Unusual ‘Kiangnan’ vase to come up at Dukes

pear shape kiangnan vase

An unusual type of Chinese vase, once popular with significant collectors, comes up at Dukes in Dorchester on Friday May 20. A so-called Kiangnan vase (Kiangnan, also known as Jiangnan, is the name given to the region around the Yangtse River delta in southern China) the genre is known for its creamy ‘ostrich egg’ glaze with fine crackles.

Dukescatalogue it as ‘Lot 125 A LARGE CHINESE KIANGNAN PEAR-SHAPED VASE with a long neck, covered in a creamy ‘ostrich egg’ glaze with fine crackles, one side with a subtle foliate pattern, Ming, 20.5″ (52cm) high

‘Provenance: Bluett & Sons, London 1940. J.C. Thomson Collection. Private collection, South Wales.

‘So-called Kiangnan Ting ‘ostrich egg’ glazed vases of this type were highly sought after by collectors in the mid-20th century. Sir William Burrell acquired a piece from Bluetts in 1943 which is now in the Glasgow collections. Lord Cunliffe also bought one from Bluetts for £75 in 1947 which was exhibited at the 1948 OCS Exhibition (no. 140). For published examples see A.L. Hetherington “The Early Ceramic Wares of China”, 1922 pl.22; and Hobson and Hetherington “The Art of the Chinese Potter”, 1923, pl.61.’

The vase is most reasonably estimated at £1,500-3,000. Given its established provenance, it will surely do much better than that

Berwick shows off Chinese treasures from its Burrell collection

The northern English town of Berwick upon Tweed is showing off treasures from a collection of artefacts, porcelain and pictures bequeathed to it by the late Sir William Burrell who, of course, endowed the much larger collection owned by the City of Glasgow. Berwick’s collection includes Chinese porcelain and decorative objects, some of which are currently on display in three glass cases.


Two cases of Oriental pieces from Berwick’s Burrell collection  Photo Paul Harris

Some of the pieces are not without interest although we found the captioning accompanying them to be a bit hit and miss. Whoever did the captioning seemed to be unaware of the difference between certain Chinese mythical animals and has confused kylin with lion dog. Also there is some ambiguity present with Chinese blue and white apparently confused with Delft ware. Needless to say, we have apprised the organisers of these small infelicities!

The Burrell connection with Berwick upon Tweed derives from his purchase of nearby Hutton Castle as his country residence for when he tired of ‘big business’ as a shipping magnate based in Glasgow. His shipping concern brought him into close contact with countries like China and Japan and he obtained some outstanding pieces from both countries.

Despite his fabulous wealth which funded a vast art collection, Burrell was an extraordinarily mean man. A friend of ours, who we used to work with, London publisher Mr Charles Skilton in 1955 produced a lavish coffee table book on the Scottish artist Joseph Crawhall. It was produced on handmade paper with colour collotype tipped in plates printed in East Germany. The price was 5 guineas then (it sells for around £100 secondhand these days) but Charles thought it worth his while to show the book to Burrell, who was the artist’s greatest patron. Indeed, the book contained many plates illustrating Burrell’s purchases.

Burrell leafed idly through the book, gave it back to Charles with the observation ‘very nice’. He forbore to purchase a single copy of the limited edition. After a simple dinner Charles went off to bed early as every body in the house seemed to have disappeared. At 9pm precisely, all the lights went out. Burrell had the master switch installed above his own bed and the last thing he did before going to sleep at an early hour was to turn off the electricity throughout the castle!

The quality of the Chinese pieces is not on quite the same level as his European art purchases. Within the exhibition are some outstanding oils and watercolours by artists like Degas, Boudin, Maris, Crawhall and (Arthur) Melville.

The exhibits have not been widely seen before now and The Granary Gallery in Berwick, which is hosting the show, is well worth a visit. Guided tours, talks and a schools programme are accompanying the exhibition and you can learn more at www.berwickvisualarts.co.uk/get-involved.


Kangxi blue and white vase from Berwick’s Burrell collection   Photo Paul Harris

Berwick’s Burrell Collection is on show at The Granary Gallery, Dewar’s Lane, Berwick upon Tweed until May 4 2015

Vase with Burrell provenance up for sale

215 bonhams february 25
Later this month, there will be a rare opportunity to purchase an item from the collection amassed by Sir William Burrell. Bonhams in Knightsbridge will be offering a Kangxi iron-red and gilt decorated powder blue rouleau vase which he gave to his younger sister, Mary Burrell.
Sir William Burrell (1861-1958) was certainly one of Britain’s greatest collectors and endowed museums and galleries with many fine works. Much of his collection was donated to the City of Glasgow, where he was the most prominent ship owner and trader. Today, most of his collection is displayed in a custom-made building, but he also endowed museums in places like Berwick upon Tweed, which was near to his Northumberland residence, Hutton Castle. He bought well and was a man of impeccable taste.
The item for sale is catalogued as an iron-red and gilt decorated powder blue rouleau vase (Kangxi) The cylindrical body finely enamelled in iron red and black with four large carp swimming amongst seaweed, smaller carp and langoustines, all in gilt, the shoulder with quatrefoil medallions enclosing four of the babao and reserved on a diaper border, the bamboo-trunk neck with formal shou and wan roundels framed by decorative bands above and below. 47cm (18 1/2in) high
  • Provenance: ex. Mary Burrell (1873-1968) Collection; Mary Burrell was the youngest sister of the famous Glasgow based collector, Sir William Burrell (1861-1958).  Sir William Burrell was a wealthy Glaswegian shipping magnate . . . over the span of about eighty years he amassed a vast and eclectic collection, seeking out the finest craftsmanship in the objects he acquired. The collection, gifted in 1944 to the city of Glasgow, mostly focuses on late medieval and early Renaissance Europe, but it also contains very representative and important examples of Chinese and Islamic art, Ancient Civilisations and French Paintings, including works by Rodin, Degas and Cézanne.

The combination of powder blue ground with iron red and gilded decoration was one of the most popular amongst the export types produced at Jingdezhen in the 18th century. Wares decorated in this palette were particularly favoured in the Middle East and in Europe, where they would be used as table wares or decorative objects in the residences of the élite.
Powder-blue glazed porcelain was first produced in the late 17th century in Jingdezhen. Its Chinese name, chuiqing, derives from the particular technique required to apply the pigment: the powdered cobalt was blown onto the surface through a bamboo cane whose extremity was covered in a fine gauze.
A similarly decorated vase was sold by Christie’s Hong Kong, 27 May 2008, lot 1752. Another rouleau vase, with differently gilded ground but very similar treatment of the fish and very specifically dated to 1700-1710, is in the Victoria & Albert Museum collection, museum no. C.1347-1910.

This particular vase is modestly priced at £10,000-12,000. Given its exemplary provenance and undoubted quality, we predict it will do much better than that.