The Review with William Chak |"Flower Basket" Plate and Yellow-Ground Famille-Rose Vase

Tokyo Chuo Hong Kong Autumn auction is going to take place in Four Season hotel Hong Kong soon. In our previous article, The Value invited prominent ceramics dealer William Chak to comment on two ceramic pieces from the sale. This time, he is going to talk about two other pieces - a Famille Rose "Flower Basket" Plate and a Yellow-Ground Famille-rose "Immortals" Vase. 

A Famille Rose "Flower Basket" Plate
Yongzheng Six-character Seal Mark and Period

Lot no.: 722
Size: 2.6cm x 17.3cm
Estimate: HK$3,800,000-5,800,000

W: When I see this old package with a history of more than a century, I am thrilled. My mentor told me that original packages signify a form of heritage. So when I was sourcing great works of art in Japan in the 70s, I would see if they came with original boxes as well.

Q: What's written on the package?

W: It is written with "Made in Yongzheng period, Qing dynasty”. This character here means plate. That’s how Japanese calligraphers wrote the character. 

Q: What's painted on the plate?
W: It’s a famille-rose plate painted with a basket of peonies. The back is impressed with the seal mark of Yongzheng period, within a double circle. That’s a typical mark from imperial kilns. The back is glazed in lemon yellow. It’s pretty. The basket is decorated with motifs of Lingzhi sprays and Ruyi in the middle. The peonies and lingzhi sprays on the plate symbolize prosperity and auspiciousness. The basket ties with a ribbon in coral red, also known as iron red. The drawing is exquisite.

W: This is a pink peony, not an iron red one. The latter one is also commonly seen in peony paintings. One is in pink and another one is in light yellow here. It’s a drawing technique used in the peak of Yongzheng’s period. The technique and colours we find here are the same as those in the peony paintings in museums collection. It shows the mastery of the painters. The drawing is very vivid. Look at the green leaves. They were painted in the traditional way following the rules set by the imperial court. No trace of western influence. If they were influenced by western art, it would show a white gradient effect on the blades of green leaves.

Q: Is this pattern commonly seen in Yongzheng famille-rose wares?

W: Among all the famille-rose wares from Yongzheng period that I have seen over the past 8 to 10 years, this one really stands out, with its pattern of flower basket with peonies. I have seen patterns of other flowers or fruits in other auctions. But I haven’t come across one like this over the past 10 years. This one shows a flower basket.

Q: What about the yellow glaze at the back?

W: The plate was glazed with lemon yellow at the back. That lemon yellow was made using silver as the colouring agent, together with other minerals. Some suggest that yellow glaze was added in a later period, maybe the late Qing dynasty or the Republic of China period. But this argument is groundless.

Q: How would it look if the yellow glaze was added later?

W: If the colour of lemon yellow was added after the plate had been done, the glaze would seem unevenly spread and the colour is more like yellow instead of lemon yellow. I believe this lemon yellow was glazed in its original work because this colour yellow, with a light green in it, gives a sense of “famille rose”. The colour is also evenly glazed. This ware only comes second to falangcai. We need to look at the seal mark, materials, glaze and shape. To distinguish the ware from falangcai, this plate comes very close to the falangcai grade, in terms of its glaze, painting, colour and shape.

A Yellow-Ground Famille-rose "Immortals" Vase
Jiaqing Six-character seal mark and period

Lot no.: 711
Height: 30.5cm
Estimate: HK$6,500,000 - 8,500,000

What kind of vase is it? That’s pretty obvious. It’s a famille-rose vase. It’s a yellow-ground vase painted with “immortals” in a “tongjing” painting. Ceramics with “tonging” painting is always popular among collectors, whether in the past, present or future.

Q: What is "tongjing"?

W: “Tongjing” is like a panoramic painting showing a wide and all-encompassed view of landscape or figures. If we could unfold the painting on this vase, it would show a scene of “immortals” celebrating birthday. All immortals are gathered here - The Eight Immortals, the Deity of Longevity, Immortals of Harmony and Union and Dongfang Shuo (the Daoist immortal) - you name it.

Q: This is a vase from the Jiaqing period. Why does the painting on the vase resemble to those in the Qianlong period?

W: This vase would likely be identified as a vase from Qianlong period if one did not actually touch and feel it. Why is that? Because the colours, the painting skill and the shape are almost the same as those produced in the Qianlong period. Painters and craftsmen in the Jiaqing period were almost all from the Qianlong period. But this vase was produced in the imperial kilns from the Jiaqing period. Vases from Jiaqing period can also be further divided into three: early, middle and the late period. This one was made in the early period. Each figure depicted here is distinctive and has its own way to celebrate birthday, embodying the joy of celebration. The vase is painted with the colour yellow. That’s very eye-catching and lovely. The size is also nicely designed.

Auction house: Tokyo Chuo (Hong Kong)
Previewing: 2017/11/24 - 25
Auction: 2017/11/26 - 27
Venue: Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong