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rare famille rose Tibetan-style ewer, penba hu
The globular body raised on a spreading pedestal foot and rising to a stepped neck and a thick disk-shaped mouth rounding inwards to a narrow opening, with an applied curved spout issuing from the gaping jaws of the moulded makara head, the body exquisitely painted in enamels of the famille rose palette with the Eight Buddhist emblems, bajixiang, interspersed by leafy lotus flowers and scrolling and intertwining tendrils, framed by lotus lappets and ruyi head motifs, the interior of the mouth and the base painted with a turquoise enamel, stopping to reveal the iron-red seal mark.
Provenance: the Property of an English Lady.
Ewers such as the present example are believed to have been produced for Buddhist altars in the palaces and temples of Beijing and Chengde, where the Qing court's summer retreat was located. It has been suggested that the exotic monster detail at the base of the spout indicates their use within a Tibetan-inspired Lamaist sect, see R. Kerr, Chinese Ceramics. Porcelain of the Qing Dynasty 1644-1911, London, 1986, p. 114. It is also believed that the form bears relation to earlier bronze and other metal kundikas, as can be seen in the shape of a 15th century cloisonné enamel example from the Kitson Collection, illustrated by H. Garner, Chinese and Japanese Cloisonné Enamels, London, 1970, fig. 16.
A very similar ewer but with beaded decoration at the mouth and bearing a Daoguang seal mark from the Simon Kwan Collection is illustrated by L.A. Cort and J. Stuart, Joined Colors. Decoration and Meaning in Chinese Porcelain, Washington D.C., 1993, Catalogue, no.50 and also by The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Imperial Porcelain of Late Qing from the Kwan Collection, Hong Kong, 1983, Catalogue, no. 62. A Qianlong mark and period example, also with the distinctive beaded decoration at the rims in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London is illustrated in ibid., p. 115, fig. 101. Another related example from the Evelyn Annenberg Hall Collection was sold at Christies New York, 29 March 2006, lot 172.
Doucai variations of this shape of ewer are also known, as evidenced by a Qianlong mark and period example in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, illustrated by He Li, Chinese Ceramics. The New Standard Guide, London, 1996, p. 295, fig. 612, and a very similar example sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 2 May 2000, lot 677.
A Qianlong period underglaze-blue and iron-red ewer of the same form from is illustrated in An Exhibition of Important Chinese Ceramics from the Robert Chang Collection, London, 1993, Catalogue, no. 116, and was late sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 28 November 2006, lot 1318.
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