A magnificent and brilliantly enamelled wucai 'fish' jar Jiajing six-character mark and of the period
Lot 281
A magnificent and brilliantly enamelled wucai 'fish' jar Jiajing six-character mark and of the period
HK$ 14 million - 16 million
US$ 1.8 million - 2.1 million

Lot Details
A magnificant wucai fish jar, Jiajing mark and of the period, later cover A magnificant wucai fish jar, Jiajing mark and of the period, later cover
A magnificent and brilliantly enamelled wucai 'fish' jar
Jiajing six-character mark and of the period
Of sumptuous globular form with high shoulders rising to a thick lipped rim, the exterior brilliantly decorated in rich wucai enamels with a continuous scene of carp of various sizes depicted swimming in a lotus pond amidst aquatic plants, their lively and twisted bodies painted in bright orange enamels highlighting scales, lateral and dorsal fins in rich iron-red, happily plunging and rising amongst dense weeds, lotus leaves and blossom, further scattered with loose foliage, all between a band of overlapping leaf lappets at the foot with flaming lappets at the collar, the base with a six-character mark; together with a replacement cover.
40.8cm diam. (2).

Footnotes

  • 明嘉靖 五彩荷塘魚藻紋罐
    青花「大明嘉靖年製」楷書款

    Provenance 來源:
    Sotheby's Hong Kong, 26 October 2003, lot 74
    香港蘇富比,2003年10曰26日,拍品74

    Jiajing 'fish' jars of this large size, brilliantly enamelled in wucai ('five coloured') enamels, are arguably the most prized of all Chinese porcelains, and hold centrepiece in some of the greatest museum and private collections in the world. In the Jiajing period, the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen achieved a technical breakthrough in producing porcelains of such large size, and it is noteworthy that, unlike other Ming porcelains, these jars were not produced in later reigns. The complexity of firing jars of this large size, combined with the technical difficulty of enamelling such vibrant scenes on the exterior, would have made the production of these jars a costly enterprise.

    The Jiajing Emperor was highly attracted to Daoism, and is known to have supported Daoist causes and demonstrated an interest in alchemy and other Daoist doctrines. As Steven Little expounds in Taoism and the Arts of China, Chicago, 2000, pg. 124, in a description of the painting The Pleasures of Fishes by Zhou Dongqing (active late 13th century), the motif of fish swimming in the water prompts the viewer to consider the story of the Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi, who was walking with two men by a river, and on seeing fish swimming in the water, remarked on their freedom and happiness. The Confucian Huizi challenged Zhuangzi,'How do you know what fish enjoy', to which Zhuangzi replied 'The answer is obvious to anyone standing by the river and seeing the fish'. True understanding, in Zhuangzi's worldview, should be acquired intuitively, without the need for explication. The freedom of the fish in the water is symbolic of the happy, carefree life of a Daoist practitioner. As such, the motif of fish swimming in water was a popular motif in Daoist paintings, as seen in the painting illustrated here by the Song dynasty artist Liu Cai.

    In the Jiajing period, the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen successfully introduced a new shade of orange was created through the combination of yellow enamel with pale-red. The porcelain artists, inspired by the rich tradition of scroll paintings of fish, were now able to accurately reproduce the cherished colour of 'golden fish' (the rebus jin yu man tang meaning 'gold fish filling the pond', ie. 'May gold and jewels fill your hall'). The design on these sumptuous jars was focused on the fish, which are rendered in large naturalistic detail around the curve of the body, with the aquatic plants defined in lesser form, and without any waves or splash in the pond.

    Jiajing 'fish' jars preserved with their original covers in museum collections include an example in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colours, Hong Kong, 1999, pg.16, pl.15. 'Fish' jars preserved with their original covers in private collections are extremely rare, and include a pair from the J.M. Hu Collection, of which one was sold at Sotheby's New York, 4 June 1985, lot 12, and the other 1 December 1992, lot 282, and again at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 29 October 2000, lot 18.

    For examples of other Jiajing 'fish' jars with high quality replacement covers, see R.L. Hobson, Chinese Pottery and Porcelain, London, 1915, pl.69, fig. 2, and Eskenazi, Two Rare Chinese Porcelain Fish Jars of the 14th and 16th Centuries, London, 2002, no.2.

    嘉靖一朝五彩御瓷為明代最為傑出的彩瓷之一,而五彩魚藻紋大罐更是嘉靖五彩御瓷中之翹楚極品,於中國宮廷御瓷中甚為罕見,珍惜無比,歷來為藏家所推崇。此罐造型敦厚,釉彩艷麗,色澤濃艷。腹部所繪荷塘魚藻,形態多樣,生動自然,其釉彩工序較普通五彩尤其複雜。除使用原有之釉下青花、釉上紅、黃、紫、綠五彩釉色裝飾之外,再以黃釉托紅彩經過再一次低溫燒製之後,調配出彷若金箔貼附一般之橙紅橘色用以繪飾魚鱗。此種五彩技法僅見於嘉靖年間,雖在小型器物上也偶見運用,然而在如此大型器皿之上得到完美呈現實屬不易。

    在老莊之道教思想中,「魚」則佔有重要地位。《莊子》中有記載莊子與惠子游於濠梁之上時就「知魚之樂」的機智對辯,從其對話可知「游魚」是道家哲學思想中自由無束的象徵。宋代以降,老莊思想中「知魚之樂」一節更是為繪畫所引用,其中宋代畫師劉寀所繪魚戲圖最具代表性。嘉靖皇帝一生崇信道教,極為推崇老莊思想,至嘉靖二十一年之後他更是不顧朝政,潛心修玄,致使宮廷器物中處處洋溢道教色彩。此類魚藻紋罐在嘉靖三十八年之前的御瓷名目中並未見有記載,因此可推斷為嘉靖三十九年至四十八年之間燒造。

    此類五彩魚藻紋大罐存世稀少,帶有原配罐蓋的大多流傳海內外並為博物館收藏。參見北京故宮博物院藏一件明嘉靖五彩魚藻紋罐,王莉英著,《故宮博物院藏文物珍品大系:五彩,鬥彩》,香港,1999年,頁16,圖版15。私人收藏帶有原配罐蓋的五彩魚藻紋罐,可見胡惠春舊藏一對,其中一件於紐約蘇富比1985年6月4日拍出,拍品12號;另一件隨後於香港蘇富比分別於1992年12月1日及2000年10月29日兩次拍出。

    另見兩例帶有後配蓋之五彩魚藻紋罐,一例曾出版於R.L.賀布遜著《中國陶瓷》,倫敦,1915年,圖版69,圖片2,為S.E.肯尼迪舊藏;另一例曾展於倫敦Eskenazi著,《Two Rare Chinese Porcelains Fish Jars of the 14th and 16th Centuries》,倫敦,2002年,編號2。本拍品罐蓋亦為後配。
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first HKD800,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from HKD800,001 to HKD1,000,000 of the Hammer Price
12% on the excess over HKD1,000,000 of the Hammer Price.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Contacts
  1. Chinese Art (HK)
    Auction Administration - Chinese Works of Art
    Bonhams
    Work
    Work +852 2918 4321
    FaxFax: +852 2918 4320
Similar Items