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A VERY RARE BLUE AND WHITE ‘PEONY’ JAR
A VERY RARE BLUE AND WHITE ‘PEONY’ JAR
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A VERY RARE BLUE AND WHITE ‘PEONY’ JAR

YUAN DYNASTY (1279-1368)

Details
A VERY RARE BLUE AND WHITE ‘PEONY’ JAR
YUAN DYNASTY (1279-1368)
The heavily potted jar is boldly painted in underglaze blue accentuated by ‘heaping and piling’ with a broad band of peony scroll bearing six large blooms, between a band of classic scroll and upright petal lappets below, and a band of lotus meander on the shoulder above, with the short neck encircled by a band of waves.
14 in. (35.5 cm.) wide

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Lot Essay

With its powerful form, bold design, the characteristic ‘heaping and piling’ effect, the present jar represents the epitome of blue and white production of the Yuan dynasty. This classic jar has a particularly effective and bold peony scroll as its major band. The decorative bands on the jar are especially well chosen and arranged for maximum impact and to complement the form of the vessel. The narrow and delicate waves around the neck gives way to a wider lotus scroll on the shoulders, followed by the largest and most dramatic band - a peony scroll enhancing the swelling body of the vessel above a band of classic scroll and a final row of upright petals which emphasise the sharp narrowing of the jar towards its foot. The painting of the peony scroll is particularly successful on this jar. The successive turning of flowers on a scrolling stem echoes the unfolding of a Chinese scroll painting, and the tonal gradation of the cobalt had been successfully rendered by painters to impart a sense of movement and three-dimensionality.

The generous use of cobalt on this jar also suggests that this would have been an extremely costly item to produce since cobalt oxide pigment in the Yuan period was a rare imported commodity from the Middle East. Similar jars are thus greatly limited in number and the execution of details varies from piece to piece as every example was individually finished. Examples with this same decorative scheme include one in a private Japanese collection, illustrated in S Gen no bijutsu, Tokyo, 1980, pl. 198, and again by Zhu Yuping Yuandai qinghuaci, Shanghai, pp. 82-3, no. 3-34; a second sold at Sotheby’s London, 7 June 1988, lot 211A; and a third sold at Sotheby’s New York, 30 March 2006, lot 61. Just like the current jar, the flowers on these examples are depicted with their hearts covered by softly overlapping petals, although the number and arrangement of the petals vary slightly. Jars with the same design but with petals open to reveal the stamen include one in the Shanxi Provincial Museum, illustrated in Zhongguo wenwu jinghua daquan: Taoci juan, Hong Kong, 1993, no. 551; a second in the Shanghai Museum, illustrated in Art of Yuan Blue-and-white Porcelain, Shanghai, 2012, no. 7; another offered at Sotheby’s New York, 18 September 2007, lot 246; and a fourth sold at Sotheby’s London, 12 May 2010, lot 32.

A slight variant of this decorative scheme is seen with a blackberry-lily scroll painted around the neck as opposed to waves, such as an example found in 1979 at Yenjialing, Baotou City, Inner Mongolia, see op. cit., Hong Kong, 1995, p. 332, no. 550; another in the Tokyo National Museum, illustrated in The Worlds Great Collections: Oriental Ceramics, Tokyo National Museum, vol. 1, Tokyo, 1982, fig. 111; and a further example formerly in the Jingguantang Collection, sold at Christie’s New York, and again at Christie’s Hong Kong, 31 May 2010, lot 1985. The last two examples also lack the band of classic scroll above the petal lappets around the base.

Compare also to a further variant with a composite floral scroll decorated around the shoulder as opposed to lotus scroll, see for example the jar formerly in the collection of Charles A. Dana, sold at 20 September 2000, lot 101.

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