Buyer pays over a million pounds for doucai jar at Woolley & Wallis

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The jar was displayed last week at Woolley & Wallis’ new London office in Clifford Street, Mayfair      Photo by Paul Harris

Hopes at Woolley & Wallis today were firmly focused on Lot 88 in their Asian Art sale. And rightly so, as it turned out. The little jar – Yongzheng with cover – well exceeded the estimate of £100,000-200,000 to get a closing bid of £880,000. The buyer will be forking out well over a million pounds by the time buyer’s premium and VAT is taken into account. Altgether not a bad result for something bought in 1946 for just nine pounds, ten shillings!

Woolley & Wallis described it thus in their catalogue: SIX CHARACTER YONGZHENG MARK IN UNDERGLAZE BLUE AND OF THE PERIOD 1723-35. The ovoid body gently tapering at the foot, delicately painted in underglaze blue with two scaly yinglong (winged dragons) in flight amongst scrolling clouds, a band of scalloped lappets to the shoulder and foot embellished with doucai enamels, the circular flattened cover with a single yinglong within concentric bands, the base with a paper label for Bluett & Sons, London, 11cm across, 10.4cm high. (2)

Provenance: a British private collection. Purchased from Bluett & Sons, London, 1st May 1946, for £9:10.

Cf. The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colours, p.233, no.214, where a comparable jar and cover from the Yongzheng reign is illustrated. A jar without a cover in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum is illustrated in A Hougron’s publication, La Céramique chinoise ancienne, p.212. For a tian jar dating to the Chenghua period after which this example is modelled, see the Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong, The Legacy of Chenghua, Imperial Porcelain of the Chenghua Reign Excavated from Zhushan, Jingdezhen, p.310, no.C111; another from the Percival David Foundation is illustrated by R Scott & S Pierson in Flawless Porcelains: Imperial Ceramics from the Reign of the Chenghua Emperor, p.36, no.17. For an example with a cover sold at Sotheby & Co, see The Collection of W W Winkworth Esq, Fine Chinese Ceramics and Bronzes, 12th December 1972, lot 119, purchased by H Moss for £580.

來源:英國私人收藏,1946年5月1日以£9.10的價格購於Bluett & Son, London

北京故宮博物館有一例雍正仿成化紋飾的鬥彩應龍蓋罐刻字比較,見《故宮博物院文物珍品大系——五彩·鬥彩》香港,2008,頁233,圖214;另見英國維多利亞及阿爾伯特博物館藏一例同一紋飾無蓋鬥彩應龍罐,詳見A Hougron’s publication著,《 La Céramique chinoise ancienne》,頁212.

W W Winkworth Esq家族亦舊藏一件鬥彩應龍紋罐(蓋可能後配),後於蘇富比拍賣行于1972年12月12日售出·編號119.當時由Hugh Moss以£580的价格购得。

Yongzheng chicken bowl comes to light in Scotland

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Sun Yumei’s daughter, Lucy, holds the Yongzheng chicken bowl for sale in Scotland

A rare Yongzheng chicken bowl has come to light in Scotland. Chinese Art in Scotland have been asked to sell the bowl by an anonymous collector, who is simply described as ‘a well known international film director’. No further information is to be given out as the owner who, it is understood, is very ill wishes to protect his identity at this sensitive time.

Genuine old chicken cups or bowls, correctly ascribed to their period, are in considerable demand these days. Most prized are 15h century Chenghua reign bowls and last year Shanghai collector Liu Yixian paid a record US$36.3m hammer for such an example.

Chicken cups have, of course, been much copied over the years and, even, Liu Yiqian has authorised copies of his own purchase at around $60 US.

“This is the crowning glory for collectors,” says Nicholas Chow, Sotheby’s Chinese ceramics expert.

The painting on the cup bought by Yixian is a naive, almost childish, coloured depiction of a rooster and a hen taking care of a young chick—a parable for Confucian virtues that extend to an emperor’s looking after his subjects. The simplicity is what makes this cup so desirable, said Mr. Chow, and the artist’s “impressionistic” style is atypical for that time.

But, as usual with Chinese porcelain, it is a case of caveat emptor. Mr. Chow says the chicken cups are the most-copied bowls in China, and even the Chenghua examples in museums have aroused suspicion. In a Sotheby’s catalogue essay about the chicken-cup sale, ceramics expert Regina Krahl has written that former Sotheby’s Chairman Julian Thompson had maintained that the two examples at the Palace Museum in Beijing were fakes.

The new discovery is not in perfect condition. There are signs of use and wear to the inside and hairline cracks visible to the base.

Chinese Art in Scotland director, Sun Yumei, says they are ‘completely satisfied’ with the authenticity of their chicken cup. ‘Everything about it is right: the translucence, the whiteness of the porcelain and its fragility. It is well painted in the doucai tradition and we are sure it is right.’ And what will be the price?

‘Understandably, it will not appear on our website (chineseartinscotland.co.uk). There are a few parties possibly interested but, most likely, if it is not sold privately, it will eventually go to auction. Meantime, we shall enjoy having it around.’

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Yongzheng mark to the base of the cup