AN EXTREMELY RARE WUCAI 'DRAGON' BRUSHPOT
AN EXTREMELY RARE WUCAI 'DRAGON' BRUSHPOT
AN EXTREMELY RARE WUCAI 'DRAGON' BRUSHPOT
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PROPERTY FROM THE RUEY HSIU LOU COLLECTION
AN EXTREMELY RARE WUCAI 'DRAGON' BRUSHPOT

WANLI SIX-CHARACTER MARK IN UNDERGLAZE BLUE WITHIN A DOUBLE CIRCLE AND OF THE PERIOD (1573-1619)

Details
AN EXTREMELY RARE WUCAI 'DRAGON' BRUSHPOT
WANLI SIX-CHARACTER MARK IN UNDERGLAZE BLUE WITHIN A DOUBLE CIRCLE AND OF THE PERIOD (1573-1619)
The cylindrical brushpot is painted to the exterior with four shaped cartouches, each enclosing a dragon in pursuit of a flaming pearl, all divided by floral sprays above turbulent waves cresting on mountains, the rim encircled with a keyfret band. The integral tiered pedestal base is painted with bands of scrolling clouds and florets.
6 1⁄8 in. (15.4 cm.) high, Japanese wood box
Provenance
Acquired by a sister of Sir William Burrell (1861-1958), circa 1920-1930, thence by descent
Sold at Sotheby’s London, 7 November 2012, lot 333

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Marco Almeida (安偉達)
Marco Almeida (安偉達) SVP, Senior International Specialist, Head of Department

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Lot Essay

The present brushpot appears to be unique. The form, which combines the cylindrical form of a brushpot with a stand is highly distinctive and may have been inspired by the Zhengde spherical flower holder with a similar stand, see Ming Underglaze Blue Porcelains: Decorative Motifs and Glazes, Taipei, 2016, pp. 182-183, no. 50. Compare a wucai hexagonal ‘Eight Immortals’ incense holder with a related stand from the Tianshun period in the Palace Museum, Beijing, which is also illustrated in Geng Baochang, Ming Qing ciqi jianding, Hong Kong, 1993, p. 85, no. 145.

When the current brush pot was sold in 2012, it was noted that it had been: “Acquired by one of the sisters of Sir William Burrell (1861-1958), circa 1920-1930. Thence by descent.” Sir William Burrell was a Glasgow businessman, who headed the successful family shipping firm of Burrell and Son from the age of 24. He was a noted art collector who bequeathed his magnificent collection of some 8,000 items – approximately one quarter of which were Chinese - to the City of Glasgow. It is now housed in the purpose-built Burrell Collection in Pollok Park, Glasgow. William Burrell had five sisters – Elizabeth (b. 1863), Janet (b. 1867), Helen (b. 1869-75), Isabella (b. 1871), and Mary (1873-1964). It was the youngest, Mary, who was William Burrell’s favourite and in 1894 Burrell commissioned the celebrated artist John Lavery (1856—1941) to paint a portrait of Mary on the occasion her 21st birthday, although the painting was not completed until 1895.

It was also with Mary that William Burrell shared his love of art, including Chinese art, and it is highly probable that it was from Mary’s collection that the current brush pot originates. Research by Susan Stephen (the goddaughter of Sir William’s only daughter – Marion, later known as Sylvia, Burrell) and interviews with Mary Burrell’s daughter and granddaughter – Ruth Mackenzie and Mona Dickinson, respectively – have brought to light the extent to which Mary shared her brother’s passion for art and aided him in his collecting (see S.M.O. Stephen, Collectors Daughter The Untold Burrell Story, Glasgow Museums, Glasgow, 2014; The Herald, 11th October 1997, and Lee Randall, The Scotsman, 1st December 2011. For further discussion see Rosemary Scott, ‘The Unexpected Chinese Ceramic Collection of Sir William Burrell (1861-1958)’, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, vol. 85, London, 2022 – in press).

Mrs Mackenzie has recalled visiting Sir William with her mother (Mary) and noted that William and Mary had bought items for Burrell’s collection together while they were travelling on the continent. She described them as ‘hunting as a pair’. It is also recorded that Mary used to look out for antiques that William might like and send him a telegram if she saw something that might interest him. Although Mary’s funds were more modest than her brother’s, she also collected on her own behalf, including Chinese ceramics and jade. Mary, who married one of William Burrell’s close friends (Ralston Mitchell), is remembered as having very good taste and ‘a wonderful for eye for spotting antiques’, and William Burrell greatly valued her judgement. Those who visited Mary’s home were struck by her beautiful acquisitions, and especially by a fine pair of Chinese porcelain vases, which stood on either side of the door to her drawing room. In 2011 a handsome Kangxi rouleau vase decorated with carp from Mary’s collection was sold in London by Bonhams. It would have been entirely in keeping that the current rare and delicately painted brush pot should have come from the collection of Mary Burrell.

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