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AN IMPORTANT AND EXTREMELY RARE GUAN CHRYSANTHEMUM-SHAPED DISH
AN IMPORTANT AND EXTREMELY RARE GUAN CHRYSANTHEMUM-SHAPED DISH
AN IMPORTANT AND EXTREMELY RARE GUAN CHRYSANTHEMUM-SHAPED DISH
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AN IMPORTANT AND EXTREMELY RARE GUAN CHRYSANTHEMUM-SHAPED DISH
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Snow and Ice - Two Rare Song Dynasty Chrysanthemum Dishes Rosemary Scott, International Academic Director, Asian Art 'Chrysanthemums should only be washed by those who are lovers of rare antiques' Quotation from: Pingshi by Yuan Hongdao, written in the 27th year of the Wanli reign (AD 1599) The current sale includes two rare Song dynasty dishes which share the feature that their form has been inspired by the shape of a chrysanthemum. Both are from prestigious kilns that made ceramics for the Song courts. One is of delicate white Ding ware and dates to the Northern Song dynasty, while the other has the richly crackled glaze of Guan ware and dates to the Southern Song. The colour of the first has the purity of snow: the glaze of the second has intricate fissures reminiscent of ice - appropriate for a flower that is admired for its resistance to the cold weather of early winter. Both dishes also reflect the exceptional refinement of Song imperial aesthetics. Their chrysanthemum form is rare amongst Song ceramics from the kilns that were esteemed at the Song court, but nevertheless is in keeping with a tradition of appreciation for this special flower. Chrysanthemums have been greatly admired, especially by Chinese scholars, for centuries. They were used for making wine, for making tea, for medicine, and dried chrysanthemums were put into pillows for their pleasing fragrance and their cooling effect in warm weather. In straitened circumstances, literary men such as Lu Guimeng (d. AD 881) and Su Shi (AD 1037-1101) also recorded eating chrysanthemums - the spring sprouts being tender and succulent, and the summer leaves and stalks being tougher and somewhat bitter. Drinking chrysanthemum wine on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month became popular as early as the Han dynasty. Peter Valder quotes Li in stating that chrysanthemum wine was traditionally made by mixing leaves and stalks, taken from chrysanthemums in full bloom, with glutinous rice and allowing them to ferment - the wine being ready to drink the following autumn. Chrysanthemums were admired by successive emperors from early times, and were grown in the imperial gardens. The Jesuit Pierre-Martial Cibot, who, in the 1770s, researched early Chinese literature relating to chrysanthemums, noted that traditionally the emperor's plants were shaded with mats from the heat of the midday sun, and that chrysanthemums graced the imperial apartments from mid-autumn to the end of winter. As early as the 7th century BC Shijing (Book of Odes), through the Liji (Book of Rites), the contents of which date to the Warring States and Han dynasty, and the 3rd century BC Chuci (Songs of Chu or Songs of the South), and continuing into the gongti shi (palace-style poems) of the Six Dynasties period (AD 317-589) flowers in early Chinese poetry were used as symbols of female beauty and of scholarly rectitude, reclusion and nobility. Interestingly, unlike most other flowers, chrysanthemums are not usually associated with women, but with men of strength, integrity and nobility - no doubt in part because their elegant flowers are the only ones to survive the icy winds that herald the onset of winter. The Northern Song dynasty philosopher Zhou Dunyi (AD 1017-73), in his famous work 'On a Passion for Lotus' (Ailian shuo), says that he believes that the chrysanthemum is the recluse amongst flowers, comparing it to the over-popular peony. Chrysanthemums are specifically mentioned in the Shijing and in Qu Yuan's (343-278 BC) poem Li Sao (Encountering Sorrow). In this latter poem there is a much quoted section, which may be translated as: 'In the morning I drank the dew from magnolias: In the evening I ate petals that fell from chrysanthemums. If my mind can be truly pure, It is of no account that often I am faint from hunger.' This verse has traditionally been seen as a symbol of virtuous conduct by an official who was forced to leave the court because of the corruption of others. Not surprisingly the chrysanthemum is regarded as one of the 'four gentlemen' of plants, along with prunus, orchid and bamboo, which also symbolize nobility of character. Chrysanthemums are also included in early pharmacopoeias as being beneficial to health, promoting long life, and even immortality. The physician Ge Hong (AD 284-343) wrote of the village of Gangu in Henan province, where the local populace drank water from the nearby brook. Further upstream, chrysanthemum petals fell in profusion into the water, and by the time it reached the village water and petals were mixed. The people of the village were known for their longevity - some of them reportedly reaching the age of 130. However, through their association with certain literary figures, chrysanthemums became symbols of Confucian scholars who refused to compromise their principles and often retreated to a rural existence far from political intrigue. Perhaps the literary figure most closely associated with chrysanthemums is Tao Yuanming (AD 365-427), who is known for his love of chrysanthemums, and who has been depicted with them in paintings from at least as early as the Song dynasty. One such recorded work, painted by Li Gonglin (c. 1041-1106), and inscribed with a poem by Su Shi (1037-1101), was entitled Yuanming at the Eastern Fence. This title was a reference to one of Tao Yuanming's own poems (the fifth of his 'Twenty Poems on Drinking Wine), which contains the lines: 'Gathering chrysanthemums by the eastern fence I catch a distant glimpse of South Mountain; The mountain air is wonderful at sunset And flocks of birds fly home together.' Chrysanthemums appear with subtle regularity in Tao Yuanming's poems, sometimes juxtaposed with wine drinking, as in lines from the fourth of his 'Twenty Poems on Drinking Wine': 'Autumn chrysanthemums of beautiful colour, With dew on my clothes I pluck their blossoms. I float them in wine to forget my sorrows, Leaving thoughts of the world far behind.' One of his most famous poems is Returning Home, which describes his feelings on coming back to his home in the country, after retiring from his post as an official at the age of 41, with the intention to spend his days farming and writing poetry. In the poem Tao sees his home and exclaims: 'The three paths have almost disappeared, But the pines and the chrysanthemums are still here.' It may also be the case that when in his poem Written on the Ninth Day of the Ninth Month of the Siyou Year [AD 409] Tao Yuanming says: 'What can I do to restore my spirits? Only enjoy drinking unstrained wine.' he was referring to chrysanthemum wine, since chrysanthemums were especially associated with autumn and the ninth day of the ninth month. This admiration of chrysanthemums for their fragrance, beauty, resilience and health-giving properties led in the Tang dynasty to specific cultivation and development of these remarkable plants. Mention of Chinese chrysanthemums in early literature suggests that only the yellow variety were originally known, however, from the 8th century poets made admiring references to white chrysanthemums. White chrysanthemums were supposed to be able to endure particularly cold weather, and were said to have been imbued with 'the soul of the sky and earth'. Tea made from white chrysanthemums is said to be especially fragrant and refreshing. It is possibly these delicate white chrysanthemums which provided the inspiration for the two Song dynasty dishes in the current sale. In regard to these Song dynasty dishes, it is probably worth noting that what appears to be the first of many monographs on chrysanthemums, entitled Ju Pu (Treatise on Chrysanthemums), was published by Liu Meng towards the end of the Northern Song dynasty in AD 1104. Liu Meng lists 35 varieties of chrysanthemum, and two of these are called 'jade basin' and 'silver bowl', the names of which have resonance with the appearance of the Guan and Ding ware dishes in the current sale. In the visual arts, flowers appear to have begun to be selected as independent subjects for painters during the Six Dynasties period, as can be seen in the works of artists such as Gu Kaizhi (c. 344-406) and Zhang Sengyu ( act. 500-550). However, as Robert Harrist has noted, it was during the 10th century that the artists Huang Quan (903-968) of the Shu kingdom and Xu Xi (act. 960-c. 975) of the Southern Tang kingdom 'brought flower painting to a new perfection'. Harrist has also pointed out that judging from the entries in the Xuanhe huapu (Painting Catalogue of the Xuanhe Era [AD 1119-1125]), by the end of the Northern Song dynasty flowers were the most popular subject. It is interesting to note that although chrysanthemums are not as common as some other flowers in Song dynasty paintings, they are included amongst the flowers on the famous Song dynasty hand-scroll One Hundred Flowers preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing. They are also the primary subject of a charming anonymous 12th century Southern Song dynasty fan painting in ink and colour on silk entitled Peach Blossom Chrysanthemums, which has an inscription attributed to Empress Wu (AD 1115-1197, consort of Emperor Gaozong), in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing. The painting depicts delicate pink and white chrysanthemums in a dark green vase, which is itself placed in a stand, and the fan has numerous seals affixed, including the kungua seal signifying an empress. Chrysanthemums appear as decoration on Chinese ceramics at least as early as the Northern Qi period (AD 550-577). While lotus was the dominant floral motif in this and the succeeding Sui and Tang dynasties, sprig-moulded chrysanthemum blossoms adorn the second register of the neck of a Northern Qi celadon-glazed vase in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing. Chrysanthemums also appear among the sprigged motifs in the lowest register of decoration on a Tang dynasty ewer in the same collection. There is additionally a green-glazed Sui dynasty bowl in the Palace Museum which has been identified in publications as having rows of lotus petals carved into its exterior. However the shape and arrangement of the petals suggests that the decorator's intention may have been to depict chrysanthemum petals - in this case representing the whole bowl as a chrysanthemum flower. If this interpretation is correct, this Sui dynasty bowl would be one of the earliest ceramic open-wares to be made in the form of a chrysanthemum. During the Song dynasty vessels made in chrysanthemum form became popular in a number of different media. The form of dishes in both silver and lacquer drew inspiration from the flower, as did rare fine ceramics. Silver and silver-gilt bowls and dishes in chrysanthemum form have been excavated from a number of Southern Song sites, including one dated to AD 1190 in Sichuan province, and another dated 1226 in Fujian province, as well as a cup stand from another Fujian site. A Northern Song lacquer dish of similar flat-based form to the current Ding ware dish was unearthed in Jiangsu province. Boxes in chrysanthemum form were also made in both silver and porcelain in the Song dynasty. However the greatest proportion of Song dynasty flower-form ceramics was made in the shape of mallow or lotus. Nevertheless a small number of vessels made for the court took their inspiration from chrysanthemums. Interestingly there is a Ru ware dish with multiple petals and a flat base, excavated in Henan, which has been described in publications as being 'in the shape of a lotus flower' (fig. 1). However, lotus petals are almost invariably depicted in the Song dynasty with slight points at the end of each petal, and the petals on this bowl are both numerous and rounded, suggesting that it may in fact be based on a chrysanthemum. The Ru dish is of similar size to the Guan ware dish in the current sale. A small number of Song dynasty chrysanthemum-shaped dishes are preserved in the Palace collections. A Ge ware dish of very similar form to the Guan ware dish in the current sale, although slightly smaller, is in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, and another similar Ge ware chrysanthemum dish is in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei (fig. 2). A Guan ware dish with even more petals and a flatter base with distinct foot ring, is in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, while a sixteen-petalled Guan ware brush washer with flat base is in the same collection. A chrysanthemum dish with crackled glaze similar to the one in the current sale, but possibly representing one of the Ge ware dishes still in the Palace collections, also appears on the Yongzheng Guwan tu hand-scroll in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is dated to 1729, and which illustrates antiques from the imperial collections in a range of media (fig. 3). It is also worth noting that, in the early 20th century, such was the prominence of the current Guan ware chrysanthemum dish that, when it was exhibited at the Musee de l'Orangerie in 1937, almost all of the other vessels with which it shared a case were Ru and Guan wares from the collection of Sir Percival David. In the case of Ding wares, while a number of chrysanthemum-shaped dishes dating to the Jin dynasty are known, Northern Song dynasty examples are very rare. A similarly-sized, flat-based, Northern Song Ding ware dish with 12-petalled rim was unearthed at the Ding kilns at Jianciling during excavations in 2009-2010. A flat-based multi-petalled Ding ware dish of similar form to the dish in the current sale was published in the Qianlong Emperor's album Zhen Tao Cui Mei (Precious Ceramics of Assembled Beauty), where it was dated to the Song dynasty (fig. 4). As the dish in the album has moulded decoration on the interior, it is likely to date to the Jin dynasty, but it is interesting to note that the dish itself appears to have been preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei. A similarly lobed Ding-type dish, but standing on a short straight foot, was excavated in 1970 from the tomb of Wang Ze, dated AD 1053, in Fengtai district, in Beijing. A slightly smaller Ding-type chrysanthemum-shaped dish also standing on a small straight foot was formerly in the collection of Carl Kempe, while a similar Yaozhou dish with a small straight foot was excavated in Binxian, Shaanxi province. A much smaller Ding ware dish with 12 petals and a flat base was also formerly in the Carl Kempe collection. Chrysanthemum-shaped dishes with flat bases are known from other Northern Song kilns in north China. A smaller example from the Yaozhou kilns is in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum, and a small brown-glazed example, probably from the Henan kilns, was formerly in the Carl Kempe collection. The current Ding ware chrysanthemum dish is of particular interest, and especially rare, as it appears to have been fired standing upside-down on the tips of its petals, which are unglazed. As the dish is delicately potted, and thus would have been liable to warp in the firing, this was a risky strategy on the part of the potter. However, the fully-glazed base adds to the sophistication of the vessel. Ts'ai Mei-fen of the National Palace Museum has argued that Ding wares did not necessarily have unglazed rims in order to allow them to be fired upside-down, but in order to prepare them for fashionable metal bands. However, this does not appear to have been the case with the current dish, since only the tips of the petals on which it would have stood in the kiln are unglazed. Otherwise the dish is fully glazed. In view of the rarity of this firing method and the high risk of failure, it is tempting to wonder if this dish was part of a special commission from a personage of great importance - perhaps an emperor. 1 Peter Valder, The Garden Plants of China, London, 1999, pp. 238-9, quoting Li, Hui-Lin, The Garden Flowers of China, New York, 1959 2 Pierre-Martial Cibot, 'Le Kiu-hoa ou la Matricaire de Chine', Memoires concernant l'histoire, les sciences les arts, les moeurs, les usages, etc., des Chinois: par les missionaires de Pekin - Notices de quelques Plantes, Arbrisseaux, etc. de la Chine, Beijing, 1778, pp. 455-61. 3 Wang Jiaxi, and Ma Yue, (trans. Deng Xin), China's Rare Flowers, Beijing, reprint 1995. 4 This treatise, along with two other Song dynasty treatises on chrysanthemums by Fan ChengdaSjand Shi Zhengzhiv, is included with Wang Guan's Yangzhou shao yao pu, Shanghai, 1939. 5 Christopher Thatcher, 'Flowers and Trees', The History of Gardens, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1979, p. 55. 6 Robert E. Harrist, 'Ch'ien Hs?an's Pear Blossoms: The Tradition of Flower Painting and Poetry from Sung to Yuan', Metropolitan Museum Journal, no. 22, New York, 1987, p. 54. 7 Ibid. 8 Illustrated by Yuan Jie in Calligraphy and Painting Gallery of the Palace Museum, Part IV, Beijing, 2009. The scroll is 16.79 m. long. 9 Illustrated by Hui-Shu Lee in Empresses, Art, & Agency in Song Dynasty China, Seattle and London, 2010, p.141, pl. 3.13. 10 Illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 31 - Porcelain of the Jin and Tang Dynasties, Hong Kong, 1996, pp. 62-3, no. 57. 11 Ibid. p. 176, no. 162. 12 Ibid., p. 66, no. 60. 13 Illustrated by the Nezu institute of Fine Arts in Colors and Forms of Song and Yuan China; Featuring Lacquerwares, Ceramics, and Metalwares, Tokyo, 2004, pp. 183-4, no. 48a. 14 Ibid., p. 185, no. 51a. 15 Ibid., p. 182, no. 42b. 16 Ibid. p. 175, no. 24b. 17 Ibid., exhibits 34 and 35. 18 Illustrated in Northern Song Ru Ware: Recent Archaeological Findings, Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 2009, pp. 100-101, no. 38. 19 Illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 33 - Porcelain of the Song Dynasty (II), Hong Kong, 1996, p. 88, no. 80. 20 Illustrated in Porcelain of the National Palace Museum - Ko Ware of the Sung Dynasty Book II, Hong Kong, 1962, no. 45. 21 Illustrated in Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Sung Dynasty Kuan Ware, Taipei, 1989, no. 95. 22 Illustrated in Porcelain of the National Palace Museum - Kuan Ware of the Southern Sung Dynasty Book II, Hong Kong, 1962, no. 20. 23 Victoria and Albert Museum accession number E.59-1911. 24 Moulded examples in the National Palace Museum, Taipei are illustrated in Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Ting Ware White Porcelain, Taipei, 1987, nos.92-98. 25 A diagram of the piece is shown by Qin Dashu, et al., in 'Dingyao Jianciling yaoqu fazhan jieduan chutan', Kaogu, 2014, no. 3, p. 86, fig. 9.1. 26 Both the Ding ware dish and the album leaf are illustrated in Obtaining Refined Enjoyment: The Qianlong Emperor's Taste in Ceramics , Taipei, 2012, pp. 216-7, no. 100. 27 Illustrated in Kaogu, 1972, no 3, p. 36, fig.2. 28 Illustrated by Bo Gyllensvard in Chinese Ceramics in the Carl Kempe Collection, Stockholm, Goteborg and Uppsala, 1964, p. 136, no. 431. 29 Illustrated by Shaanxi Provincial Museum in Yaoci tulu, Beijing, 1957, pls. 28 and 29. 30 Illustrated by Bo Gyllensvard, op. cit. p. 139, no. 443. 31 Illustrated by Mary Tregear in Song Ceramics, London, 1982, p. 115, pl.132. 32 Illustrated by Bo Gyllensv?rd, op. cit. p. 95, no. 269. 33 Ts'ai Mei-fen, 'A Discussion of Ting Ware with Unglazed Rims and Related Twelfth-Century Official Porcelain', Arts of the Sung and Yuan, New York, 1996, pp. 109-31. THE PROPERTY OF AN ASIAN COLLECTOR
AN IMPORTANT AND EXTREMELY RARE GUAN CHRYSANTHEMUM-SHAPED DISH

SOUTHERN SONG DYNASTY (1127-1279)

Details
AN IMPORTANT AND EXTREMELY RARE GUAN CHRYSANTHEMUM-SHAPED DISH
SOUTHERN SONG DYNASTY (1127-1279)
The dish is exquisitely potted with fifteen flutes flaring widely from the narrow circular foot and rising gently to the metal-bound rim, the interior similarly impressed with fifteen petals radiating from the slightly raised centre. The dish is covered overall with a thick pale greyish celadon glaze suffused with tiny bubbles and a dense network of russet crackle with the exception of the foot, exposing the purplish-brown body.
7 1/8 in. (18 cm.) wide, box
Provenance
Mrs. Alfred Clark Collection
Sold at Sotheby's London, 25 March 1975, lot 100
Sakamoto Goro
Oriental Arts UK Ltd., London, purchased in 2002
Exhibited
Museé de l'Orangerie, Arts de la Chine Ancienne, Paris, 1937, Catalogue, no. 466
The Oriental Ceramic Society, Ju and Kuan Wares, London, 12 November to 13 December 1952, Catalogue, no. 65
Palazzo Ducale, Venice, Arte Cinese, 1954, Catalogue, no.464
Museé Cernuschi, L'Art de la Chine des Song, Paris, 1956, Catalogue, no. 93, pl. XVI
Osaka Municipal Art Museum, So Gen no Bijutsu, Osaka, 1978, Catalogue, no.
Sale Room Notice
Please note that the provenance of this lot should read:
Mrs. Alfred Clark Collection
Sold at Sotheby's London, 25 March 1975, lot 100
Sakamoto Goro
Oriental Arts UK Ltd., London, purchased in 2002

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