This very rare persimmon-glazed covered bowl is remarkable not only for the beauty of its glaze, but for the remarkably well preserved gold and silver decoration applied to its surface. Although the pale buff coloured body of the bowl makes an attribution to the Ding kilns unlikely, both the fine persimmon glaze and the surface decoration link it closely to Ding wares. A small number of Ding ware bowls survive which have gold and/or silver decoration applied to the surface of their glazes. One with partridge feather glaze is included in the current sale as lot 515. There are two persimmon-glazed Ding ware bowls with this type of on-glaze decoration in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum, see Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, Song Ceramics, Asahi Shimbun, 1999, pp. 72-3, nos. 35 and 36. These are both designated Important Cultural Properties. One (no. 35) has a design of peonies and butterflies in gold, while the other (no. 36) has a gold and silver design of peonies within a border. The second of these bowls provides a particularly interesting comparison to the current covered bowl, since on both vessels, the main decorative motifs are predominantly gold, while broad bands of silver are used to encircle the designs. The silver bands on the current covered bowl are at the edge of both bowl and cover, and it may be of interest to note that two white glazed covered bowls of similar form excavated in Sichuan in 1991 have the remains of metal bands around the edge of their covers and bowl rims (Newly Discovered Southern Song Ceramics - A Thirteenth-Century "Time Capsule", Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, 1998, pp. 92-3, nos. 111 and 112).
The gold and silver designs seem to have adhered slightly better to the more matt surface of the persimmon-glazed wares, but traces of gold decoration can also be seen on a small number of Ding bowls with black glazes. Two such bowls are illustrated in Song Ceramics, op. cit., pp. 74-5, nos. 37 and 38. The one with floral designs from the MOA Museum of Art (no. 37) has been designated an Important Cultural Property, while the other (no. 38), decorated with peonies and butterflies, has been designated an Important Cultural Object. A very rare white Ding bowl in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum bears traces of a gold crane and cloud design, Ibid., p. 76, no. 39.
The current bowl is most closely related to the fine covered bowls from the Ding kilns, such as the white-glazed example in the Palace Museum, Beijing, but more especially those with high-iron glazes, like the persimmon-glazed Ding bowl in the same collection; see Porcelain of the Song Dynasty (I): The Complete Treasures of the Palace Museum, Li Huibing (ed.) Commercial Press, Hong Kong, 1996, nos. 58 and 85. A clue to the shape of the small finial on the lid of these covered bowls can be found on small covered bowls made at the Yue kilns in the early Northern Song period. These, like the lidded vases, were often decorated with overlapping petals or leaves and also typically had lids in the form of upturned or pendant lotus leaves; see Zhongguo Wenwu Jinghua Daquan, Taipei, 1993, p. 278, nos. 363 and 364. Their finials were therefore formed as stems, which provide the origin of the persimmon-glazed bowl's finial.
Various versions of these covered bowls are found within the Cizhou tradition. White vessels, such as that in Boston from the Charles B. Hoyt Collection and marbled ware examples, like that in the same institution give an idea of the range, see Jan Fontein, et al., The World's Great Collections - Oriental Ceramics - Vol. 10, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Kodansha, Tokyo, 1980, nos. 126 and 84. A somewhat later covered bowl, excavated from the Duandian kiln in Lushan, Henan, which has a reduced diameter in proportion to its height, is typical of the black and white versions of this form made at the Cizhou kilns; see Ceramic Finds from Henan, University Museum and Art Gallery/Henan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Hong Kong, 1997, p. 116, no. 87. A Southern Song covered bowl with qingbai glaze, made at Jingdezhen but excavated in Sichuan, indicates how closely the Song northern form was copied by the southern potters; see Newly Discovered Southern Song Ceramics - A Thirteenth-Century "Time Capsule", Asahi Shimbun, Japan, 1998, pp. 92-3, nos. 111 & 112.
Covered bowls of this form were also made with black and russet 'partridge feather' glaze at kilns in north China. One such bowl, formerly in the Falk Collection, was sold in our New York Rooms, 16 October 2001, lot 83, while another with similar glaze is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, see Jan Fontein, et al., The World's Great Collections - Oriental Ceramics - Vol. 10, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Kodansha, Tokyo, 1980, no. 161. Similar, but unpublished, mottled-glaze covered bowls are in the collection of the Art Institute Chicago and in a private collection in St. Louis (formerly in the Alfred Clark Collection). The Meiyintang Collection also includes related vessels, see R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. I, London, 1994, pp. 254-5, no. 462. One aspect of the current covered bowl's potting is unusual - the deeply incised line running around the upper surface of its lid.