31/ 03 / 2006 - Doutrebente

An Exceptionnally Rare Yuan Jar - Sold 4.169.900,00 euros (with buyer’s premium) - (5.052.862,00 US$)

Sold 4.169.900,00 euros
(with buyer’s premium)

(5.052.862,00 US$)

Yuan Guan Jar

An Exceptionnally Rare and Highly Important Blue and White Yuan Guan Jar of globular shape with a cylindrical neck, painted with a vivid cobalt blue with four lions playing with two embroidered balls surrounded by the eight buddhist symbols ba ji xiang and the eight treasures ba bao.
The neck decorated with waves and the shoulder with ten lotus flowers supporting elements of both ba ji xiang and ba bao.
The underneath is unglazed.

Height. : 28,5 cm

(A very small hair crack on the neck).

Yuan Dynasty, circa 1350.


From the collection of an old aristocratic French family

元 十四世纪中期 青花四狮球纹八吉祥八宝莲花纹罐 高28.5 厘米

The present jar is of exception, it shows a certain number of the Yuan porcelain characteristics such as the cobalt blue of a deep and intense sapphire colour, full of shades and typical decorative elements : treasures and emblems, flamed pearls, inscribed in stylised lotus leaves and also the frieze of foamy waves, very close to those painted on the pair of vases from the Percival David Foundation dated 1351. However, the motif of the lion on a Guan type jar is absolutely unique. A similarly painted lion is found on a Yuan dish in the T. T. Tsui collection, Hong Kong, (R. Krahl, “The T.T. Tsui collection of Chinese Ceramics”, Orientations, December 1989, vol. 20, n° 12, p. 38, fig. 13).
A lion is also painted on the neck of a Meiping vase, in the Hopei Museum (Margaret Medley, Yuan Porcelain, 1974, pl. 39b, pp. 11, 151-153) and on a Zun type vase in the Arbedil Collection, Teheran, under n° A22, illustrated by T. Misugi, Chinese Porcelain Collections in the Near East. Topkapi and Ardebil, Hong Kong University Press, 1981, vol. I, p. 94.
The frieze on the shoulder, of lotus flowers, treasures and emblems linked to the flowers is unique as well.

Lion is an important animal in China although it not native to China. It would have been introduced in 87 AD as a present by king of Parthia to the Emperor Zhang. A Central Asian country known as Yuezhi gave another lion the following year. The first appearance of lion in Chinese art took place at the beginning of Han dynasty, most likely as a result of contacts with the relics of Assyria and Babylon but also as an element of Buddhist art, which then began to spread through China along the Silk Road.
For Buddhists, the lion is regarded as a protector of truth and a defender against evil, it is also an emblem of valour, courage, energy and wisdom as well as power and prestige.
It is here depicted chasing an embroidered ball, symbol of the unity of the Empire and the union of Heaven and Earth.

For the first time in Chinese history, the country has been invaded by a foreign dynasty dominated by the Mongols who founded the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). After the isolation of the Song dynasty, the Mongol emperors have rebuilt China’s sense of trading and cultural exchange. Concerning ceramics, they developed the blue and white porcelain and innovated the styles and forms.
Blue and white porcelain has been used for the first time by Persian potters in the 13th century, it has been adapted by the Mongol potters at the end of the 13th century. The cobalt used in blue and white ware was brought to China by the sea route from the Persian Gulf, that’s the reason why the first blue and white vessels were rather made in the South of China. The south market has been dominated by powerful Arab merchants who welcomed those new items for export.
The first blue and white Yuan vessels were decorated with moulded and blue designs, usually of very small size.
During the 14th century the potters brought the use of cobalt blue to its perfection ant the pieces become bigger. Blue and white ware has been appreciated in many places outside of China, especially in the Middle East.
It was seen as luxurious objects only buyable by high ranked officials and noble families. Those extraordinary powerful designs made the biggest banquet look even more splendid.
The pieces made for export, inspired by Persian porcelain, were usually big plates and vases with designs of auspicious symbols or religious elements. The eight treasures (ba bao) were often used to fill empty space. The colours vary from greyish blue to vivid purple blue. Chinese taste preferred rather monochrome pieces with underglaze moulded designs called shufu (imperial command), very near to the Song qingbai.
The designs were rather simple and realistic depicting lotus and dragons. Chinese vessels had different forms, because they were especially used for rituals or temples inspired by archaic bronzes.