A very rare yellow-glazed anhua 'dragon' saucer-dish Late Tianshun/early Chenghua

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Lot 154
A very rare yellow-glazed anhua 'dragon' saucer-dish
Late Tianshun/early Chenghua

Sold for HK$ 1,815,000 (US$ 233,304) inc. premium
A very rare yellow-glazed anhua 'dragon' saucer-dish
Late Tianshun/early Chenghua
Finely potted rising from a tapered foot to a gently flared rim, covered with an even egg-yolk-yellow glaze save the base glazed white, the cavetto finely decorated in anhua with a pair of dragons each in pursuit of the flaming pearl of wisdom amidst cloud and fire scrolls. 18.9cm (7 1/2in) diam.

Footnotes

  • 天順晚期/成化早期 黃釉模印暗花龍紋盤

    Provenance:
    Thekla (1923-2013) and Constantine M. (1913-1991) Marinidis, Athens, and thence by descent

    來源:
    希臘雅典Thekla(1923-2013)及Constantine M. Marinidis(1913-1991)伉儷收藏,後由其家人保存迄今

    A Rare Discovery: a pair of late Tianshun/early Chenghua yellow-glazed Anhua 'Dragon' Saucer-dishes

    Asaph Hyman


    The present pair of yellow-glazed saucer-dishes, offered separately as Lots 153 and 154, is exceptionally rare. The pair formed part of the collection of Thekla and Constantine Marinidis, Athens. The collectors acquired Chinese art from the late 1950s onwards at leading Chinese art dealers including Bluett's, John Sparks, Marchant's, C.T. Loo, Frank Caro, Compagnie de la Chine at des Indes and A & J Speelman. These exceptionally rare dishes, hitherto unknown, have been re-discovered to claim their place in the corpus of late Tianshun/early Chenghua porcelain wares.

    Each is delicately decorated in anhua around the cavetto with a pair of striding five-clawed dragons amidst cloud and fire scrolls pursuing flaming pearls. Each dish is superbly and evenly glazed overall, with a yellow glaze of egg-yolk tone applied over a transparent glaze with some craquelure. The glaze stops neatly above the edge of the tall, slightly-tapered footring. The slightly-convex wide base is covered with an unctuous silky-smooth white glaze with a yellowish tinge around the edges. The first dish measures 18.9cm diam. across the rim, 4.8cm high, the footring is 12cm diam., the foot height is 1.3cm; the second dish measures 18.8cm diam. across the rim, 4.9cm high, the footring is 12cm diam., the foot height is 1.3cm high.

    As noted by Jessica Harrison-Hall, 'yellow monochromes, it is believed, were reserved for the sole use of the Imperial court [...]; see J.Harrison-Hall, Catalogue of Late Yuan and Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, p.186. In A Legacy of Chenghua: Imperial Porcelain of the Chenghua Reign Excavated from Zhushan, Jingdezhen, Hong Kong, 1993, nos.84-85, illustrating a yellow-enamelled 'dragon' wine cup, Chenghua mark and period, the author notes: 'A yellow-coloured dragon with five claws, as a decorative motif, would have been restricted exclusively for decorating items for the emperor's personal use, thus accounting for the rarity of these particular wine cups'. The same reasoning would also apply to the present pair of dishes, equally decorated in yellow and with pairs of five-clawed dragons pursuing flaming pearls.

    Yellow glazes were used in the Ming Imperial kilns from as early as the Hongwu and Yongle reigns and continued through to the Xuande period. Whilst excavations at the Imperial kilns in Zhushan, Jingdezhen of the strata dating to the 'Interregnum' period of the Zhengtong, Jingtai and Tianshun emperors (1436-1464) have uncovered some shards decorated with yellow enamel, no monochrome yellow-glazed shards were found to date; see Lustre Revealed: Jingdezhen Porcelain Wares in Mid Fifteenth Century China, Shanghai, 2019, no.199 (for shards with yellow enamel). However, it is not possible to exclude the possibility that monochrome yellow-glazed dishes did exist during the Zhengtong-Tianshun period, and perhaps future excavations will shed further light on this aspect. Importantly, the production of yellow-glazed monochrome porcelain is well documented during the Chenghua reign, with some twenty monochrome yellow dishes, Chenghua mark and period, in various sizes, with flared as well as straight rims, which are recorded worldwide (for a detailed list please see the end of the essay).

    It is, however, intriguing that the present pair of yellow-glazed dragon decorated saucer-dishes is unmarked. However, in the 15th century, unmarked Imperial porcelain were made during the Yongle, Zhengtong and Tianshun periods; for examples excavated from the Imperial kiln site at Zhushan, Jingdezhen, see Lustre Revealed: Jingdezhen Porcelain Wares in Mid Fifteenth Century China, Shanghai, 2019, nos.17, 18, 21, 151, 153-155, and 159. Previous research by Julian Thompson, and as recently as 2016 by the Palace Museum, Beijing and the Archaeological Research Institute of Ceramics in Jingdezhen, attributed unmarked porcelains also to the Chenghua reign; for unmarked examples attributed to the Chenghua reign, see Imperial Porcelains from the Reign of Chenghua in the Ming Dynasty, vol.I, Beijing, 2016, nos.32, 33, 36, 41, and 118. The current lack of any archaeological evidence of production of monochrome yellow-glazed porcelain during the 'Interregnum' period, therefore, supports the dating of the present dishes to between the late Tianshun reign and the early Chenghua reign.

    The present dishes are each moulded around the interior cavetto in anhua with a pair of dragons pursuing flaming pearl amidst fire and cloud scrolls. Related moulded design of dragons could be seen as early as the Hongwu period; see a red-glazed bowl with a dragon design, Hongwu, illustrated in Imperial Hongwu and Yongle Porcelain Excavated at Jingdezhen, Taipei, 1996, no.96. For a copper-red-glazed anhua dragon-decorated dish, Yongle, see J.Harrison-Hall, ibid., pp.104-105, no.3:12.; and for a white-glazed anhua dragon-decorated saucer-dish, Yongle, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, see Pleasingly Pure and Lustrous: Porcelains from the Yongle Reign (1403-1424) of the Ming Dynasty, Taipei, 2017, pp.34-35. Compare a white-glazed saucer-dish anhua decorated with two five-clawed dragons pursuing a flaming pearl, Yongle, in the Sir Percival David Collection, British Museum (PDF no.498); see also a white-glazed saucer-dish decorated with two dragons pursuing a pearl, Xuande mark and period, illustrated in Porcelain of the National Palace Museum: Monochrome Ware of the Ming Dynasty, Hong Kong, 1968, vol.1, pls.2-2b; and a turquoise-glazed anhua 'dragons and cloud scrolls' dish, Xuande mark and period, also in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in the Special Exhibition of Selected Hsüan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, Taipei, 1998, no.163. Anhua decoration continued throughout the 15th century as exemplified by two white-glazed cups decorated in anhua with a pair of dragons pursing a flaming pearl, Chenghua mark and of the period, illustrated by Ts'ai Ho-Pi, Essential Collection of Cheng-hua Porcelain Ware from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2017, nos.69-70. Comparison of the dragons on the Chenghua-marked cup, ibid., no.69, with the dragons on the present pair of dishes, demonstrates clear similarities in the thickness of the body of the dragon and the 'stippling' of the dragon-scales, fire-scrolls and the dragon's head.

    Unusually, the dragons on the pair of dishes are carved with their jaws open revealing sharp teeth. Related design can be seen in dragons painted on a blue and white dish, unearthed from the tombs of Jingling Prince Zhu Mengzhao who died in 1447 and his consort, Jiangxi District, Wuhan, Hubei Province, published in Lustre Revealed: Jingdezhen Porcelain Wares in Mid Fifteenth Century China, Shanghai, 2019, no.215. However, related dragons with open jaws can also be seen on Chenghua mark and period dishes; compare those on a blue and white dish, Chenghua mark and period, in the Sir Percival David Collection in the British Museum, illustrated by R.Scott and S.Pierson, Flawless Porcelain: Imperial Ceramics from the Reign of the Chenghua Emperor, London, 1995, no.9 (PDF B680).

    Another design feature is the elongated thick body of the dragons ending in an S-shape. In some cases, such S-shaped dragon-bodies end with a closed-mouth dragon, whilst in other instances they end with an open-mouthed dragon. However, it would seem inconclusive at this point to draw clear conclusions as to dating to either the late Tianshun or the early Chenghua reigns based on this decorative feature, particularly as during the early Chenghua reign there was a clear continuity of design from earlier reigns.

    In conclusion, this unique pair which dates to the late Tianshun to early Chenghua period, provides an important step in our understanding of this special period, combining inspiration from the past with peerless quality. The anhua five-clawed dragon design covered in yellow glaze could only have been made for Imperial use and was probably reserved for the emperor. This pair of dishes has been handed down as heirlooms through the generations to shine once more.

    Examples of Chenghua mark and period yellow-glazed dishes
    The Chenghua period saw the reappearance of monochrome yellow-glazed wares. However, no more than about twenty monochrome yellow dishes, Chenghua mark and period, in various sizes, with flared as well as straight rims, are recorded worldwide. All but three of these are in museum collections, and only four dishes seem to have appeared at auction, excluding the present pair of dishes. Half of this group are of the category with flared rims, and of these, only half again are of the larger size, comparable in form and colour to the present pair of dishes.

    Published examples of Chenghua yellow-glazed mark and period dishes include:
    • The inventory of the holdings of the National Palace Museum, Taipei Gugong ciqi lu [Record of porcelains from the Old Palace], listing three yellow dishes, Chenghua mark and period, of related size; of which one, 17.8cm diam. at the mouth, 3.8cm high, 10.3cm footring diam., is illustrated by Ts'ai Ho-Pi, Essential Collection of Cheng-hua Porcelain Ware from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2017, no.90. A second example, but with the interior white glazed, 19cm diam. at the mouth, 3.7cm high, 11.6cm footring diam., is illustrated by Ts'ai Ho-Pi, Essential Collection of Cheng-hua Porcelain Ware from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2017, no.93.
    • Sir Percival David Collection, British Museum, PDF no.A515, 20.1cm diam. at the mouth, 4.1cm high; published by R.Scott and S.Pierson, Flawless Porcelain: Imperial Ceramics from the Reign of the Chenghua Emperor, London, 1995, p.47, no.29.
    • Another flared dish, Chenghua mark and period, which was sold at Sotheby's London, 7 April 1981, lot 250, 20cm diam.
    • Another flared dish, Chenghua mark and period, in Bristol City Art Gallery, measuring 17.4cm diam. across the rim, 10.4cm diam. across the footring, 4cm high.

    • Four examples of smaller size:
    o A smaller yellow-glazed dish, Chenghua mark and period, from the H.R.N. Norton Collection and later the Pilkington Collection, which was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 5 April 2017, lot 1, measuring 14.8cm diam.
    o One in the Shanghai Museum, illustrated by Lu Minghua, Shanghai Bowuguan cangpin yanjiu daxi/Studies of the Shanghai Museum Collections: A Series of Monographs. Mingdai guanyao ciqi [Ming imperial porcelain], Shanghai, 2007, pl.3-68.
    o Another from the collection of Mr and Mrs R.H.R. Palmer, which was sold at Sotheby's London, 28 May 1968, lot 99, 5 7/8in diam. (approx. 14.9cm diam.).
    o Another in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in Zhongguo taoci quanji [Complete series on Chinese ceramics], Shanghai, 1999-2000, vol.13, pl.35.

    天順晚期/成化早期 黃釉膜印暗花龍紋盤

    阿薩夫·海曼


    盤口略侈,斜鼓腹收於圈足,圈足外壁略微內斂,外壁及盤內施黃釉,圈足內壁及盤底施白釉,盤壁釉層下模印暗花雙龍火焰趕珠紋。

    此對黃釉模印暗花龍紋盤十分稀少,源自希臘雅典Thekla及 Constantine M. Marinidis伉儷收藏,特分為兩件而沽,分別為拍品編號153及拍品編號154。Marinidis家族的收藏始於二十世紀五十年代,他們時常光顧的古董商包括英國Bluett's,John Sparks,A & J Speelman,馬錢特, 美國盧芹齋,弗蘭克·卡羅亞, 以及法國Compagnie de la Chine et des Indes。這對珍罕的黃釉盤鮮為人知,如今重見天日,竟為天順晚期或成化早期作品中之吉光片羽。

    此對黃釉盤盤身皆飾暗花五爪雙龍火焰趕珠紋,罩以黃釉,釉色黃潤均勻,表面略有細微冰裂紋。圈足刮釉爽快利落,足墻些微內收。盤底略微隆起,所施白釉肥潤細膩,於圈足露胎處隱約可見淺黃色火石紅一周。兩件尺寸相近,一件口徑18.9釐米,足徑 12釐米,全高4.8釐米,圈足高1.3釐米;另一件口徑18.8釐米,足徑12釐米,全高4.9釐米,足高1.3釐米。

    學者認為「黃釉為宮廷禁中專用」,見 Jessica Harrison-Hall著,《Catalogue of Late Yuan and Ming Ceramics in the British Museum》(大英博物館藏元末及明代瓷器), 倫敦,2001年,頁186。景德鎮珠山窯址出土一件成化晚期黃彩龍紋小杯,「大明成年年製」款,所飾為五爪黃龍,為最高規格裝飾,憲宗萬年喜飲烈酒,此杯當為供御之物,見《成窰遺珍—景德鎮珠山出土成化官窯瓷器》 ,香港,1993年,圖84-85。故此,本對拍品,即施黃釉,且飾暗花五爪龍紋,想為進御之物當無疑問。

    明代御窯燒造黃釉瓷器肇始於洪武,永宣二朝亦有燒造。明代御器廠遺址所謂「空白期」—正統、景泰、天順三朝地層中並無單色黃釉瓷片出土,惟可見些許飾有黃彩的瓷片,見《灼爍重現:15世紀中期景德鎮瓷器特集》,上海,2019年,編號199。雖然目前的空白期黃釉器考古證據闕如,但如果就此認為這段時期沒有燒造黃釉器,又流於武斷,今後的考古或有發現亦未可知。然而,成化一朝,文獻有明確記載燒造黃釉事,成化黃釉盤存世亦頗夥,尺寸不一,口沿或侈或直,臚列文末。

    本對黃釉盤底部無年款,就明代御瓷而言,並非鮮見。十五世紀永樂、正統、天順諸朝皆有無款御瓷實例,參見《灼爍重現》所列諸例,編號17、18、21、151、153至155及159。早年學者如朱湯生乃至北京故宮博物院和景德鎮陶瓷考古研究所,都傾向於將這一時期無款瓷器歸為成化, 參考數例,載於《明代成化御窯瓷器》,北京,2016年,卷1,編號32、33、36、41及118。考慮到「空白期」無黃釉實物出土,而成化又多黃釉器,那末,不妨將本對黃釉盤定於天順晚期及成化早期之間。

    此盤盤身為模印暗花雙龍趕珠紋,類似的裝飾早在洪武便有實例,參考一件景德鎮出土一件洪武紅釉龍紋碗,見《景德鎮出土明初官窯瓷器》,台北,1996年,編號96。同書著錄一件永樂紅釉暗花龍紋盤亦資比較,見前書,頁104-105,編號3:12;還可比較台北故宮藏一件永樂白釉暗花龍紋盤,見《適於心:明代永樂皇帝的瓷器》,台北,2017年,頁34-35。明代早期暗花裝飾的瓷器尚有:大英博物館大維德基金會藏一件永樂白釉暗花五爪雙龍趕珠紋盤,館藏編號PDF 498;台北故宮藏一件宣德款白釉暗花雙龍趕珠盤,見《故宮藏瓷:明單色釉瓷》,香港,1968,卷1,圖版2-2b;台北故宮藏一件宣德松石釉暗花雲龍紋盤,見《明代宣德官窯菁華特展圖錄》,台北,1998年,頁163。暗花裝飾的瓷器貫穿整個十五世紀,及至成化朝亦有實例,如台北故宮藏兩件成化暗花趕珠龍紋白瓷杯,見《故宮成化瓷器精選》,台北,2017年,編號69及70,其中69號白瓷杯之龍紋與本件之龍紋皆以粗壯有力的線條勾勒起伏的龍身、龍首以及火焰紋。

    本對盤身所飾龍紋頗為少見地為張口貌,獠牙外露。類似的張口龍紋在十五世紀御窯瓷器上雖然少見,但有實例存世,如武漢博物館藏一件正統青花龍紋盤,出土於明景陵王朱孟炤(1447年薨)夫妻合葬墓,見《灼爍重現》,編號215。成化一朝亦有張口龍紋實例,如大維德基金會藏一件成化青花纏枝蓮龍紋盤,見蘇玫瑰及畢宗陶著,《無瑕至寶成化瓷器》,倫敦,1995年,編號9(PDF B680)。另外值得注意的是本盤蜿蜒遒勁的S形行龍龍身。此類S形龍身之龍首或開口或閉口,以此來判定天順晚期還是成化早期,尚難定論,蓋因成化早期的風格明顯延續了天順晚期。

    總之,本對獨一無二的黃釉盤乃是承前啟後的作品,對理解天順晚期及成化早期這段特殊時期的瓷器,意義重大。黃釉及五爪龍紋可以確定本拍品為御用之物,加之家族數代傳承,於今更加顯耀。

    成化款黃釉盤實例

    成化一朝再現了明代早期的黃釉瓷器,但是帶有成化官款的存世黃釉盤不過二十餘件而已,其尺寸不一,口沿或侈或直,散見於世界各地的博物館。以下羅列的成化黃釉盤實例,其中三件為博物館收藏,除此兩件拍品之外,四件出現在拍賣會;一半實例皆為侈口;其中一半實例之器形、尺寸與此兩件黃釉盤相當。

    已出版成化款黃釉盤有:

    • 台北故宮藏三件黃釉盤,著錄於《故宮瓷器錄》:一件口徑17.8釐米,足徑10.3釐米,高3.8釐米,見《故宮成化瓷器精選》,編號90;一件盤內壁飾白釉,口徑19釐米,足徑11.6釐米,高3.7釐米,前書編號93。

    • 大英博物館大維德基金會藏一件,館藏編號PDF A515,口徑20.1釐米,高4.1釐米,見《無瑕至寶成化瓷器》,頁47,編號29。

    • 倫敦蘇富比售出一件,侈口,口徑20釐米,1981年4月7日,拍品編號250。

    • 布里斯托城市博物館與美術館藏一件,侈口,口徑17.4釐米,足徑10.4釐米,高4釐米。

    四件稍小於本拍品的成化款黃釉實例:

    • 香港蘇富比售出一件,H.R.N. Norton及Pilkington 舊藏,口徑14.8釐米,2017年4月5日,拍品編號1。

    • 上海博物館藏一件,見《上海博物館藏品研究大系:明代官窯瓷器》,上海,2007年,圖版3-68。

    • 倫敦蘇富比售出一件,R.H.R. Palmer伉儷舊藏,口徑 5 7/8英吋(約14.9厘米) ,1968年5月28日,拍品編號99。

    • 北京故宮藏一件,口徑21.1釐米,足徑13釐米,高4.3釐米,見《中國陶瓷全集》,上海,1999-2000年,卷13,圖版35。

Saleroom notices

  • Please note the catalogue profile image in lot 154, p.98, is the profile image of lot 153. For a profile image of lot 154 please contact the department.
    請留意第154號拍品圖錄中第98頁所刊印黃釉盤之側面照片,實際為第153號拍品之側面照片。如需要第154號拍品之側面照片,請聯繫部門專家。
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A very rare yellow-glazed anhua 'dragon' saucer-dish Late Tianshun/early Chenghua
A very rare yellow-glazed anhua 'dragon' saucer-dish Late Tianshun/early Chenghua
A very rare yellow-glazed anhua 'dragon' saucer-dish Late Tianshun/early Chenghua
A very rare yellow-glazed anhua 'dragon' saucer-dish Late Tianshun/early Chenghua
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