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 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).


  • 明嘉靖 五彩荷塘魚藻紋罐

    Provenance 來源:
    Sotheby's Hong Kong, 26 October 2003, lot 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.




    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。
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