Yuan dynasty: A Large Baluster Carved Longquan Celadon ‘Phoenix Tail’ Vase

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DESCRIPTION

This vase is sturdily-potted in baluster body surmounted with a tall neck and widely flared trumpet-shaped rim rising from a slightly splayed foot, around the body elegantly molded and relieved with a wide frieze of peony blossoms borne on undulating scrolling vines between plantain leaves design around the above foot and shoulder, the waisted neck carved with a band of upright leaves rising to a horizontally ribbed band designs, covered all with an icy crackle thickly suffused bluish-green glaze stopping at the above unglazed foot ring exposing the chocolate-brown vessel, the recessed base with a glazed domed.

RESEARCH & ESSAY

In Chinese ceramic history, the assorted quality and quantity of Longquan celadon from Zhejiang province ware reached its peak during the renowned reign, Song dynasty. After the collapse of Song dynasty, Mongol controlled the Longquan region in Zhejiang province and the production of Longquan ware continued to improve its static tradition and techniques of the late Song dynasty. The celadon ware tradition was then continued and developed in Yuan dynasty featuring a wide range of green tone glaze, including grayish, pale green, deep green, bluish, and yellowish tinge, depending on the thickness of the applied glaze and sometime revealed the crackles. In addition, the variety of shape were also created, commonly in reminiscence of archaic vessels.

The large vessels of Yuan period usually were used for local, and some of the important pieces were export abroad. The present baluster vase was for export abroad that was modelled after the ancient ritual ‘zun’ vessel bronze of Shang period prototype (1600 BC – 1046 BC). The sample of zun vessel bronze prototype of Shang dynasty is from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the museum’s exhibition ‘Shang Ritual Bronze in the National Palace Museum Collection, 1998, cat. no. 53; another is from collection of Arthur M. Sackler (1913 – 1987), included in Shang Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Robert W. Bagley, Washington D.C. 1987, pl. 45 (see fig. 1).

The current baluster shape vase is also known as ‘phoenix tail bottle’ (feng wei ping) since the vase has a splayed foot vaguely resembling the tail of phoenix. The ‘phoenix tail bottle’ was first produced in the Longquan kinls of Zhejiang province as green celadon ware in the Yuan dynasty, and largely was developed during the Qing dynasties that was appreciated by patrons in West and East Asia, especially Japan. The elegant four undulating blooming peony scrolls applied in molded and relieved decoration covered with bluish-green celadon suffused ice crackles, the present vase is one of important religious relicts of the early Yuan dynasty that was purposed as a pouring facilitation to provide the offering to the deceased through ceremonial practices in Chinese temples.

The ‘phoenix tail’ vase of the present type are commonly decorated with a wide range of ‘peony’ design in variant arrangement, dated to Yuan dynasty. For example, one (72 cm.) in the Qing Court collection illustrated in The Complete Treasures of the Palace Museum – 37 – Monochrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1999, pp. 184-85, pl. 167; and another (72.4 cm.) in the City Art Museum, St. Louis, illustrated by Sherman Lee and Wai-Kam Ho, Chinese Art Under the Mongols: The Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1968, no. 63. Another includes one (63.7 cm.) in The Art Institute of Chicago, illustrated by Yutaka Mino and Katherine R. Tsiang, Ice and Green Clouds: Traditions of Chinese Celadon, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1987, p. 200, no. 81; and the vase (63.2 cm.) from the Fujita Museum, sold at Christie’s New York, 15 March 2017, lot 501. See R. Scott, Imperial Taste: Chinese Ceramics from the Percival David Foundation, Los Angeles, 1989, pp. 50-51, no. 24 (see fig. 2). Compare with a Longquan ‘phoenix tail’ (72 cm), dated Yuan period, was sold at Christie’s New York, 22nd March 2019, lot. 1623, for USD 591,000, initially estimated between USD 200,000 – USD 300,000 (see fig. 3).

A carved and molded peony design is also applied on other form vessel during the Yuan dynasty. Compare with other shape decorated with similar peony scrolls including two double gourd vases, an ovoid jar, and two cut down baluster jars with applied decoration on the neck and two baluster jars with incised rather than applied flowers scrolls all in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul and illustrated in Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Regina Krahl, vol. 1., London, 1986, pp. 287-289, nos, 202-207 (see fig. 4). Compare with a carved Longquan celadon vase in slightly similar pattern (39 cm), dated Yuan dynasty, sold at Christie’s New York, 20 – 21 March 2014, lot. 2106, for USD 20,000, initially estimated between USD 12,000 – USD 20,000 (see fig. 5).

Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) was the empire of China established by Kublai Khan, a leader of the Mongolian Borjigin clan. Its emperors were highly ambitious in expanding the trade, politic and territory far outside the country, including Southeast Asian. Sometimes their route of peace was achieved, but sometimes the battle occurred since each party defended the dignity, glory, and victory.

Citation:

  1. ‘Shang Ritual Bronze in the National Palace Museum Collection, 1998, cat. no. 53.

  2. Shang Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Robert W. Bagley, Washington D.C. 1987, pl. 45.

  3. The Complete Treasures of the Palace Museum – 37 – Monochrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1999, pp. 184-85, pl. 167.

  4. Chinese Art Under the Mongols: The Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), Sherman Lee and Wai-Kam Ho, The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1968, no. 63.

  5. Ice and Green Clouds: Traditions of Chinese Celadon, Yutaka Mino and Katherine R. Tsiang, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1987, p. 200, no. 81.

  6. Scott, Imperial Taste: Chinese Ceramics from the Percival David Foundation, Los Angeles, 1989, pp. 50-51, no. 24.

  7. Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Regina Krahl, vol. 1., London, 1986, pp.287-289, nos, 202-207.

CATALOGUE ENTRY.

Celadon Vase - Yuan dynasty