The red is still difficult to achieve and its drawing remains limited to massive silhouettes of fish or fruit. At the same time the cobalt blue is obtained in a series of tones which enable subtle contrasts. The quality of the Xuande blue and white will never be surpassed.
The sharpness of the blue drawing becomes exceptional but the iconography remains traditional. The wall of a bowl is read like a paper ink drawing being gradually unrolled. The theme of fishes moving at mid-depth amidst the aquatic weeds of a pond is well suited to such achievements.
On April 5 in Hong Kong, Sotheby's sells at lot 101 a bell-shaped bowl on that theme, 23 cm in diameter, with a ultimate refinement : it is lobed in ten sections down to the base which is also lobed in the extension. The goal is an unprecedented visual effect : the unfolding of the image before the eyes gives the impression of a gentle movement of the fish.
The lobes are not new in Chinese porcelain : washers or saucers lobed for imitating a flower had been a specialty of the fabulous Ru kilns at the end of the Northern Song dynasty.
A piece as deep as that lobed fish bowl is a technical feat : no other specimen of this form and visual effect has surfaced in such a large size. Two smaller bowls were identified in an ancient inventory of the Taipei Museum. Waste from an even smaller discarded piece was found in Jingdezhen.
It is difficult to estimate the price of such a rarity that reaches the extreme limits of the technologies known under the early Ming. The press release of March 8 hopes a result beyond HK $ 100M.
SOLD for HK$ 230M including premium