CATALOGUE NUMBERS 0400 & 0401
PAIR OF WUCAI BOWLS
KANGXI PERIOD (1661-1722)
Diameter: 8 ¼ inches
Property from a Private New York Collection
Sotheby’s New York, 29th November 1994, lot 314
Berwald Oriental Art, London, 1996
One of a pair, this bowl is painted with figures seated in an idyllic landscape on one side and inscribed on the other.
The inscription is a portion of a poem by the famous Tang dynasty poet Li Bai entitled Zou Bi Zeng Du Gu Fu Ma
(A Quick Note to Officer Du Gu), which may be translated as:
As a minister I awaited orders
from the Son of Heaven,
Having received numerous honors.
I put my entire heart into my duties,
Due to court intrigue I retired from my position.
Signed Hui An, with three painted seals,
one in the shape of a leaf, one circular
and one square.
Li Bai, addressing the son in law of the emperor, laments
his departure from bureaucratic office. Corruption and the machinations of bureacracy have compelled him to retire.
The painted vignette of scholars conversing by a riverbank alludes to the next, quieter and more contemplative phase
of the poet's life.
A luxury object and memento, this bowl carries a great significance.While illustrating the lines of a poem, the imagery has a broader appeal as well. The inviting scene of scholars seated in quiet conversation may be read as either inspirational or literal; either a peaceful state of mind or a well-deserved
rest after years of toil. Officials in service of the emperor were frequently relocated in order to ensure that power remained with the central government in Beijing. As such, parting and relocation were unavoidable facets of bureaucratic life.
A similar bowl with the same fu mark on the base but of a more flared form is illustrated in Kangxi Porcelain Wares from the Shanghai Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1998, no. 106.
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. 35. [exhibition catalog].