Exquisite Ceramic Treasures from East Asian Collection

In the coming spring sales in London, in addition to the regular Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art sale, Christie’s presents a single-owner sale featuring 24 pieces of exquisite treasures from a distinguished East Asian Collection. Let’s take a look at the top five lots from the sale.

Featured on the cover is a small pink ground famille rose moonflask with a seal mark in iron-red of Qianlong period. Finely potted with a flattened circular shape and supported on a spreading oval foot, the moonflask is estimated at £600,000 - 800,000.

The short, waisted neck terminates in an incurved mouth, flanked by two loop handles. The exterior of the body is elaborately enamelled with a large circular panel to each side, depicting large peonies beside branches of magnolia and crab apple.

It belonged to Fonthill House, owned by Alfred Morrison, an English collector known for his interest in Chinese works of art. He acquired many fine pieces from Yuanming Yuan (a complex of palaces and gardens during the Qing dynasty).

The following three lots are all estimated at £80,000 - 120,000 each. The first one is a rare ding ‘lion’ pillow from Song to Jin dynasty (960 - 1234). Ding ware is grouped as one of the Five Great Kilns in China, alongside Ru ware, Jun ware, Guan ware and Ge ware.  

The pillow is modelled with a eadrest carved and incised to the top with scrolling peonies, above a recumbent lion with the mouth open and the tail detailed with stylised scrolls.

Chinese pillows were traditionally solid and hard, made of a wide range of materials like bamboo, jade, wood and bronze. Ceramic was one of the popular materials in making pillows. In China, lion-shaped ceramic pillows were particularly popular during the Song-Jin period. Lions were always regarded as auspicious and noble creatures, often depicted as guardians, and symbolising both harmony and protection against evil spirits, along with blessings and high rank.

The second one is a lime-green ground famille rose twin handled vase, 19.8cm tall, inscribed with Jiaqing six-character seal mark in iron-red of the period (1796--1820). The vase is decorated with auspicious symbolism, including bat (representing happiness), peach (representing longevity) and lotus (representing continuity) form the rebus for 'May happiness and longevity continue for years to come'.

The bulbous body and tall flaring neck are elaborately enamelled with colourful lotus blooms, bats and peaches, all set against a lime-green ground and separated by bands of ruyi heads, key fret and foliate scrolls. The neck is further decorated with a pair of animal mask handles suspending gilt rings. The spreading foot is encircled by foliate borders, below a band of overlapping blue and pink lotus petals rising from the lower body of the vessel. The interior and base are decorated with a turquoise enamel.

A Docai ‘Chrysanthemum' Jar and Cover, 11.6cm tall, is inscribed with Qianlong six-character seal mark in underglaze blue and of the Period (1736-1795). It was sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2008 for HK$620,000 with premium included.

The decoration on the current jar is a Qing adaption of a design of medallions of chrysanthemums and butterflies seen on Chenghua jars, such as the jar from the Qing Court collection. The exterior of the jar is finely painted with chrysanthemum roundels interspersed with stylised foliate scrolls. The top of the cover is similarly decorated with a single chrysanthemum medallion.

The last one is a copper-red decorated ewer from Hongwu period (1368 - 1398), estimated at £70,000 - 90,000.

The pear-shaped vessel is painted to the exterior in varied greyish tones of underglaze red with large peony blooms and leafy scrolls below a cloud collar and ascending bands of peony scroll, key fret and stiff leaves. It has a large strap handle and a long, curved spout, the latter decorated with lotus blooms and leafy scrolls between bands of classic scroll to the tip and base of the spout.

The Emperor Hongwu was fond of ceramics decorated in copper-red. From its appearance in the Tang dynasty, the use of copper to produce red in high-fired ceramics has proved a challenge to the potter as the colourant was volatile in the firing and produced an unpredictable range of shades from rich red to brownish-grey. Despite the technical difficulties in controlling copper during the firing process, many of the finest underglaze-red decorated porcelains were made during the Hongwu period.


Top Five Lots

A Rare and Exceptional Small Pink-ground Famille Rose Moonflask
Qianlong Four-character Seal Mark in Iron-red and of the Period (1736-1795)

Lot no.: 17
Height: 15.5cm

  • Purchased by Alfred Morrison (1821-1897) from the art dealer Henry Durlacher of New Bond Street, London, between September 1864 and September 1866
  • Fonthill Heirloom label, no. 450
  • Previously sold by the order of Lord Margadale of Islay, D.L., Christie’s London, 9 November 2004, lot 47
  • Christie's Hong Kong, 29 May 2007, lot 1376

Estimate: £600,000 - 800,000

A Rare Ding 'Lion' Pillow
Song-jin Dynasty (960-1234)

Lot no.: 5
Width: 21cm

  • Sotheby's London, 12 November 2003, lot 130.

Estimate: £80,000 - 120,000

A Lime-Green Ground Famille Rose Twin-handled Vase
Jiaqing Six-character Sealmark in Iron-red and of the Period (1796-1820)

Lot no.: 20
Height: 19.8cm

  • Acquired in Taipei circa 2003

Estimate: £80,000 - 120,000

A Doucai 'chrysanthemum' Jar and Cover
Qianlong Six-character Seal Mark in Underglaze Blue and of the Period (1736-1795)

Lot no: 15
Height: 11.6cm

  • Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8 October 2008, lot 2636

Estimate: £80,000 - 120,000

A Rare Copper-red Decorated Ewer
Hongwu Period (1368-1398)

Lot no: 6
Height: 33.5cm

  • Sotheby's London, 16 May 2007, lot 32

Estimate: £70,000 - 90,000

Auction details

Auction house: Christie’s London
Sale: Rarity and Refinement: Treasures from a Distinguished East Asian Collection
Lots offered: 24
2018/5/11|10am - 4:30pm
2018/5/12 - 13|12pm - 5pm
2018/5/14|9am - 4:30pm
Auction: 2018/5/15|10:30am