This vase is of an especially elegant yuhuchunping, pear-shaped vase form. William Watson noted in Tang and Liao Ceramics, London, 1984, where this vase is illustrated, pl. 63, that this form is 'one of the purest expressions of the feeling for delicately carving, unarticulated profiles, which grew through the Five Dynasties period to the Northern Song.' Closed forms are considerably rarer than open forms among surviving examples of fine white Ding ware, and pear-shaped vases are particularly rare. Some scholars have suggested that one of the uses for pear-shaped vases was as a decanter for wine (see Ho Chuimei, 'Social Life under the Mongols as seen in Ceramics', Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, Vol. 59, 1994-95, pp. 41-42). Although as yet there is little corroborating evidence for this use in the Song period, Yuan dynasty burials and tomb murals suggest this may have been the case. Certainly the graceful proportions of the few extant Song dynasty Ding and Ru ware pear-shaped vases (for the latter see J. Rawson (ed.), The British Museum Book of Chinese Art, British Museum Press, London, 1992, p. 225, pl. 166) show that they were eminently suitable to grace the tables of the refined Song elite.
A smaller (H: 25 cm.) Northern Song Ding ware pear-shaped vase with slightly longer neck and incised floral decoration is in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, and illustrated in Dingyao baici tezhen tulu, Taipei, 1987, no. 22. A similar, and even smaller (H: 16 cm.), Ding ware pear-shaped vase with incised floral decoration in the collection of the Tianjin Museum of Art is illustrated in Zhongguo wenwu qinghua daquan, Taibei, 1993, p. 264, no. 311. An undecorated (H: 21.9 cm.) pear-shaped Ding vase with somewhat elongated neck is in the collection of the British Museum, and is illustrated by S. Vainker in Chinese Pottery and Porcelain From Prehistory to the Present, British Museum Press, London, 1991, p. 89, no. 66.
Compare also other similar vases, one from the Charles B. Hoyt Collection in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, illustrated in the Memorial Exhibition Catalogue, 1952, pl. 88, no. 349; one in the Hakone Art Museum, Japan, illustrated in Mayuyama, Seventy Years, 1976, vol. 1, no. 637; one illustrated by S. Valenstein, The Herzman Collection of Chinese Ceramics, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1992, no. 25; one included in the Baltimore Museum of Art exhibition, Born of Earth and Fire, Chinese Ceramics from the Scheinman Collection, 1992, and illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 57; and others sold at auction, one in our New York Rooms, 5 June 1986, lot 214, and another sold in these Rooms, 23 March 1993, lot 704.
A similarly proportioned, white-glazed pear-shaped vase is in the Kwan Collection (Song Ceramics from the Kwan Collection, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1994, p. 106, no. 35). The Kwan vase has been attributed as Jiexiu ware, and was probably influenced by vases such as the current Ding ware example.