The Review with William Chak |Blue-Glazed Gilt-Decorated Hu-Form Vase and Dehua Seated Figure of Guanyin

Rongbaozhai Beijing auction is going to hold its fall sales on 2nd December at Renaissance by Marriott Beijing Capital Hotel. A distinguished ceramics expert William Chak reviews two other treasures from the sale. 

Blue-glazed Gilt-Decorated Hu-form Vase
Qianlong Seal Mark and Period

Height: 33cm
Six-character Seal Mark and of the Period
Estimate: RMB 10,000,000 - 15,000,000

W: There was a variety of works produced during the Qianlong period. But this one here, ‘Blue-glazed’ ‘gilt-decorated’ vase is particularly gorgeous and elegant. The blue glaze is thick. It is glazed in sapphire blue and decorated with gilt. It represents the dominance and authority of the Qianlong emperor during that period.

Q: The shape of this vase looks different from other vases that we commonly see. Can you tell us more about it? 

W:  The shape of the vase is rare. It belongs to 'gall-bladder’ vase. But it is flanked by a pair of handles. They look like horns from a mythical animal, which is not a dragon. It should be the incarnation of nine sons of the dragon. It is very lively.

Q: Anything special about the gilding on the vase?

W: Gold is a low-temperature glaze and it is different from other low-temperature glazes. Most low-temperature glazes do not wear off easily from constant touching. But gilt wears off easily. It is a glaze with very thin and pure gold. So it is not easy to keep over 80% of the gilding on the vase. After all, it is a vase with over 200 years of history. The gilding is still well-preserved. No sign of fading or scratch. It has not been constantly touched by collectors since it was handed down from the imperial court. Otherwise, the gilt would be worn off. It is not easy to keep the vase so well-preserved.

W (continue): The lip and foot are intact. It has been kept in good hands since it was made in Jingdezhen and offered to the imperial court. After several hundred years, it still remains in good condition.

Q: What about the seal mark at the bottom?

W: It has a six-character mark in regular script. As recorded in Qing files, regular script was used from the 1st to 5th years in Qianlong period and was abandoned afterwards. The emperor Qianlong adopted seal script instead so no more regular script afterwards. I have seen regular script in other wares. But it is not common to find regular script in ‘blue-glazed’, ‘gilt-decorated’, ‘famile-rose’ wares. I have seen it in bowls and plates, most of them of red-glazed. But this is the only piece of blue-glazed vase with regular script that I have seen.

Dehua Seated Figure of Guanyin
Mid Qing Dynasty

Lot no.: 3595
Height: 28cm
Seal mark of Zhang Shoushan
Offered without reserve

W: This is a Dehua seated figure of Guanyin from early Kangxi period. It has a benevolent and peaceful facial expression. And it wears a layered robe with floating drapery, which creates the sense of curvy shape.

Q: What's so special about this figure of Guanyin?

W: The first notable point is its benevolent and peaceful facial expression. The second one is its hands. It is important to see if the hands of figures are intact. The hands of this figure are well-preserved. It is not easy given that the figure has survived several hundred years. The hands are very delicate so it is rare that they are still intact.

Q: What about its craftsmanship? 

W: It is carved in a natural seating position. It required a high level of skill. Dehua kilns started in Ming dynasty. They started making figures in the Yongxuan period but they failed in most cases. During the later time, in the Wanli period, craftsmen had succeeded in making standing figures with good facial expression. But crackle was found in most of the glaze and the pottery was not very solid. 

Q: How did the craftsmen solve this problem? 
W: The paste of Dehua pottery was delicately made but the problem is the softness. The paste could not stand the high temperature of over 2000°C so the products made would be cracked or crooked. During the late Wanli period, a famous potter named He Chaozong reformed Dehua pottery. He added minerals from Gaoling stone into Dehua pottery and created solid paste. 

W: This seated figure of Guanyin is elegantly glazed and carved. Europeans gave a beautiful name to Dehua porcelain, “Blanc de Chine” (French for “White from China”). It symbolizes the beautiful white from China, like the white of sunrise. 

Auction house: Rongbaozhai Beijing
Viewing: 2017/11/30 - 12/1
Auction: 2017/12/2
Venue: 3/F Renaissance by Marriott Beijing Capital Hotel
Address: 61 East 3rd Ring Road Middle, Chaoyang Qu, Beijing Shi, China