An exceptionally rare and large blue and white 'Immortals' double-gourd vase Jiajing six character mark and of the period

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 84
An exceptionally rare and large blue and white 'Immortals' double-gourd vase
Jiajing six character mark and of the period

Sold for £ 350,062 (US$ 442,223) inc. premium
An exceptionally rare and large blue and white 'Immortals' double-gourd vase
Jiajing six character mark and of the period
Heavily potted with tubular neck and large lower and smaller upper bulbs, supported on a splayed foot, deftly painted in vibrant tones of underglaze-blue around the exterior of the lower globular body with Daoist deities and Immortals with various attributes and gifts including Han Xiangzi with flute and Zhang Guolao with bamboo drum and sticks, enclosed by stiff-leaf and petal-form lappets, the waisted center with a scroll of lingzhi, the upper bulb with further immortals including Liu Hai on his three-legged toad crossing a sea of crested waves, between lappet bands, the narrow cylindrical neck with further scrolls of auspicious lingzhi fungus. 55.5cm (21 3/4in) high.

Footnotes

  • 明嘉靖 青花人物紋葫蘆大瓶
    青花「大明嘉靖年制」楷書款

    Provenance: J.Dearman Birchall (1828-1897), Bowden Hall, Gloucestershire, collection no.32, and thence by descent

    來源:英國格洛斯特郡,Bowden Hall,J.Dearman Birchall (1828-1897)收藏,編號32,並由後人保存迄今

    J.Dearman Birchall (1828-1897) was born in Leeds, the son of a successful Quaker wool merchant with roots in manufacturing and retailing local tweed. A successful innovator and merchant, Dearman led his family firm to prizes for their cloth at the International Exhibitions in London (1862), Paris (1867), Vienna (1873), Philadelphia (1876), Paris again (1878) and Sydney (1879).

    All the time he was trading cloth, he was also acquiring Chinese porcelain and Persian fabrics. His diaries note that in 1875 and 1877 he bought from, and sold porcelain to, the Dutch-based dealer Joel Duveen, the first Duveen to make a base in the United Kingdom in 1866, opening a shop in Hull (Barnett and Duveen, 49 Waterwork Street). By 1890, both his collection and Duveen's domination of the Chinese porcelain market had expanded vastly. As Dearman aged, in 1892 Duveen offered to buy back his whole collection to ship out to his insatiable new 'robber baron' clientele in New York, collectors like Henry Clay Frick and J.Pierport Morgan. But the collection survived this tempting offer, and remained on open display in Dearman Birchall's home, where he could indulge his Leeds business skills in more congenial surroundings and support a variety of charitable and philanthropic causes which rightly gave him considerable local prestige.

    However, this appreciation of the subtle qualities of 'sapphire blue' Chinese ginger jars, especially the legendary 'hawthorn' jars, did not normally involve much knowledge about Chinese reign marks. Nor did the early collectors, except a few enlightened ones educated by scholars in the London museums, have either the opportunity or the knowledge to acquire genuine Imperial reign-marked ceramics made for the Chinese domestic market. The finest Kangxi was apparently largely made for the Export trade, and Birchall was even asking Duveen to find it for him in Holland. However, at some point before the 1890s, Birchall was enabled to buy some ceramics which fell way outside the well-beaten collecting taste of late Victorian England; and, as his inventory records, to his credit he knew what date these Imperial pieces were.

    The painting on the current vase is both dynamic and evocative, while the shape and size of the vessel give it real presence. Its high quality combined with the themes of Daoism and immortality would have made it most appropriate for the celebration of the birthday of the Jiajing emperor who was a devout Daoist and whose overwhelming aim was to achieve long life. A very similar large double gourd-shaped vase, Jiajing six-character mark and of the period, is in the British Museum, illustrated by J.Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, pp.231-232, no.9:36.

    The Jiajing emperor was particularly fervent in his Daoist beliefs among the Ming dynasty emperors. He poured large sums of money into the construction of Daoist temples and the performance of Daoist rituals. Following frustration with his ministers and court politics at large, he developed into an adherent of alchemical Daoism and his overriding concern became the quest for Immortality. Self-promoting officials at court were quick to realise that they could advance further up the official hierarchy and stay in favour with the emperor by writing Daoist-style memorials and notes to him. Unsurprisingly the court arts of his reign frequently bore themes associated with Daoism and longevity.

    The double-gourd shape was the ideal canvas for a Daoist theme as it was associated with containing magic potions and Daoist elixirs. The lower bulb is painted with popular Daoist deities processing with gifts for a bearded Daoist deity, probably Shoulao, shown seated on a flat rock throne beneath a spreading pine tree, accompanied by an auspicious crane. Shoulao glances to his left at Liu Hai and his three-legged toad dancing wildly. Behind him a man carries a large auspicious lingzhi fungus. Next is an official carrying a large vase from which issue a pictogram, an ewer and another pictogram, possibly in reference to a magic elixir. Behind him, a boy carries a large peach. Such peaches were grown by the Queen Mother of the West in her enchanted garden. Eating such fruit conferred immortality. Then comes Han Xiangzi, one of the Eight Immortals who is identified by his flute. Behind him is Zhang Guolao, another of the Eight Immortals, shown with bamboo drum and sticks. A dog running towards someone is an emblem of forthcoming riches. Another of the Eight Immortals is Cao Guojiu in court dress and holding castanets. Next comes an Immortal between deer and crane carrying a two-headed tortoise. The landscape is festooned with auspicious plants such as pine trees and lingzhi. The Jiajing emperor himself was particularly partial to memorials sent by officials recording unusual and auspicious natural phenomenon such as the sighting of white deer, etc.

    A similar blue and white double-gourd vase with the same motif of Immortals, Jiajing six-character mark and of the period, is illustrated by S.W.Bushell and W.M.Laffan, Catalogue of The Morgan Collections of Chinese Porcelains, New York, 1907, pl.XIV, no.243, which was later sold at Sotheby's London, 15 June 1982, lot 287. Compare also with another very similar blue and white double-gourd vase with the same motif of Immortals, Jiajing six-character mark and of the period, which was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 7 October 2006, lot 918.
Contacts
An exceptionally rare and large blue and white 'Immortals' double-gourd vase Jiajing six character mark and of the period
An exceptionally rare and large blue and white 'Immortals' double-gourd vase Jiajing six character mark and of the period
An exceptionally rare and large blue and white 'Immortals' double-gourd vase Jiajing six character mark and of the period
An exceptionally rare and large blue and white 'Immortals' double-gourd vase Jiajing six character mark and of the period
An exceptionally rare and large blue and white 'Immortals' double-gourd vase Jiajing six character mark and of the period
An exceptionally rare and large blue and white 'Immortals' double-gourd vase Jiajing six character mark and of the period
An exceptionally rare and large blue and white 'Immortals' double-gourd vase Jiajing six character mark and of the period
An exceptionally rare and large blue and white 'Immortals' double-gourd vase Jiajing six character mark and of the period
An exceptionally rare and large blue and white 'Immortals' double-gourd vase Jiajing six character mark and of the period
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories, buyer's premium excluding Cars, Motorbikes, Wine, Whisky and Coin & Medal sales, will be as follows:

Buyer's Premium Rates
27.5% on the first £20,000 of the hammer price;
26% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £20,000 up to and including £700,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £700,000 up to and including £4,500,000;
and 14.5% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of £4,500,000.

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalogue.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

App