Chinese Oil Spot tea bowl brings $11.7 million at Christie's
A centuries-old Chinese 'oil spot' tea bowl has smashed auction records in New York, selling for $11.7 million at Christie's.
The ancient bowl was originally part of an imperial tea set used by the royal court of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).
During the Song Dynasty's reign the art of making tea became a contest, and connoisseurs held competitive tea parties at which their skills were tested.
The vogue at the time was for 'whipped tea', made with a white froth on top, and the contests were won by whose froth lasted the longest.
To show off this white froth the best it was desirable to use contrasting black tea bowls, and many collectors sought 'tenmoku' glaze bowls featuring mottled decoration which resembled the fur of a hare.
Some of the finest examples were produced at the Jian kiln in Jianyang of East China's Fujian Province, and were sought after by collectors throughout Asia for almost a millennium.
The Jian wares were fired in the kiln between 1250–1300°C, which meant the excess iron in the clay was carried to the surface to creating droplets of precipitation. These droplets would then burst, producing the rare effect known as ‘oil spot’.
Today less than 100 of the precious Jian 'oil spot' bowls are known to survive, with the majority house in private Japanese collections.
The bowl offered at Christie's had been owned by the renowned Kuroda family, and had previously been registered in Japan as an Important Art Object, before passing into the Linyushanren Collection.
According to Christie's: "This rare bowl with its illustrious history and remarkable accoutrements is an important part of the history of Chinese Song dynasty ceramics and the development of tea drinking in China, as well as the history of ceramic appreciation and the tea ceremony in Japan. It is also a vessel of consummate beauty."
The bowl achieved a new world record price for any Jian kiln item sold at auction, with a final price of $11,701,000, and the entire sale of the Linyushanren Collection realized a total of $18,406,000.
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