A finely enamelled famille verte 'King Wen and Jiang Ziya' charger Kangxi

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Lot 63
A finely enamelled famille verte 'King Wen and Jiang Ziya' charger
Kangxi

Sold for £ 3,750 (US$ 4,860) inc. premium

Asian Art

9 May 2016, 10:30 BST

London, Knightsbridge

The Property of a Gentleman
The Property of a Gentleman
Lots 57-63.

Thomas Clarke of Farran in Ireland was an elder brother of my grandfather Charles Clarke of Tracy Park. The Clarke family were tobacconists, first in Ireland and later in Liverpool. The Clarke business became part of the Imperial Tobacco Company, and my grandfather moved to Tracy Park near Bristol, and became a director. Thomas moved to the Channel Isles sometime in the 1930s, and then moved to Devon to escape the German invasion. Before the war he had built up an extensive collection of famille verte china, which he had to abandon when he left. He decided to try to replace his collection, and bought a great deal more china for his house in Devon.
When the war ended and the Germans left the Channel Islands they left his china behind. He then moved to Ireland, and I visited his widow with my sister in 1946, and she showed me a large room, with shelves from floor to ceiling, each shelf stacked with famille verte china. He had left his wife a life interest in all he possessed, and when she died the collection went to my uncle Roger Clarke, who sold some of it and displayed the rest at his house in Codrington. He later moved to a smaller house in Bath, and sold much more. When he died there were only twelve pieces left.
He had no children of his own, and left his estate to be divided equally between his fourteen nephews and nieces. I was the only person among the beneficiaries who had actually seen the great collection, and with the agreement of my cousins I took the remaining pieces as part of my share.
I now have nowhere to display it, and feel the time has come to sell what is left.
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A finely enamelled famille verte 'King Wen and Jiang Ziya' charger
Kangxi
Skilfully enamelled with a narrative scene with an ancient ruler addressing a scholar sage by a riverside, surrounded with a border enclosing crustaceans in leaf-shaped cartouches reserved on grass diaper with prunus branches. 38.5cm (15 1/8in) diam.

Footnotes

  • The dish depicts a story set in the 12th/11th century BC, in which King Wen of Zhou sought the advice of the hermit scholar Jiang Ziya, later known as Taigongwang.

    According to traditional Chinese historiography, the last king of the Shang dynasty was corrupt and cruel. Jiang Ziya had once served the king, but was disillusioned and retired to spend the rest of his days fishing, waiting to serve a new and moral ruler. It is said that he used no hook at all, believing that the fish would come to him on their own.

    King Wen of Zhou wished to overthrow the Shang, and so sought talented scholars versed in the arts of war and administration. When King Wen came to visit Jiang Ziya, much like the aforementioned fish, he discovered that this white haired fisherman was actually an astute political thinker and military strategist. He thus appointed Jiang Ziya to be his prime minister and gave him the title of 'Taigongwang' (Hope of the Duke of Zhou). With Jiang Taigong's help, the Shang was overthrown and the Zhou dynasty was firmly established.

    Such legends from history, of scholars waiting to serve new more morally upright regimes, would have resonated with the literati class during the turbulent period of the late Ming to early Qing dynasties.
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