Ge wares have been the subject of much scholarly research in recent years. The name has been used for centuries, and the ceramic ware associated with it has traditionally been greatly admired by connoisseurs. Literature relates Ge ware to Guan, or official, ware but the place of its manufacture remains as much a subject of debate as its precise dating. Traditionally known as one of the Five Great Wares of the Song Dynasty, Ge ware is first mentioned in the Zhizheng zhiji by Kong Qi in 1363, where it is referred to as gegedong and gege ware. The author records the purchase of a ding-form tripod incense burner "refined, and though new, its appearance is rich and lustrous as though made in the past". The name Ge first appears in the Ming Dynasty in the Xuande dingyipu. See Gugong bowuyuan yuankan, 1992, no. 2, pp. 3-17. Such has been the interest in this elusive ware, that an international conference on Ge ware was organized by the late Professor Wang Qingzheng at the Shanghai Museum in October 1992. For a report on this conference and further discussion of Ge ware, see the articles by R. Scott and S.J. Vainker in Oriental Art, Summer, 1993.
The most generally accepted description of Ge wares is that they have a pale, often greyish or yellowish glaze with a double crackle. The larger network of dark crackle lines are on the surface of the glaze, while a finer network of golden brown crackle appears deeper in the glaze. This feature is known in Chinese as jinsi tiexian ('gold thread and iron wire'). A classic example of this type of glaze could be seen on the large octagonal Ge ware vase, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 18 March 1991, lot 506, and the square cup also sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 25 October 1993, lot 703. Other examples include the tripod incense burner in the shape of a bronze ding in the Percival David Foundation, London, illustrated in Gugong bowuyuan yuankan, 1992, no. 2, cover; and by S. Yorke Hardy, Illustrated Catalogue of Tung, Ju, Kwan, Chun, Kuang-tung and Glazed I-hsing Wares in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, section I, London, 1953, pl. XIII, no. A29.
The shape of the current tripod vessel is very rare among existing guan and ge wares, however, one other example was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 31 October 1994, lot 528. Lobed brush-washers of Guan and Ge type with straight rims and no feet are the other closest vessel type of comparable date. These are generally called kuihua, or mallow flower-shaped dishes or brush-washers. A Ge ware kuihua brush-washer with double-crackled glaze in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in Gugong bowuyuan yuankan, 1992, no. 2, pl. 2. Several Guan ware examples of this type of straight-rimmed, footless vessel in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, are illustrated in Song Guanyao tezhan (Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Song Dynasty Guan Ware), National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1989, nos. 135-143. Others are in the Percival David Collection, one of which is illustrated by S. Yorke Hardy, in Illustrated Catalogue of Ting, Ju, Kuan, Chun, Kuang-tung and Glazed I-hsing Wares in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, op. cit.. A brush-washer of this shape, formerly in the collection of Frederick M. Mayer, was sold in our London Rooms, 24 June 1974, lot 60. Others have been sold at Sotheby's New York, 8 May 1980, lot 160 and in their London Rooms, 11 December 1984, lot 206.