AN EXQUISITE IMPERIAL RUBY RED-GROUND FALANGCAI ‘INDIAN LOTUS’ WINE CUP
AN EXQUISITE IMPERIAL RUBY RED-GROUND FALANGCAI ‘INDIAN LOTUS’ WINE CUP
AN EXQUISITE IMPERIAL RUBY RED-GROUND FALANGCAI ‘INDIAN LOTUS’ WINE CUP
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THE WANG XING LOU COLLECTION OF IMPERIAL QING DYNASTY PORCELAIN
AN EXQUISITE IMPERIAL RUBY RED-GROUND FALANGCAI ‘INDIAN LOTUS’ WINE CUP

YONGZHENG FOUR-CHARACTER MARK IN UNDERGLAZE BLUE WITHIN A DOUBLE SQUARE AND OF THE PERIOD (1723-1735)

Details
AN EXQUISITE IMPERIAL RUBY RED-GROUND FALANGCAI ‘INDIAN LOTUS’ WINE CUP
YONGZHENG FOUR-CHARACTER MARK IN UNDERGLAZE BLUE WITHIN A DOUBLE SQUARE AND OF THE PERIOD (1723-1735)
The cup is superbly potted with thin rounded sides rising from a counternsunk base. The exterior is decorated with rich and vibrant enamels depicting large Indian lotus heads interlinked by leafy scrolls, all reserved against a rich ruby-red ground.
2 1⁄2 in. (6.4 cm.) diam.
Provenance
Sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 28 November 1979, lot 260
Collection of T.Y. Chao
Sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 19 May 1987, lot 310
The Canton Collection, Hong Kong
Sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 4-5 November 1997, lot 1566
Literature
Robert Jacobsen, Ye Peilan and Julian Thompson: Imperial Perfection.The Palace Porcelain of Three Chinese Emperors, Kangxi - Yongzheng - Qianlong, Hong Kong, 2004, pp. 144, no. 52.
Exhibited
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Joined Colours: Decoration and Meaning in Chinese Porcelain, Ceramics from Collectors in the Min Chiu Society Hong Kong, Washington D.C., 1993, cat. no. 66
On loan to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1998-2020
Post lot text
According to palace archival records, on the 16th day of 7th month of Yongzheng fourth year (1726), twenty four ‘first-rate red-ground falang wine cups’ were presented to the Emperor with zitan trays, possibly referring to wine cups similar to the present one.

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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

Jewel-like Colours and Exquisite Painting
Rosemary Scott
Independent Scholar
Visiting Ceramics Research Fellow, Palace Museum, Beijing

This exquisite and extremely rare Yongzheng cup, formerly in the famous T.Y. Chao (1912-99) Collection, is beautifully potted and superbly painted in jewel-like colours. The deep ruby-coloured ground on the exterior of the cup has a richness of tone combined with a soft, soufflé-like, texture. It seems likely that this has been applied by blowing the deep pink enamel through a tube with gauze over the end. This is a technique which was used as early as the Song dynasty to apply some especially fine celadon glazes, and was also used for the application of so-called ‘powder-blue’ in the Kangxi reign. However, it would have required even greater skill on the part of the Yongzheng ceramic decorator in order to accurately and evenly apply the pink enamel in this way. The enamel colours used to create the elegant floral scroll which encircles the exterior of the cup are of a brilliance and clarity that enables them to stand out against the ruby-coloured ground, producing an overall design of exceptionally richness.

The use of ruby or rouge pink enamel as a ground colour is relatively rare on Yongzheng porcelains. A contributing factor to this rarity may have been the necessity to use gold in order to produce the colour, which would have added to the expense of the vessels. Decoration involving a ruby-coloured ground can be seen on a very small number of porcelains dating to the end of the Kangxi reign. A small tub-shaped cup, which has pale blue panels reserved against the ruby-ground, is in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Porcelains with Cloisonne Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, 39, Hong Kong, 1999, p. 11, no. 9. Another Kangxi cup from the Paul and Helen Bernat collection, now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is decorated with prunus blossom depicted against a ruby ground, illustrated in The Worlds Great Collections, Oriental Ceramics, vol. 10, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Tokyo, 1980, colour plate 90.

It is notable that the majority of surviving Yongzheng porcelains with rich ruby grounds are also decorated with prunus blossom. A pair of falangcai Yongzheng tub-shaped cups with prunus blossom on a ruby-ground is in the collection of Mr. Alan Chuang (illustrated in The Alan Chuang Collection of Chinese Porcelain, Hong Kong, 2009, pp. 278-281, no. 116), and a similar Yongzheng cup was sold by Christie’s Hong Kong on 30 November 2016, Lot 3218 (fig. 1). A small number of Yongzheng bowls and dishes are known decorated with plum blossom on a ruby ground. A Yongzheng falangcai bowl with four-character mark in blue enamel from the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is illustrated in Harmony and Integrity The Yongzheng Emperor and His Times, Taipei, 2009, p. 196, no. 11-24. A smaller Yongzheng bowl with similar design is in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art (illustrated in By Imperial Command: An Introduction to Ching Painted Enamels, op. cit., pl. 56). Two Yongzheng dishes decorated with plum blossom on a ruby ground have also been published. The larger of the two dishes is illustrated in Special Exhibition of Ching Dynasty Enamelled Porcelains of the Imperial Ateliers, Taipei, 1991, pp. 178-79, no. 88. The smaller dish is illustrated in Qingdai hua falang tezhan mulu (Special Exhibition of Qing dynasty painted enamels, catalogue), Taipei, 1984, no. 57. Two Yongzheng falangcai cups, also decorated with plum blossom against a ruby ground, are in the Palace Museum, Beijing. They are both badly damaged and so are in the study collection (illustrated by the Palace Museum Research Centre in Gugong Bowuyuan cang Gu taoci ziliao xuancui (Highlights of Ceramic Research Material in the Collection of the Palace Museum), vol. 2, Beijing, 2005, nos. 134-135; and also discussed and illustrated by Wang Jianhua in ‘Gugong Bowuyuan gu taoci ziliao yanjiu’, Gugong Bowuyuan bashi huadan, gu taoci guoji xueshu yantaohui: lunwenji (80th Anniversary of the Palace Museum, Proceedings of the International Conference on Academic Ceramic Research), Beijing, 2007, pp. 184-85.

A Yongzheng dish decorated on the exterior with bamboo stems against a ruby-coloured ground is in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei (illustrated in Special Exhibition of Ching Dynasty Enamelled Porcelains of the Imperial Ateliers, op. cit., p. 197, no. 99). However, both the prunus blossom and the bamboo are limited in their colour palette, and the only Yongzheng vessel with ruby ground on which the decoration approaches the visual impact of the current cup, is a dish in the National Palace Museum decorated with a design of yellow chrysanthemums (illustrated ibid., p. 194, no. 96). Nevertheless, even this dish cannot really compete with the current cup in terms of virtuosity and brilliance of colour. The current cup employs yellow, orange, red, blue, several greens and black enamels to produce a floral scroll which both competes with and complements its rich background.

The pair to the current cup has also survived into the present day. It is in the collection of Sir Percival David (1892-1964), and is published in Illustrated Catalogue of Qing enamelled Wares in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London, revised edition, 1991, pp. 28 and 32, PDF 834 (fig. 2). Sir Percival David acquired the cup from another well-known collector, Charles Russell (1866-1960), who had published it in 1930 in an article entitled ‘A Series of Ch’ing bowls made by Imperial Order’ in The Collector, vol. XI, 1930, pp. 202-208.

The size and shape of the current cup, and its pair in the David Collection, suggests that they may date to the early part of the Yongzheng reign, since small, relatively deep, tub-shaped cups, without foot rings but with slightly recessed bases, and with straight mouth rims are more characteristic of the Kangxi reign. As noted above, a Kangxi cup of similar shape and size, with a four-character Kangxi yuzhi mark in rouge enamel, and decorated with pale blue panels reserved against a ruby ground is in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing. Two other tub-shaped cups of similar size and shape, which bear almost identical decoration of multicoloured flowers against an egg-yolk yellow ground – one with a blue enamel four-character Kangxi yuzhi mark and the other with a blue enamel four-character Yongzheng yuzhi mark – are in the collections of C. P. Lin and Sir Percival David, respectively (see R. Scott, Elegant Form and Harmonious Decoration – Four Dynasties of Jingdezhen Porcelain, London, 1992, p. 119, nos. 129 and 130). The closeness of form and decoration of these two yellow-ground cups also suggests that the Yongzheng example was made in the early years of the reign – shortly after the Yongzheng Emperor succeeded to the Kangxi Emperor’s throne. The majority of the small tub-shaped cups of the Yongzheng reign appear to be slightly shallower than the current ruby-ground cup and its pair, as well as the yellow-ground cups. The deeper form was later revived in the Qianlong reign.

The current exquisite cup, made for the Yongzheng Emperor – a particularly demanding imperial patron – would be a jewel in any collection.

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