD 960-1127), as can be seen on the Ding ware vase in the collection of Sir Percival David, illustrated by R. Scott in Imperial Taste Chinese Ceramics from the Percival David Foundation, Los Angeles/San Francisco, 1989, p. 25, no. 4 (PDF 101). Interestingly, like the current Yuan dynasty vase, the Percival David Ding ware meiping, along with another similar Northern Song Ding vase excavated in 1955 from a site near Nanjing (see Chugoku toji zenshu, Kyoto, 1981, p. 163, pl. 78), also has a large-scale peony scroll in the main decorative band. The substantial multi-petalled peony blossoms – depicted full-face or in profile – provided dramatic impact, especially when painted in deep cobalt blue, while the frilled edges of the petals introduced a pleasing counterpoint. Thus, this decorative scheme made a very successful transition from fine Song monochromes to Yuan blue and white porcelains.

Undoubtedly one of the most successful decorative elements used on the shoulders of large Yuan blue and white meiping vases was the so-called cloud-collar, seen on the current vessel, where the four pendent cloud-collar elements are filled alternately with lotus scrolls and with flying geese among chrysanthemum scrolls. The treatment of the cloud-collar band varies between the extant Yuan dynasty meiping vessels. A large meiping in the collection of the Shanghai Museum (illustrated by the Shanghai Museum in Splendors in Smalt Art of Yuan Blue-and-white Porcelain, Shanghai, 2012, pp. 84-5, no. 13)(fig. 1), for example, is decorated with the same major bands as the current vessel, but the cloud-collar is filled with ducks on a lotus pond. The Shanghai vase also has a feature, shared with a number of other Yuan blue and white meiping vessels: it has tricorn scrolling devices between the collar pendants. These are not seen on the current vase. The majority of large Yuan blue and white meiping vases, including the current vessel, have petal panels around the foot, containing a variety of decorative elements. These three, very different, bands – cloud-collar, peony scroll, and petal band – provide a pleasing contrast to each other, and complement the shape of the vase.

It is interesting to note that the same decorative scheme of cloud-collar on the shoulders, bold peony scroll around the central band and petal band around the foot, was also used to excellent effect on another classic form found among large Yuan dynasty blue and white wares – guan jars. This decorative scheme, with the addition of a further petal band around the neck, can be seen, for example, on a jar in the collection of the Tianjin Museum, illustrated by the Beijing Capital Museum in Blue and White of the Yuan , Beijing, 2009, p. 51. It is noteworthy that on the Tianjin jar, as on the current meiping, there are no tricorn scrolling elements between the cloud-collar pendants, allowing the cloud-collar itself to enjoy full visual impact, and enhancing the effective contrast with the peony scroll below.

Of the other extant large Yuan dynasty meiping vases, a vase with the same major bands as the current meiping, but only floral scrolls, without geese, in the cloud-collar pendants, is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, illustrated in The World's Great Collections, Oriental Ceramics, vol. 11, Kodansha series, Tokyo, 1980, col. pl. 74. Another meiping with very similar decoration was included in the Hong Kong Museum of Art exhibition Chinese Porcelain, The S. C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, 1987, illustrated in the Catalogue, Part 1, pl. 4. Two meiping vases, excavated at Gao'anxian in 1980 and now housed in the Gao'an City Museum are illustrated by Zhu Yuping in Yuandai qinghua ci, Shanghai, 2000, pp. 132-3, nos. 6-1 and 6-2 . Both the Gao'an vases share with the current example petal panels around the foot, bold peony scrolls around the middle of the vessel and cloud-collar on the shoulders. However, the Gao'an vessels have a lotus pond motif within the cloud-collar. A similar vase in the Topkapi Saray, Istanbul shares the same layout but with horses against waves in the cloud-collar (illustrated by J. Ayers and R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum Istanbul - II, Yuan and Ming Dynasty Porcelains, London, 1986, p. 502, no. 585).

A further meiping with similar decoration to the current vessel is in the collection of the Ardebil Shrine, now in the Iran Bastan, Tehran, illustrated by J. A. Pope, Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine, London, 1981, pl. 25, no. 29.412, but the Ardebil Shrine example has phoenixes amongst the floral scrolls in the cloud-collar. The birds on the current vase have been described as phoenix in another publication, but the form of the tail and the lack of crest on the head identify them as geese. Geese were a popular decorative device on ceramics of the Yuan dynasty, providing a symbol of longevity. Another vase which depicts phoenix among scrolls in the cloud-collar band was formerly in the collection of Mrs Alfred Clark and is illustrated by Sir Harry Garner, Oriental Blue and White, London, 1964, pl. 17. This latter vase has a somewhat smaller-scale peony scroll in its middle band than the other examples mentioned above, as does a meiping in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, illustrated in The World's Great Collections, Oriental Ceramics, vol. 12, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Kodansha series, Tokyo, 1982, col. pl. 28 (fig. 2). While all these variants of cloud-collar, peony band and petal band decorative scheme are very effective, it may be suggested that the proportions and details on the current vase are especially pleasing.

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