Feat of Clay
Christie's Auction of Ceramics in Hong Kong,
by Uma Nair
magnificent early Ming underglaze copper-red vase, 'yuhuchunping',
realized an astonishing HK$78,520,000 (ca. US$10,207,600) in The
Imperial Sale held at Christie's Hong Kong today (30 May 2006),
setting a world auction record for any Ming porcelain. The vase
was sold to Mr. Steve Wynn, Chairman & CEO of Wynn Resorts (Macau).
The pear-shaped vase, decorated with a peony scroll, is the only
copper-red vase of the Hongwu period (1368-1398) in perfect condition
to be offered at auction in more than 15 years.
The vase was originally inherited by a Scottish couple who used
it as a lamp stand and did not know of its importance until they
had seen a related example in a museum. When Christie’s London
sold the vase in 1984, it realised a price £421,200 (US$367,500);
then a record price for a Far Eastern work of art sold at Christie’s
(see Notes to Editors).
Ceramics with underglaze copper-red decoration are very rare as
copper mineral is known to be notoriously difficult to control during
the firing process, resulting in a grey or almost colourless design.
The failure rate was so high that the Jingdezhen potters had to
plead with officials to reduce the order as requested by the Court.
The peony vase on offer is one of those rare successes where the
pattern is expertly executed and the colour, an attractive crush
raspberry-red tone, is evenly distributed. As the potting of the
neck is narrow and thin, many bottle vases of this shape have their
necks repaired, or even top part of their necks replaced, but the
present vase is extraordinarily in fine condition.
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