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A Rare Imperial Numbered Jun' Narcissus Bowl, Early Ming Dynasty. photo Sotheby"s

The second single owner collection of the series, Harmony of Form, Serenity of Color: A Private Collection of ‘Song’ Ceramics, achieved a total of $9,039,375, comfortably exceeding the $4.7/6.8 million estimate. The sale was led by A Rare Imperial Numbered ‘Jun’ Narcissus Bowl, Early Ming Dynasty which sold for $2,210,500, many multiples of the $200/300,000 estimate. A Very Fine Carved ‘Ding’ ‘Peony’ Dish, Northern Song Dynasty fetched $866,500, comfortably exceeding the $500/700,000 estimate and A Rare Molded ‘Ding’ Basin, Jin Dynasty made $506,500, again surpassing the $120/160,000 estimate by a considerable margin.

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A Rare Imperial Numbered Jun' Narcissus Bowl, Early Ming Dynasty. photo Sotheby"s

of shallow circular form, the rounded sides gently curving down to a flat base supported on three ruyi-shaped feet, decorated on the exterior with a band of evenly spaced bosses between two narrow bands below the slightly incurved rim, a thick glaze of milky lavender tone mottled with purple flecks applied to the interior and exterior, thinning to a mottled lavender and olive-green below a second band of bosses around the base, and to a greenish-brown tone on the raised parts and feet, the base incised with the character san, 'three', and with a thinner brown glaze and a ring of eighteen spur marks revealing the gray body; diameter 8 1/4 in., 21 cm. Estimate 200,000—300,000 USD.Lot Sold 2,210,500 USD to Shanghai Tianwuguan Art Fund

PROVENANCE: Collection of Captain Vivian Bulkeley-Johnson, The Mount Trust.
Christie's Hong Kong, 1st October 1991, lot 714.
Christie's Hong Kong, 28th April 1996, lot 46.
Sotheby's London, 12th November 2003, lot 132.

NOTE: The dating of the Jun ware flower receptacles in mold-made shapes, inscribed on the base with numbers from one to ten, usually glazed in striking tones of bright blue and purple, has long been debated. In the past, two different schools of thought proposed datings either to the Northern Song (12th century) or to the early Ming (14th-15th century). The Northern Song date was supported by the discovery of a mold fragment for coins bearing the Xuanhe reign name (1119-1125), reputedly excavated at the kiln sites together with fragments of numbered Jun vessels and said to be made of the same clay. However, the dating of this coin mold has recently been dismissed as incorrect at a conference in Shenzhen. A dating to the early Ming dynasty is therefore now largely accepted for this group of vessels, following stylistic comparisons with jardinières, vases and other flower receptacles in celadon and blue-and-white from the Longquan and Jingdezhen kilns, which are more precisely datable. Since many of the numbered Jun wares are preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, and the Palace Museum, Beijing, from the former Imperial collection and often inscribed with the names of Palace halls, these vessels can now be considered Imperial flower vessels of the Ming court.

Highly prized throughout later Chinese dynastic history up to the present, these vessels are found in some of the most important museum and private collections, for example in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, illustrated in A Panorama of Ceramics in the Collection of the National Palace Museum: Chün Ware, Taipei, 1999, pls. 27-36, and the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Porcelain of the Song Dynasty, vol. I, Beijing, 1996, pls., 24-28. For other examples, compare Complete Works of Chinese Ceramics Shanghai, Song Dynasty, vol. I, 1999-2000, nos. 45 and 52, and Stacey Pierson, Song Ceramics, Objects of Admiration, London, 2003, p. 58, no. 19.

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A Very Fine Carved 'Ding’ ‘Peony' Dish, Northern Song Dynasty. photo Sotheby's

of shallow circular form, carved to the center with two luscious peony heads each borne on a leafy stem, within a plain, gently rounded shallow well and a flattened everted border finely incised with a continuous peony scroll, the underside plain, applied overall with an ivory glaze with streaks running down the exterior, the rim bound with a copper band; diameter 10 1/2 in., 26.5 cm. Estimate 500,000—700,000 USD. Lot Sold 866,500 USD to a Private American Collector

PROVENANCE: Toguri Collection, Tokyo.
Sotheby's London, 9th June 2004, lot 48.

EXHIBITED: Kaikan kinen meihin ten, Toguri Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1987, cat. no. 11.

NOTE: Ding ware, popular with the court of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), was considered one of the 'Five Classic Wares', along with Ru, Jun, Guan and Ge. The Ding kilns of Hebei were already operating in the 9th century, yet it was during the Northern Song period that potters achieved wares of extremely fine and thin bodies.

The copper-bound rim on the present dish indicates that it was fired using the fushao method. This method was widely used for Ding ware starting in the early part of the 11th century and required that the glaze was cleaned from the rim so that the item could be fired upside-down so that several pieces could be stacked together. The rim was subsequently fitted with metal. According to Hsieh Ming-liang in the essay 'A General Overview of Ting Ware White Porcelain' in Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Ting Ware White Porcelain, Taipei, 1986, the 'inverted-stacking technique saved fuel and kiln-space, [and] prevented shape distortion...' (p. 45).

Similar dishes are in prominent museum collections, including an example in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Ting Ware White Porcelain, Taipei, 1986, pl. 85. Another example formerly in the Qing court collection, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Porcelain of the Song Dynasty, vol. I, Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 67. A third example was included in the exhibition Masterpieces of Chinese Arts from the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 1989, cat. no. 69.

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A Rare Molded 'Ding' Basin, Jin Dynasty. photo Sotheby's

of deep form with angled sides slightly flared and encircled on the exterior by two raised bands below the metal-bound rim, the interior finely molded with four carp swimming in a lotus pond, molded around the sides by a pair of phoenix amidst a composite floral scroll, applied inside and out with a rich ivory glaze; diameter 10 3/4 in., 26 cm. Estimate 120,000—160,000 USD. Lot Sold 506,500 USD to a Private Collector.

PROVENANCE: Collection of R.H. Benson.
Christie's London, 1st July 1924, lot 52.
Collection of the Late Sir David Home Bt.
Sotheby's London, 8th December 1992, lot 142.

EXHIBITED: The British Council Exhibition of Chinese Art, The National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1944, cat. no. 488.

NOTE: Basins of this form, size and design are very rare. A basin of similar form and with a slightly different molded design, was sold in our London rooms, 11th July 1978, lot 117. For other published examples of the same type but with varying designs, compare, for example, Bo Gyllensvärd, Chinese Ceramics in the Carl Kempe Collection, Stockholm, 1964, no. 466, or another basin decorated with a molded design of a lion playing with a ball, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures at the Palace Museum, Porcelain of the Song Dynasty, vol. I, Beijing, 1996, no.78.

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A Fine Carved 'Longquan' Celadon Vase (Yuhuchun Ping), Yuan Dynasty. photo Sotheby's

the pear-shaped body rising to a slender neck with a pronounced flared mouth, well carved with a lotus scroll, the three open blooms among foliage on a combed fleshy stem all above a band of upright petals rising from the base, the sloping shoulders encircled by a band of cash motifs below a band of pendent lappets, the glaze a smooth pale green tone pooling to a deeper tone in the recesses of the carving, the grayish body burnt reddish-brown at the unglazed foot; height 9 1/4 in., 23.5 cm. Estimate 80,000—120,000 USD. Lot Sold 506,500 USD to an Asian collector.

PROVENANCE: Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Clark.
Sotheby's London, 25th March 1975, lot 53.
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 20th May 1980, lot 34.
The Collection of T.Y. Chao, Hong Kong.
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 18th November 1986, lot 28.

LITERATURE AND REFERENCES: Godfrey St. George Montague Gompertz, Chinese Celadon Wares, London and Boston, 1980, pl. 94.

NOTE: Longquan celadon, which was introduced in the latter part of the Song dynasty, was adopted in the Yuan dynasty with the period's characteristic flourish. As James C. Y. Watt writes in the exhibition catalogue The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty, New York, 2010, p. 269, 'Reduced to its most basic and obvious elements, the Yuan style in the decorative arts, in contrast to that of the Southern Song, is characterized by an emphasis on three-dimensional modeling and by the complexity of surface decoration.'

While Longquan celadon wares of the Song Dynasty emphasized the color, texture and form of the pieces, those of the Yuan demonstrate an interest in using the glaze to highlight the carved surface decoration. This difference in perception can be seen in the contrast between the present piece and lot 532 in this sale, the Southern Song period Longquan vase of similar shape but without carved decoration, which leaves the unctuous glaze undisturbed. The present vase, on the other hand, is fluidly carved with a tiered design element that is evocative of the decoration on contemporary silver wares as well as blue and white porcelain. The depth and movement on the surface of the vase draws forth a sensibiilty that is unequivocally Yuan.

Yuan examples of this yuhuchun form with carved decoration are rare among Longquan wares. However, a qingbai example with slightly looser carving design is illustrated in Jingdezhen Wares: The Yuan Revolution, Hong Kong, 1984, pl. 27, p. 94.

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A Very Rare 'Cizhou' Sgraffiato Vase (Meiping), Northern Song Dynasty. photo Sotheby's

the well-balanced ovoid body rising to swelling shoulders surmounted by a short straight neck with flat everted rim, skillfully carved around the body through the black slip to the white-dressed body with a meandering peony scroll, the feathery leafy stems supporting six large open peony blooms arranged in two registers, each flower with combed and double-teardrop hearts within lobed petals, all set between a collar and skirt of wavy overlapping lappets, all beneath a clear glaze revealing the gray body; height 11 5/8 in., 29.5 cm. Estimate 150,000—200,000 USD. Lot Sold 506,500 USD to an Asian Collector

PROVENANCE: Sotheby's New York, 19th September 2001, lot 124.

NOTE: The present vase belongs to a rare group of sgraffiato wares involving a labor intensive technique to produce the two-slip decoration. After two separate applications of slip, the upper layer of black slip was carefully incised and cut away to reveal the pristine white layer beneath and then a clear glaze was applied overall. Of the related examples, it is important to note not only the similarities but also the subtle differences in the gestural quality of the carving, the proportions of the blossoms and scrolling of the leaves which highlight the individual effort in their making. Shards similarly decorated and carved have been found at the Cizhou kilns at Guantai, Cixian, Hebei Province, the majority of which seem to emerge from strata corresponding to the Northern Song dynasty; for related fragments recovered from this site see Yutaka Mino, The Cizhou Kiln at Guantai, Beijing, 1997, col. pl. 21, fig. 96.

For discussions and illustrations of similar pieces in important collections, compare Suzanne Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, New York, 1989, p. 93, no. 88 for an illustration a carved meiping now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. A vase in the British Museum is illustrated in Yutaka Mino, Freedom of Clay and Brush through Seven Centuries in Northern China: Tz'u-chou Type Wares, 960-1600 A.D., Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1981, pp. 102-3, pl. 39 and fig. 97. Others, in the Kyoto National Museum and the Ise Foundation respectively, are published in Charm of Black & White Ware: Transition of Cizhou Type Wares, Osaka Municipal Museum of Art, 2002, nos. 51 and 52. A more freely incised meiping with different borders is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, illustrated in Wu Tung, Earth Transformed Chinese Ceramics in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 2001, p 63. The John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection example is illustrated in Treasures of Asian Art: The Asia Society's Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, New York, 1994, p. 161, no. 154.

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An Exceptional Purple-Splashed 'Jun' Dish, Northern Song Dynasty. photo Sotheby's

of shallow circular form with flanged everted rim, covered throughout in a very fine lavender-blue glaze dynamically splashed on both sides in rich splashes of purple varying from a pink tint to a deep plum and edged by a rich azurite-blue, the interior with two S-shaped splashes, surrounded by further splashes at the rim, the underside with additional vivd purple splashes, the base with three spur marks; diameter 7 1/2 in., 19 cm. Estimate 400,000—600,000 USD. Lot Sold 482,500 USD to an Asian Collector

PROVENANCE: Sotheby's London, 9th June 2004, lot 172.

NOTE: The boldly applied vivid purple splashes present a marked contrast to the luminescent pale blue glaze beneath. Seemingly randomly applied, the suffused arcs of crimson form a cohesive composition utilizing the entire surface of the dish: from the delicate crescents along the border rims, to the bolder strokes that commandeer the central well and base. Dishes with this striking combination of lavender-blue glaze and multiple vivid purple splashes, are exceptionally rare. A similar dish, with larger splashes and dated to the Jin dynasty, was sold in our London rooms, 10th November, 2010, lot 182. Two Jun dishes with purple splashes from the William Cleverly Alexander Collection, were sold in our London rooms, 6th May 1931, lots 144 and 150, and also illustrated in Stacey Pierson, Song Ceramics, Objects of Admiration, London, 2003, p. 120, no. 47.

For other examples now in important public collections see Chün Ware of the Sung Dynasty, The National Palace Museum, Taipei, p.81. pls. 38a,b, as well as a dish in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Chugoku Toji Zenshu, Kyoto, 1983, vol. 12, pls. 11 and 16. Compare also He Li, Chinese Ceramics, A New Comprehensive Survey from the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, 1996, p 152, no 241.

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A Fine And Rare 'Longquan' Celadon 'Bamboo-Neck' Vase, Southern Song Dynasty. photo sotheby's

the compressed body with sloping shoulders rising to a slightly tapered columnar neck surmounted by a wide dish-shaped mouth, the neck and body accentuated with raised filets to resemble bamboo, covered evenly with a rich glaze of luminous blue-green color, the unglazed footring burnt to a pale russet in the firing: height 7 1/2 in., 19.2 cm. Estimate 90,000—120,000 USD. Lot Sold 422,500 USD to Shanghai Tianwuguan Art Fund

PROVENANCE: Sotheby's New York, 30th March 2006, lot 27.

NOTE: Celadon vases of this elegant form may be considered among the finest and most sought after of those made in the Longquan kilns in the Southern Song period. The subtle balance of the compressed body and long neck emphasized by the raised filets created a form that resembles bamboo. Three slightly larger examples of this shape with variations in proportion and in the shape of the rim, recovered from a large hoard of ceramics in Sichuan province, dated to the Southern Song dynasty, illustrate how sought after vases of this shape and glaze were, compare Newly Discovered Southern Song Ceramics: A Thirteenth Century "Time Capsule", Odakyu Bijutsukan, Tokyo, 1998, cat. nos. 2, 3 and 5.

A related larger vase in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Porcelain of the Song Dynasty (II), Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 103; A slightly smaller related vase was sold in our London rooms, 17th December 1996, lot 43; and another at Christie's Hong Kong, 3rd November 1998, lot 910.

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A Rare Painted 'Jizhou' Vase (Meiping), Southern Song Dynasty. photo Sotheby's

finely potted of ovoid form, exquisitely painted in brown slip against a white ground with two large barbed foliate medallions enclosing a hexagonal diaper pattern on the interior, all reserved on a dense ground of wave scrolls of various sizes, above a thin band of pendent lappets and keyfret around the foot, all set below a band of further scrolls around a collar at the shoulders and a keyfret band around the low neck with a lipped rim, the unglazed base with the simple character liu; height 7 1/4 in., 18.5 cm. Estimate 100,000—150,000 USD. Lot Sold 254,500 USD to an Asian Collector

PROVENANCE: Sotheby's New York, 19th March 2007, lot 404.

NOTE: Jizhou meiping painted with similarly intricate and detailed designs are extremely rare. Similar scrolling leafy meanders on most comparable Jizhou forms are typically larger in scale and more freely rendered. The highly articulate execution of the present work and careful attention to adapting the pattern to compliment the broad rounded shouldered form with tapering base are remarkable.

No other meiping with this particular pattern of painted decoration appears to have been published. A Jizhou meiping painted with figures in four barbed panels among cloud scrolls, was excavated from a tomb at Foshan in Guangdong province, illustrated in Zhongguo toaci quanji, vol. 8, Shanghai, 1999, pl. 220. Other intricately painted vases are illustrated in Good Fortune Throughout History, An Exhibition of Black Glaze Porcelain from Tzu-chou and Ji-chou Kilns, National Museum of History, Taipei, no. 38. A pear-shaped vase with a dense scrollwork ground but differently shaped reserves was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 20th May 1981, lot 658.

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A 'Longquan' Celadon Foliate-Shaped Dish, Song Dynasty. photo Sotheby's

with deep flaring sides rising to a lobed rim, evenly covered with a luminous bluish-green glaze with wide light brown crackles, the foot unglazed; diameter 6 1/4 in., 15.9 cm. Estimate 15,000—25,000 USD. Lot Sold 194,500 USD to an Asian Collector

PROVENANCE: Property of an English Institution.
Christie's London, 10th December 1990, lot 114A.

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A Fine And Very Rare 'Kinuta' Glazed 'Longquan' Celadon Vase (Yuhuchun Ping), Southern Song Dynasty. photo Sotheby's

of elegantly potted pear-shape, supported on a low slightly splayed foot and rising in a gradual tapered curve to the tall upright neck with wide trumpet mouth, applied overall with unctuous, even celadon glaze of bluish-green 'kinuta' color draining away from the mouth rim to a slightly paler tone and ending just short of the knife-cut foot rim to reveal the dense grayish-white body burnt slightly orange in the firing; height 10 7/8 in., 27.6 cm. Estimate 150,000—200,000 USD. Lot Sold 182,500 USD to Shanghai Tianwuguan Art Fund

PROVENANCE: Sotheby's New York, 27th March 2003, lot 45.

NOTE: With its elegant silhouette and unctuous glaze, the present vase is a fine example of the Song taste for pure color and refined form. It can be compared to a similar vase in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, illustrated in Basil Gray, Sung Porcelain & Stoneware, London, 1984, p. 175, fig. 141. Although the Boston vase has a more attenuated neck, both examples are exquisitely potted and merit Gray's statement about the former vase that 'the finest Southern Sung Lung-ch'uan pieces rely entirely on the quality of shape and glaze for their appeal,' ibid., p. 174.

For a slightly smaller Longquan vase of related shape, compare an example sold in these rooms, 22nd and 23rd September 2004, lot 201; another example sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 3rd May 1994, lot 20.

Sotheby's. Harmony of Form, Serenity of Color: A Private Collection of 'Song' Ceramics. 23 Mar 11, New York www.sothebys.com