Yuan to Early Ming dynasty: A Large Longquan ‘Celadon’ Jar Carved with Lotus Leaf-shaped Cover.

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DESCRIPTION.

This jar is heavily potted with broad shoulders, generously well globular body and a short straight neck tapering towards the splayed base, around the body divided into four cartouches enclosing crisply carved seasonal flowers: camillia Japonica, peony, lotus and chrysanthemum, above a band of leaf pattern border around the base and below abstract leafy around the shoulder, the seasonal flowers design similarly repeated on the lotus-shaped cover with partially upturned rim applied with a small stem-like knob, covered all with an icy crackle thickly bubble suffused sea-green glaze stopping at the above unglazed foot ring exposing the chocolate-brown vessel, the recessed base with a glazed domed center.

RESEARCH & ESSAY.

After the collapse of Song dynasty throne, the Longquan celadon ware got off the ground with a wide range of technical skills, and reached its zenith during Yuan to Ming dynasties. As the China empire successor, Yuan dynasty experienced great progress of forms, glaze and ornamentations on celadon wares from the Longquan kilns in Zhejiang province. The appreciation of Longquan wares were more enthusiastic after the discovery of a sunken trade vessel in Sinan County off, Koreancoast, in 1976.

This elegant form with wavy cover is so-called as ‘Jar with lotus leaf cover’ since its cover resembles the lotus-shaped leaf. The types of the present jar are usually in carved and molded or impressed designs that were popular in the Yuan dynasty produced in Longquan kiln of Zhejiang province, and they were continued in early Ming dynasty. The present vessel is executed in slightly abstract floral design, which the potter carved and incised the surface of elements appearing fading layout with slightly vague but orderly lines richly ornamentation. The design was then coated with bluish-green glaze with rich crackles on the surface indicating that the present jar was commonly produced in the late Yuan to early Ming dynasties. Fired in an oxygen-deprived, reducing atmosphere, the exposed body clay at the bottom of the feet has fired chocolate-brown, a notable characteristic of wares produced at the Longquan kilns. The crackle was purposefully made utilizing refined technical skill to calibrate a cooling rate for the wares that would produce the different layers of fissures and allow them to be filled with two to three different colors. Indeed, the current vessel was executed like a design formed by nature with numerous bubbles glaze and particle inclusions around the body, giving the whole piece an aspect as if carved out of a pebble of jade.

The longquan celadon jar with lotus leaf cover with carved panel design like the present shape was also popular made during the Yuan or early Ming dynasty. A wide range of celadon jar with variant green-glazed tones and design-carved arrangement is attributed to Yuan to early Ming reigns. For example, a jar in similar carved-panel with floral design, dated to early Ming dynasty, was excavated form a Ming period tomb in Wuhan, Hubei province, illustrated in Zhongguo qutu ciqi quanji, Zhang Bai, vol. 13 (Hubei, Hunan), Beijing, 2008, pl. 106, p.106 (see fig. 1). The related jar form and cover but without panel design, dated to Yuan dynasty, was excavated from a tomb in Songming county, Yunnan province, illustrated in Zhongguo qutu ciqi quanji, vol. 16 (Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Yunnan, Guizhou, Xizang), Zhang Bai, Beijing, 2008, 186, p. 186 (see fig. 2).

The floral decoration on the current jar, however, is of an especially rare type, as it appears to depict an abstract four seasonal flowers design in the main decorative band. Compare with a large celadon jar (29.8 cm in height) in different glaze tone decorated with similar design but attached with zoomorphic monster masks at the shoulder, dated to Yuan dynasty, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 30th May 2018, lot. 3028, for HKD 6,100,000, initially estimated between HKD 5,000,000 – HKD 7,000,000 (see fig. 3). Compare with a carved Longquan celadon jar and cover in similar profile (35.3 cm in height), dated to Yuan/Early Ming dynasty, sold at Christie’s New York, 22nd – 23rd March 2012, lot. 1971, for USD 62,500, initially estimated between USD 40,000 – USD 60,000 (see fig. 4). Another with a wide band of peony scroll (25 cm), sold at Christie’s London, November 11, 2016, lot. 665, for GBP 7,500, initially estimated between GBP 6,000 – GBP 8,000 (see fig. 5).

The present jar was excavated from ancient China temple that is unserviceable in Palembang – Sumatra, Indonesia in May 1991. The present large bluish-green celadon jar was distributed to markets as far afield as Middle East, Southeast Asian and the Arab world in fourteenth to fifteenth century. This period marks the peak of systematic export of Chinese ceramics on industrial scale to the Southeast Asia, including Srivijaya empire.

Citation:

  1. Zhongguo qutu ciqi quanji, Zhang Bai, vol. 13 (Hubei, Hunan), Beijing, 2008, pl. 106, p.106.

  2. Zhongguo qutu ciqi quanji, vol. 16 (Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Yunnan, Guizhou, Xizang), Zhang Bai, Beijing, 2008, 186, p. 186.

CATALOGUE ENTRY.

Yuan to Ming dynasty