Christie's to Present Kangxi Twelve Blue and White 'Month' Cups

In the upcoming autumn sales, Christie's Hong Kong is going to present a rare set of twelve blue and white 'month' cups from the Kangxi period. What's so special about these twelve little cups? What purpose did they serve in the past? We invited Sherese Tong, Christie's Associate Specialist, Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, to tell us about this set of cups.

An Extremely Rare and Fine Set of Twelve Blue and White 'Month' Cups
Kangxi Six-character Marks in Underglaze Blue Within Double Circles and of the Period

Diameter: 6.5 cm
Provenance: Hong Kong Private Collection
Estimate upon requset (It is expected to fetch in excess of HK$30m)

Sherese Tong, Associate Specialist, Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art

Q: What’s so rare about this set of twelve blue and white ‘month’ cups?

Sherese: There are five reasons why it is so rare. It’s in a whole set with all twelve cups. They are all made in the Kangxi period. All in blue and white, with six-character marks. Most importantly, they are all in perfect conditions. It’s extremely rare to collect all twelve blue and white month cups like this set.

Q: What was the purpose of this set of month cups?

Sherese: Each of these twelve cups represents a month in a year, decorated with flowers of that month and a corresponding Tang poem. We know they were used in events like flower viewings or banquets in the Imperial court, matching with the corresponding month.

Q: Any similar set of these month cups in private hands?

Sherese: As far as we know, besides the present set, there are only two other complete sets of twelve blue and white month cups. One formerly belonged to T.T. Tsui. Another set was auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1994 and it’s now in the collection of Long Museum in Shanghai.

Q: Any of them are in museum?

Sherese: There is one set in Palace Museum in Beijing and one in Nanjing Museum.

Q: What’s the provenance of the present set?

Sherese: The present owner is a female private collector in Hong Kong. It took her more than 20 years to collect all twelve cups. The last one, a peach blossom cup representing March, was the most difficult one to find. After a long search, she acquired the March one at an auction for a few million HK dollars.

Q: Are these twelve cups arranged in certain order?

Sherese: There are different orders recorded in different published literature. This time, we follow the order suggested by a prominent expert in Chinese ceramics. For example, we match narcissus (daffodil) with January as it’s a tradition to put Narcissus at home in Chinese lunar new year. And we match prunus mume (commonly known as plum blossom, Chinese plum or Japanese apricot) with December as it grows in the winter.

Q: What’s the estimate of this set?

Sherese: The present owner spent more than 20 years to collect the complete set, so you can imagine how rare it is to have a complete set like this. We expect it to fetch in excess of HK$30 million.

Christie's Hong Kong 2018 Autumn Sales

Location: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Dates: 23 - 28 November 2018