A rare blue and white wine ewer and cover Yongzheng four-character mark and of the period, circa 172
Lot 36
A rare blue and white globular wine ewer and cover
Yongzheng four-character mark and of the period, circa 1722-1725
Sold for £ 16,800 (US$ 23,457) inc. premium

Fine Chinese Art

14 May 2009, 10:30 BST

London, New Bond Street

Lot Details
Various owners
A rare blue and white wine ewer and cover Yongzheng four-character mark and of the period, circa 172 A rare blue and white wine ewer and cover Yongzheng four-character mark and of the period, circa 172
A rare blue and white globular wine ewer and cover
Yongzheng four-character mark and of the period, circa 1722-1725
The gently rounded body set to one side with an elegant S-shaped spout and surmounted by an upright rectangular handle, painted on one side with a cartouche enclosing four figures in a boat within a landscape, the reverse with a fifty-six-character poem ending in two mock seals, with two lines of cloud scroll at the shoulder, and the upright handle painted with stylised clouds, the flattened cover surmounted by a rounded finial.
15.6cm (6in) high (2).


  • The subject matter on this rare ewer refers to the visits to the scenic site of the Red Cliffs by Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo (1037-1101) and the two ‘Red Cliff’ Odes, which the poet later penned.

    The ‘Red Cliff’ Odes, known as ‘The Former Ode to the Red Cliff’ and ‘The Later Ode to the Red Cliff’, are amongst the poet’s most well-known and popular works. The site of the ‘Red Cliffs’ is a reference to one of the most famous battles in Chinese history, known as the Chibi Zhi Zhan, which took place in 208BC between the allied forces of the Southern warlords Liu Bei and Sun Quan, against the Northern warlords of General Cao Cao. This battle consequently founded the Three Kingdoms, establishing the division between southern China from the northern Yellow River. The battle was later the subject of a chapter in one of China’s most famous literary masterpieces; Romance of the Three Kingdoms, San Guo Yanyi, in the fourteenth century. However, it was Su Dongpo’s visit to the site, and the poems which it inspired, which encouraged countless later interpretations of the scene in Chinese painting, such as 'Su Dongpo at Red Cliff' by Li Song (circa 1190-1225) in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas, illustrated by P. Buckley Ebrey and Kwang-ching Liu, The Cambridge Illustrated History of China, Cambridge, 1999, p.140.

    The frequent depictions of the Red Cliffs in works of art of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century is particularly pertinent and politically significant. As Julia Curtis argues, the subject matter of ‘Odes to the Red Cliff’, with its reminders of the victory of Southern China over the evil ‘Northerner’, General Cao Cao, would have appealed to the Ming loyalist literati at a time when the ‘barbaric’ Emperor Kangxi’s Manchu government had founded the Qing dynasty and restored peace to China. See J.B.Curtis, ‘Markets, Motifs and Seventeenth-Century Porcelain from Jingdezhen’, in R.Scott (Ed.), The Porcelains of Jingdezhen: Colloquies on Art & Archaeology in Asia No. 16, London, 1992, pp.136-8.

    Several examples of Kangxi-period vessels inscribed with Su Dongpo’s ‘Odes’ are published; such as a blue and white beaker vase inscribed with the ‘Later’ Ode in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 36 - Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (III), Hong Kong, 2000, no.32; and a Kangxi-marked vase of tapering square shape inscribed on two sides with both Odes, illustrated in Kangxi Porcelain Ware from the Shanghai Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1998, pp.42-3.

    Porcelains inscribed with the same later poem, as found on the current example, are far rarer. A Kangxi brushpot, similarly painted on one side with a related scene of scholars on a boat, and painted on the reverse with two poems, one corresponding to the second part of Su Dongpo’s Ode, and the second the same as on the current example, was sold at Christie's New York, 22 March 2007, lot 324.

    ‘Red Cliff’ depictions on Yongzheng porcelain are rarer still, and there do not appear to be any other published examples. This politically-significant subject matter, of particular relevance to the founding years of the Qing Dynasty, on Yongzheng-period porcelain indicates that this piece must have been produced in the initial years of the new Emperor’s reign.
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