AN EXTREMELY RARE AND IMPORTANT CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL 'POMEGRANATES' CIRCULAR BOX AND COVER Incised Xuande six-character marks and of the period (2)

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Lot 234
AN EXTREMELY RARE AND IMPORTANT CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL 'POMEGRANATES' CIRCULAR BOX AND COVER
Incised Xuande six-character marks and of the period

Sold for £ 622,750 (US$ 849,497) inc. premium
The Cunliffe Cloisonné Enamel 'Pomegranates' Box and Cover
康利夫勳爵舊藏銅胎掐絲琺瑯石榴紋蓋盒
AN EXTREMELY RARE AND IMPORTANT CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL 'POMEGRANATES' CIRCULAR BOX AND COVER
Incised Xuande six-character marks and of the period
The slightly-domed cover exquisitely enamelled in gradating tones of red, green and yellow in the centre with two ripe pomegranates, one bursting with ruby-red seeds highlighted with white, issuing from gnarled gold branches with blossoms and further smaller fruit, the undulating leaves with shades of red, yellow and blue picked with gold veins, the vertical sides of the cover and box decorated with formal lotus scrolls, the slightly recessed base incised with a Xuande six-character mark, the interior of the cover similarly incised with a six-character mark. 12cm (4 3/4in) diam. (2).

Footnotes

  • 明宣德 掐絲琺瑯石榴紋蓋盒
    「大明宣德年製」楷書刻款

    Provenance: Spink and Son, Ltd., London, purchased by Lord Cunliffe in 1946
    Rolf, Lord Cunliffe (1899-1963), Honorary Keeper of the Far Eastern Collections at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (collection no.E2), and thence by descent

    Published, Illustrated and Exhibited: Mostra D'Arte Cinese (Exhibition of Chinese Art), Venice, 1954, p.203, no.754
    The Arts Council of Great Britain and the Oriental Ceramic Society, The Arts of The Ming Dynasty, 15 November - 14 December 1957, no.300 (published and exhibited)
    H.Garner, Chinese and Japanese Cloisonné Enamels, London and Boston, 1962, pl.23 (published)

    Rolf, Lord Cunliffe, began collecting Chinese art in London towards the end of the Second World War. Over the next 20 years, he acquired over five hundred Chinese ceramics, jades and bronzes; buying judiciously but regularly from the best dealers in Chinese art dotted around Mayfair and St James in London, including galleries such as Bluett & Sons, John Spark, and Spink & Son. At his London flat in the heart of Mayfair, across the street from the famous Dutch dealer in Chinese art Peter Boode, he squeezed his growing collection into steel filing cabinets inconspicuously tucked away in his bathroom! Visiting collectors like the King of Sweden would spend happy hours sitting on the edge of the bath, discussing the finer points of a jade rhyton or a Junyao bowl. The present important cloisonné enamel box and cover, Xuande marks and of the period, has been a prized object in the collection, previously exhibited on two occasions, lastly in 1957, and published in the important and early publication by Sir Harry Garner in 1962.

    來源:1946年,倫敦古董商Spink and Son, Ltd.
    劍橋大學菲茨威廉博物館東方藝術部名譽主任,Rolf,Cunliffe勛爵(1899-1963)舊藏(藏品編號E2),並由後人保存迄今

    展覽著錄:「Mostra D'Arte Cinese(中國藝術展)」,威尼斯,1954年,頁203,編號754
    英國藝術委員會與倫敦東方陶瓷學會,「The Arts of the Ming Dynasty(明朝藝術)」,1957年11月15日-12日14日,編號300(展覽並出版)
    H.Garner著,《Chinese and Japanese Cloisonné Enamels(中國與日本掐絲琺瑯)》,倫敦和波士頓,1962年,圖版23

    Rolf,Cunliffe勛爵,第二次世界大戰後期開始收藏中國藝術品;並在之後的二十年內有規律地光顧倫敦當時最為頂尖的中國藝術古董商,如Bluett & Sons、John Spark、和Spink & Son 等,購藏了五百餘件中國藝術品,所藏涵括瓷器、玉器、和青銅器等門類。其倫敦的公寓位於梅費爾地區腹地,與著名中國藝術經紀Peter Boode隔街相望;而他就將其日益壯大的中國藝術收藏收納在公寓浴室中毫不起眼的金屬櫃裡!登門造訪的收藏家,譬如瑞典國王,則會花幾個小時坐在浴缸邊沿,愉快地交流諸如玉雕來通盃或鈞窯盌上的精彩細節。本例明宣德掐絲琺瑯石榴紋蓋盒,「大明宣德年製」楷書刻款,在Cunliffe勛爵的收藏中也備受重視,曾經兩次公開展出,最近一次展於1957年,且被收錄在早在1962年出版的加納爵士(Sir Harry Garner)關於掐絲琺瑯的重要著作中。

    Cloisonné enamel wares, though introduced in the 14th century during the Yuan dynasty, are widely considered to have reached artistic maturity in the early 15th century during the early Ming dynasty. In terms of their dynamic designs and powerful palettes, framed and heightened by the richly gilt wires, the Xuande period represents the pinnacle of cloisonné enamel craftsmanship as exemplified in the famous 'dragon' jars and covers in the British Museum, London and the Uldry Collection in Museum Rietberg in Zurich. The present lot is an exceptionally rare example of this early period, bearing two incised Imperial Xuande reign marks, demonstrating the bold palette and decorative features of the period, exquisitely shown in the juicy translucency of the ripe and bursting fruit.

    Apart from being extensively published, the present lot is important as it is one of only four published similar cloisonné enamel boxes. Each of these four boxes is similar in form, in size (approximately 12cm diam.), in the lotus scroll decoration around the sides of the box and cover, and in the main decorative motif being a type of auspicious fruit: pomegranates, persimmons, melons and grapes. Importantly, each of these boxes are doubly marked with an incised Xuande six-character reign mark, once on the underside of the box and again on the interior of the cover. The Cunliffe box is the only one remaining in a private collection with the other three in public museums and institutions, as follows: from the Qing Court Collection in the Palace Museum, Beijing ('melons' box); Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris ('persimmons' box); and Fenton House, National Trust, London ('grapes' box). The identical features, combined with the variation of the main decorative design, suggest that the four boxes were made as a set. For illustration of the three additional boxes see: Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum: Enamels, 1, Beijing, 2011, p.133, no.57; B.Quette, ed., Cloisonné: Chinese Enamels from the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties, New York, 2011, no.26; and H.Garner, Chinese Japanese Cloisonné Enamels, London, 1962, pl.26B.

    The discussion of dating of cloisonné enamel wares has progressed significantly in recent years, allowing a clearer understanding of the progression of enamel production in China and its dating. The dating of these group of boxes has been discussed firstly by Sir Harry Garner who in his publication in 1962 suggested a second half 15th century date, whereas according to the two more recent publications noted above, which were published in 2011, these are now accepted as 'consistent with a Xuande mark and dating'.

    The circular cloisonné enamel boxes all share the motif of auspicious fruits on their covers. The Cunliffe box depicts pomegranates, with their multitudinous seeds representing fertility and the desire for numerous children, as the character for children (zi 子) is homophonous with seeds (zi 籽). Likewise, the Palace Museum box is decorated with melons (die 瓞), also symbolic of fertility because of their seeds. Grapes too, as can be seen on the 'Fenton House' box, have the same meaning. Persimmons, as seen on the box in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, are pronounced shi (柿), a homophone for 'things, affairs, business' (shi 事). Persimmons thus imply that 'things go smoothly' and the pursuit of good fortune and happiness. Thus, all the fruits on the covers have extremely auspicious meanings.

    See a related cloisonné enamel circular box and cover, 15th century, unmarked, decorated with hibiscus on one side and grapes on the other, which was sold at Christie's Paris, 23 June 2020, lot 22.
Contacts
AN EXTREMELY RARE AND IMPORTANT CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL 'POMEGRANATES' CIRCULAR BOX AND COVER Incised Xuande six-character marks and of the period (2)
AN EXTREMELY RARE AND IMPORTANT CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL 'POMEGRANATES' CIRCULAR BOX AND COVER Incised Xuande six-character marks and of the period (2)
AN EXTREMELY RARE AND IMPORTANT CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL 'POMEGRANATES' CIRCULAR BOX AND COVER Incised Xuande six-character marks and of the period (2)
AN EXTREMELY RARE AND IMPORTANT CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL 'POMEGRANATES' CIRCULAR BOX AND COVER Incised Xuande six-character marks and of the period (2)
AN EXTREMELY RARE AND IMPORTANT CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL 'POMEGRANATES' CIRCULAR BOX AND COVER Incised Xuande six-character marks and of the period (2)
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