The Review with William Chak |Jiaqing Coral-Ground Double Gourd Vase And Qianlong Tibetan-Style Ritual Ewer

Beijing Huachen Auctions will hold its autumn auction this week, presenting six extraordinary sales of Chinese works of art. The Value has invited William Chak, the master of Chak's and revered ceramic expert, to give a review of two highlighted treasures – a rare gilt-decorated coral-ground double gourd vase from Jiaqing period and a fine and rare Tibetan-style ritual ewer, Benbahu from the Qianlong period.

A Rare Gilt-Decorated Coral-Ground Double Gourd Vase
Jiaqing Period,Qing Dynasty

Lot no.: 1567
Height: 20.5cm
Six-character Seal Mark of Jiaqing period
Estimate: RMB 3,000,000 - 4,000,000

W: Gourd (hulu) is associated with fortune and blessing (fulu) in Chinese. That’s why we can find many imperial wares using gourd as the subject matter. The vase is in coral ground and decorated in gilt with auspicious motifs. This colour is called “coral” in Hong Kong and Southern China, “Iron-red” in Northern China. It comes in different shades, dark and light. This vase is in a colour of lighter coral, different from the dark ones that we usually see.

 Q: What’s so special about this vase?

W: It was made in a perfect size and shape. If it was made higher than 30cm, it would look a bit oversized put inside a cupboard. But this one is 20.5cm high and the size is perfect. Look at the turquoise-ground base with six-character seal mark in red. This turquoise colour is consistent with the one made during the peak of Qianlong period. I believe this one was made in the late Qianlong or early Jiaqing periods, judging from its turquoise-ground and the red seal mark.

Q: How is it different from seal marks from later periods?

W: This inscription is very neat whereas seal marks in the mid or late Jiaqing period were thicker and bubbles or impurities can be found. Therefore, this one is very likely a product from the Qianlong period.

Q: Have you seen any vases in shape like this?
There is another vase like it, of similar size and shape. It is now kept in National Palace Museum in Taipei. I have only seen several vases similar to this one being kept in private collection or museum collection so this one is extremely rare.

A Fine and Rare Tibetan-Style Ritual Ewer, Benbahu
Qianlong Period, Qing Dynasty

Lot no.: 1623
Height: 19cm
Six-character Seal Mark of Qianlong period
Estimate: RMB 4,000,000 - 6,000,000

W: This is a Tibetan-style ritual ewer called “Benbahu” from the Qianlong period in Qing dynasty. It has a long spout. The top and the neck are in a shape like Buddhist pagoda. It has a globular body with a splayed foot. It was first outlined with the colour blue and white so it had to go with a blue and white seal mark as well.

Q: The shape of this ewer looks very special. Can you tell us more about it?

W: The shape of the ewer was derived from a metal water container from Tibetan Buddhism, which was later introduced to the imperial court as a ritual vessel. Emperor Qianlong was fond of metal wares like this and ordered to create them using ceramic.

W (continue): Qing imperial court supported Tibetan Buddhism and there were over two thousand rituals in the imperial court every year. Many ceramic ritual vessels were made from the imperial court, such as Buddhist pagoda, Dharmachakra, ewer and vase.

Q: What about the decoration at the base?

W: The rim is delicately decorated with tiny beads resembling Buddhist prayer beads. Unlike those roughly made in the Jiaqing and Daoguang periods. Products in the later periods are usually found with bubbles or even crackle but this turquoise ground in the base is refined, coming very close to Yangcai.

Q: Why are there two “sesame-seed" marks under the spout?

W: They were used to support the spout to prevent it from getting crooked or falling apart. The ewer embodies the meticulous craftsmanship.

Q: Have you seen similar wares like this?

W: There are two ewers like this in museum collection, one in San Francisco and another in Taipei. I also bought a pair of this ewer from an auction in Paris in 2002 so there are five ewers of this kind in total. The present one is a rare and well-preserved ewer.

 Auction house: Beijing Huachen Auctions
Sale: Chinese Works of Art
Preview period: 2017/12/13 - 15
 Venue: Badegast Hotel CBD Beijing
Auction date: 2017/12/17|2:00 pm