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More than a Game / A VERY RARE AND LARGE BRONZE 'BOYS' STUPA-SHAPED ARROW VASE, TOUHU Ming Dynasty

LOT 34
A VERY RARE AND LARGE BRONZE 'BOYS' STUPA-SHAPED ARROW VASE, TOUHU
Ming Dynasty
29 mai 2022, 14 h 00 UTC+8
Hong Kong, Admiralty

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A VERY RARE AND LARGE BRONZE 'BOYS' STUPA-SHAPED ARROW VASE, TOUHU

Ming Dynasty
Elaborately and robustly cast in the form of a Buddhist stupa decorated with geometric patterns, leafy lotus, butterflies and the bajixiang, with sixteen boys, some playing various musical instruments, four boys around the mouth holding drums in the shape of hollow tubes above two other boys holding the drums overhead, the shoulder with four seated boys, the base of the stupa with six more boys sitting on a double lotus-petal base issuing four auspicious lingzhi fungus, the rounded base incised with floral scroll with four foreigners holding tubular drums, all raised on a tiered foot incised with an archaistic geometrical band. 55.3cm (21 3/4in) high, 14.3kg.

Footnotes

明 銅童子胡人投壺

Provenance:
Christie's South Kensington, London, 22 October 1987
The Brian Harkins Collection

來源:
倫敦佳士得南肯辛頓,1987年10月22日
布萊恩·哈金斯珍藏

The present vase is exceptional firstly for its unusual Buddhist stupa shape rising from a drum-shaped stand, and secondly for the elaborate high relief design combining sixteen boys and four foreigners holding drum-shaped tubes, all further embellished with auspicious symbols. The number of boys, sixteen, may allude to the same number of luohans, a possibility reinforced by the Buddhist shape of the vase. See a related bronze arrow vase cast with a pair of high-relief foreigners, 14th-15th century, in the British Museum, London, acc.no.1993,1028.1.

Since the early Ming dynasty the scene of boys at play became a popular theme adopted by the Imperial workshops, encapsulating the wish for many offspring. The 'Hundred boys' motif originated in the folk arts of the Song dynasty and further gained popularity in the Ming Court; as the 17th century scholar Zhu Yizun (1629-1709) observed: 'The Hundred Boys and wucai dragons were treasured in the palace of the emperors of the old days'; see Z.Y.Zhu, Pushu tingji (The Essays by Pushu Ting), Shanghai, 1919, vol.10, p.7.

Wang Ti, who was active during the Jiajing period, noted about the production of arrow vases in his Touhu yijie (Rules of Playing Touhu): 'Some fancy craftsmen recently also created some unconventional forms of touhu, some can dangle like a swing, some are of exaggerated size, some are with two handles, some even with four!'; see Wang Ti, Touhu yijie, Beijing, 1985, p.40.

The engraved ground-pattern and the casting in high relief can also be compared with a bronze arrow vase with dragon motif from the Xianqu Xuan collection, Hong Kong, which is illustrated in The Radiant Ming, 1368-1644 : Through The Min Chiu Society Collection, Hong Kong, 2015, no.241, p.318.

壺十耳,長頸,口沿鏨刻一周幾何紋,並鑄四個嬰孩各捧一個中空鼓形耳,耳浮雕仰俯蓮瓣紋,頸部正中橫穿一孔,此耳兩端之下分別由二童子叉腰頂起,頸部地子鏨刻方形錦地,其上且浮鑄瓶花、元寶、如意雲頭等吉祥紋飾,肩部鑄四童子席地而坐,扭頭相望,壺身作寶瓶狀,地子鏨刻方格錦地與頸同,上以淺鑄八寶紋飾,壺身腰部起蓮台,蓮台上坐六童子,各持樂器,身著錦繡背心,蓮台之下束腰,下承須彌台座,腰間前後鑄胡人捧鼓形耳各一,須彌座兩側亦鑄胡人捧鼓穿孔各一,座身鏨刻花紋錦地,圈足外撇,足圈外壁鏨刻幾何錦地。

此壺用銅精實,頗為沉重。壺形呈塔型,童子十六之數或意指十六應真,四個胡人獻寶則有四海升平之意。其立體鑄造加之鏨刻地子,為典型明代中期以來流行風格。成化以降,百子圖為宮廷流行紋樣,或因成化帝幼年登極,與寵妃萬氏所生長子夭折之後多年無子,祈求多子所致。 百子圖發軔於兩宋,然後流行於明代皇室,清代朱彝尊有證:「百子圖者,龍紋五彩者,皆昔日皇居帝室所尚也。」見清朱彝尊《曝書亭集》,《四部叢刊初編》本,上海,1919年,卷10,頁7。汪禔於《投壺儀節》中講解「投壺製法」道「近世有好事者又有鞦韆壺之製,又有丈二壺之製,或二耳,或四耳」,王為明嘉靖時人,由此可推斷多於兩耳之投壺,亦是在嘉靖前後出現。

細查此壺童子造像及其衣衫風格,乃至銅質,皆與香港邦瀚斯2021年12月2日售出一件十六世紀銅百子圖方爐頗似,拍品編號92。香港閒趣軒藏一件明代青銅高浮雕雲海螭龍胡人抱鈴投壺,其鏨刻地子及高浮雕鑄造風格與本件同出一轍,見《日昇月騰:從敏求精舍看明代》,香港,2015年,編號241,頁318。又可比較英國大英博物館藏一件十三/十四世紀銅胡人投壺,館藏編號1993,1028.1。

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