Song dynasty: A Longquan Celadon ‘Guan-Type’ hu-shaped Vase

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DESCRIPTION.

of hexagonal section body elegantly potted in archaic hu-form vessel, subtly modelled with a pear-shaped body and tapering to a gently flared mouth resting on a slightly flared foot, the collar with a single band of horizontal raised ribs, flanked by a pair of elephant-head handles,  applied overall inside and out with thick lustrous light brownish-green celadon glaze suffused with a wide network of deliberately large zigzag dark-stained ‘iron wire’ crackles thinning to purplish black mouthrim and stopping short of the unglazed black footring revealing a natural dark body of the dish “purple mouth and iron foot.”

RESEARCH & ESSAY.

The present magnificent vase form was inspired by archaic wine bronze vessel ‘fanghu’ of Western Zhou dynasty (1046–771 B.C.). The prototype form inspiring the present vase is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, illustrated in Miho Museum. Nyūyōkā ga miserareta bi no sekai: Jon shī Uebā korekushon ニューヨーカーが魅せられた美の世界: ジョン・C・ウェバー・コレクション (A New Yorker’s View of the World: The John C. Weber Collection). Exh. cat. [Kōka]: Miho Myūjiamu, 2015, pp. 62–63 (see fig. 1). Modelled in a hexagonal section body, this vase represents a significant stylistic development that was popular in the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) and later reigns.

Coated with brownish-green celadon color suffused with fine crackles of a natural dark with typically thick body, the present piece, is so called ‘Guan-type’ hu-shaped vase that was produced at the Longquan kiln during Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279 AD). Guan-type wares produced at the Longquan exhibits the various green glaze tone colors. Not like the common standard of Longquan wares with dove-grey or light grey stoneware bodies from Longquan kilns, the present brush vase belongs to a group of fine Longquan celadon pieces taking its aesthetic cues from aristocratic wares made at the Guan kilns, and are most likely to have been commissioned by the court. With fine crackles around the body exhibiting reminiscent of the fissures in archaic jade, Guan wares were not only prized in Southern Song dynasty era, but had been treasured by the later great Chinese emperors. Featuring the dark body and crackled glaze like on the general guan vessels from famous Jiaotanxia kilns in Hangzhou region, Guan-type ware, like the present piece, is a subject of debate as its precise kiln and dating among the modern scholars. Yet, Suzanne G. Valenstein in A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1989, p. 106, discusses that Guan-type closely resembling the Jiaotan type have been found at the kiln sites in other areas as well, most notably at the Dayao and Qikou kiln complexes in Longquan xian, Zhejiang province, which were mentioned in connection with Southern Song Longquan celadon. A glaze that has been applied in layers, once thought to be unique to Hangzhou wares, also appears on these dark-bodied Longquan ceramics

The recognition of Longquan celadon Guan-type vessels of Southern Song dynasty was also discussed by Rosemary Scott in “Guan or Ge Ware: A re-examination of some pieces in the Percival David Foundation, Oriental Art, Summer 1993, Vol. XXXIX, p. 16- 19. The author notes that fine crackled wares were also made at the Longquan kilns in the Southern Song dynasty. She also suggests that two Zhejiang kilns have traditionally been accepted as producing Southern Song guan ware. For example, see the related ge-type vase from Percival David Foundation, illustrated in A Collector’s Vision: Ceramics for the Qianlong Emperor, London, School of Oriental and African Studies, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, Pierson, Stacey; Barnes, Amy, 2002, p. 24, no. 15 (see fig. 2). Also, see the related Longquan ‘ge-type’ hu vase of octagonal form covered in yellowish-green glaze (13.1 cm in height), in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, is illustrated by He Li, Chinese Ceramics: A New Comprehensive Survey from the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, New York, 1996, p. 156, no. 262. A slightly similar form can be seen on ge-type celadon ‘hu’ vase from the Palace Museum Beijing, illustrated in Science and Civilization in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Rose Kerr, Needham & Nigel Wood, 2004, Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 266 (see fig. 3).

In addition, the Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Sung Dynasty Kuan Ware, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1989, p. 30 also affirms that according to excavation reports, places of the celadon guan-type wares were also made in Longquan kilns, including in Xinting, Aodi and Shanshu Lianshan at Dayao County and Wayaoqing, Kulouwan and Lijiashan at Xikou County. An example was discovered in 1991 in Suining, Sichuan province, amongst a cache of ceramics dating from the late Southern Song period, and is illustrated by Zhu Boqian (ed.), Celadons from Longquan Kilns, Taipei, 1998, p. 155, no. 124.

Guan-type glazes have various tones of green colors and are applied on a wide range of vessel shapes during Southern Song dynasty. For example, a Guan-type mortar shape with thick semi-opaque light brownish-gray from Southern Song dynasty from the Baur Collection, is illustrated in Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, Volume 1, John Ayers, Geneve, 1999, p. 78, cat.no. 35 (see fig. 4). Compare with a glaze on a small Longquan celadon guan-type tripod censer (13.6 cm) of Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) in related glaze color but in a dove-grey stoneware body, sold at Christie’s New York, 18 – 19 September 2014, lot. 745, for USD 173,000, initially estimated between USD 100,000 – USD 150,000 (see fig. 5). Also, compare with a glaze on a small Longquan Guan-type cup, dated 13th – 14th century, exhibited in Selections from the William and Winifred Corbin Collection of Chinese Pottery and Porcelain, Portland Art Museum, 1 – 29 March 1964, no. 25, and then was sold at Christie’s New York, 16 – 17 September 2010, lot. 1342, for USD 43,750, initially estimated between USD 8,000 – USD 10,000 (see fig. 6).

The debate of the kinds of Guan vessels whether were made at Jiaotanxia Hangzhou or Longquan Zhejiang kilns, the present vase was likely produced in the Southern Song dynasty or Yuan dynasty at Longquan kiln in Zhejiang province. As we note that ‘Guan’ wares of Song dynasty from Hangzhou can also vary in glaze color, from a pale iron-blue, through blue-grey to gray-green. In oxidation they may be creamy, yellowish brown or light brown. In both oxidation and reduction, they can be smooth and stony, of ‘mutton fat’ richness, or simply glassy and icy. It is different with Guan-type made at Jingdezhen on later reigns, from Ming to Qing dynasties. Deliberately discolored porcelains were used for the bodies of these ‘Jingdezhen Guan’ wares, sometimes with iron pigment banded onto their footring and rims to satisfy ‘the purple rims and iron feet’ criteria of the Zhejiang original. (see also: Chinese Glaze, Their Origins, Chemistry and Recreation, Nigel Wood, Craftsman House, Hong Kong, 1999, pp. 85 – 87). Even though the present hu-shaped vase was produced at Longquan kiln to emulate the Guan ware of Jiaotanxia kiln, but the present vase was produced for those who were sufficiently educated to appreciate its archaistic form deriving from an archaic bronze ‘fanghu’ of Western Zhou dynasty (1046–771 B.C.).

Citation:

  1. Miho Museum. Nyūyōkā ga miserareta bi no sekai: Jon shī Uebā korekushon ニューヨーカーが魅せられた美の世界:ジョン・C・ウェバー・コレクション (A New Yorker’s View of the World: The John C. Weber Collection). Exh. cat. [Kōka]: Miho Myūjiamu, 2015, pp. 62–63.

  2. A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, Suzanne G. Valenstein, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1989, p. 106.

  3. “Guan or Ge Ware: A re-examination of some pieces in the Percival David Foundation”, Rosemary Scott Oriental Art, Summer 1993, Vol. XXXIX, p. 16- 19.

  4. A Collector’s Vision: Ceramics for the Qianlong Emperor, London, School of Oriental and African Studies, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, Pierson, Stacey; Barnes, Amy, 2002, p. 24, no. 15.

  5. He Li, Chinese Ceramics: A New Comprehensive Survey from the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, New York, 1996, p. 156, no. 2

  6. “Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Sung Dynasty Kuan Ware”, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1989, p. 30.

  7. Zhu Boqian (ed.), Celadons from Longquan Kilns, Taipei, 1998, p. 155, no. 124.

  8. Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, Volume 1, John Ayers, Geneve, 1999, p. 78, cat.no. 35.

  9. Selections from the William and Winifred Corbin Collection of Chinese Pottery and Porcelain, Portland Art Museum, 1 – 29 March 1964, no. 25.

  10. Chinese Glaze, Their Origins, Chemistry and Recreation, Nigel Wood, Craftsman House, Hong Kong, 1999, 85 – 87.

CATALOGUE ENTRY.

Song dynasty