Collectors have different reasons for being passionate about ceramics - particularly Chinese Ceramics which have such a deep history and are of exquisite beauty, writes the owner of The Chinese Collection coming to auction on July 29.
A major starting point for any collection is the holding of Imperial Ware - particularly early Qing, Ming and within Ming pieces those of the Chenghua Emperor.
Where major European potters (of course more recent relative to Chinese works) such as Wedgwood produced for a wealthy but large upper-class in Europe, the most outstanding potters and capabilities from Jingdezhen were focused on producing small numbers of outstanding pieces for the Chinese Emperor, and a relatively small Court
In this auction collection, attention should first turn to the Ming Chenghua (1464 – 1487 reign) Wine Cups (#9 and #10). Whilst far from outstanding condition they offer an opportunity to own a piece what is arguably the epitome of world porcelain against which all others can be measured in quality and price.
The Doucai Cup (#9) is according to the literature one of only four known extant pieces of this design (later copied in the early Qing Dynasty and themselves hugely valuable) – the others being in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, the Percival David collection and another from the accumulation of pieces from Jingdezhen. This collection offers an example of an original piece that is unlikely to appear again.
Jingdezhen was the source of other Imperial Ware in this collection, including the fine and rare 18th Century, Blue-glazed Dish and Bowl (#13) with Jing Wei Tang Zhi “Hall of Reverant Awe” marks. It is likely from the foot-rim that the piece can be attributed to the late Yongzheng / early Qianlong dynasty - although the mark was also known to be used during Jiaqing and Daoguang reigns.
Monochrome pieces like this bring a calm sense of reverence echoed in this case to the hall it was housed in. Of equal veneration through its thin body, delicately incised lotus foliage, contemplative shape and monochrome ivory, almost creamy, glaze is the Song (960 – 1279) Dingware bowl (#5).
Also from the Song Dynasty are the Tea Bowls (#6 and #7) from the Dragon kilns in Fujian province that I had the pleasure of visiting. The papercut resist prunus florets on (#6) is a particularly fine piece, the base of which I matched to the clay buffer foot base during my visit. The bowls also remind me of my years spent living in Japan and attending tea ceremonies.
Included as Imperial Ware are the exquisite-coloured Kangxi (1661 – 1722) marked Famille-Noire Bowl (#11) from the Goldschlager Collection) and the elegant and shining glazed Bao Shan Zhai Zhi (the Study for the Precious and Virtuous) marked Blue & White Daoguang (1820 – 1850) Eight Immortals Bowl (#12).
Before turning to older pieces in the collection, mention must be made of the outstanding Blue & White three-piece Yuan (1271 – 1368) teacup (#8) that is covered in beautiful scrolls and which to my mind - having spent long periods of time in leading museums looking - offer a free-movement in brush strokes that was seldom achieved in later dynasties. Again, the piece is quite unique with few comparable extant pieces.
Whilst Blue & White pieces were introduced into China during the Yuan dynasty – again helping to explain why (#8) is quite so unique – blue splashes had appeared, very rarely, on a few Tang Dynasty (618 – 690 & 705 – 907) Sancai pieces, and one such very rare – and high quality - Tang Sancai with Blue splash Censor is included in the collection (#1a).
Also, Tang are the splendid Sancai Figurines (#3) and the cute lifelike unglazed duck (#4). If we are including the horse and rider (#2) I would wish to say something on that here.
Further back again, and on the theme of beautiful-glazed animals showing emotions we recognise today is the alert Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) Dog (#1). I dabble in pottery sculpture and this piece has not only been a great inspiration to me, but a reminder that the feelings and understanding we have for our pets today was clearly the same 2,000 years ago.
To close my account, I cannot help but comment on the Eastern Zhou (8th-3rd century BC) Dui (#16). Bronzes like this became an inspiration - due to their innovative and beautiful forms and out of reverence and respect for the past - for ceramics, jades and glass including the Peking Glass (#15); whilst the bronze script which has been inscribed inside (which few pieces like (#16) have), has been a critical source of study and pleasure for calligraphers and seal carvers. As with the ceramics this is a piece offering the owner a remarkable opportunity to hold and admire a piece of our world ancestry and their outstanding artistic achievements.
The Chinese Auction will be held on July 29 at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire. To find out more or to arrange a private viewing, email Isabel Murtough: [email protected]