CATALOGUE NUMBER 0168
BLUE & WHITE ARCHAISTIC OPENWORK THREE-PART CENSER WITH COVER
KANGXI PERIOD (1661-1722)
Height: 7 ½ inches
Christie’s New York, 27th November 1991, lot 378
Alberto Santos, London, 1997
The composite archaistic form of the present piece has been cleverly fashioned to be both of practical use and as a mnemonic device to conjure up the distant past. The concept of past reflection to both inform and inspire has deep roots in Chinese culture. The three tiers of enigmatictaotie masks summon bronze age imagery and serve as a testament to both the length and depth of the culture. Yet despite its archaic roots, its airy elegance and delicate porcelain demeanor speak volubly to its merits as a sophisticated luxury product of the Kangxi period kilns.
An identical censer but painted with iron-red is in the Qing Court Collection and illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colours, Hong Kong, 1999, no, 86, p. 94. A wucai example of the same size with similar taotie mask decoration but, unusually, resting on four European-style mask feet, from the collection of Mr. Henry Hirsch, is illustrated in R.L. Hobson, The Later Ceramic Wares of China, New York, 1925, pl. LIII, fig. 3, described as a ‘cricket cage’.
Three other related forms, dating to the first part of Kangxi period, illustrate the emperor's early interest in archaism. A remarkable zun-form blue and white vase with mask decoration and biscuit figural monk–form handles is illustrated in The Museum of Far eastern Antiquities Bulletin, no. 46, Stockholm, 1974, and is discussed by Jan Wirgin on p. 73 where the author compares the handles to a covered bowl in the Guimet which appears in several paintings by Willem Kalf, one of which is dated to 1662. Another vase, of fanghu shape with similarly broad bands of large stylized taotie in the Museum fur Kunsthandwerk in Frankfurt am Main is illustrated in Gunhild Gabbert, Chinesisches Porzellan, Frankfurt am Main, 1977, no. 92, p. 52. A rare blue and white archaistic vessel with similarly tiered taotie masks and with a dated inscription corresponding to the year 1669 was sold at Sotheby's London, 13th December 1988, lot 231.
Text and images on this page appear courtesy of
Sotheby's New York and are excerpted from:
Sotheby's New York. Embracing Classic Chinese Culture: Kangxi Porcelain from the Jie Rui Tang Collection. March 14, 2014, p. 46. [exhibition catalog].