Jiajing wucai fish jar at Sotheby’s ceramics sale



2015-06-26 11:06:30

Jiajing wucai fish jar at Sotheby’s ceramics sale

27 Jul 2012, 10:57 GMT+01

Sotheby’s have announced that their Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art auction on September 11th will include an important wucai fish jar and cover.

This particular fish jar dates from the Jiajing period, 1521-1567. Such pieces from this era and mark are remarkable items of Imperial porcelain, featuring free-spirited Taoist imagery.

The Jiajing Emperor, born Zhu Houcong, was the 11th Ming Dynasty Emperor of China. He was known as an avid devotee of Taoism, pouring money into associated worship and ceremonies, and attempting to suppress Buddhism.

He was also cruel and self-aggrandising. His ruthlessness resulted in a plot by several of his concubines to assassinate him, which they tried to do by strangling him with ribbons from their hair. Surprisingly enough, they failed in this attempt, and were put to death by the horrific slow slicing method.

This event led the Emperor to pay more and more attention to his religious pursuits, and ignore his imperial duties. His devotion was so great that the country suffered financially and was thrown into dissent. The Emperor eventually died from a mercury overdose that he mistakenly believed was the Elixir of Life, after spending his final years searching for alchemic methods to prolong his existence.

Fish jars were designed to offer a positive image of lives free from care. They were unusual, in that more traditional Taoist imagery would picture deities and symbols of immortality.

Traditional wucai jars feature five colours, and that is in fact what ‘wucai’ means. This example is a rarity, as it includes a sixth colour.

The fact that it is accompanied by its cover is also remarkable, as most jars have been separated from their covers over the years, with only two or three complete examples known to exist in private hands, the rest in museums.

The jar was consigned by the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, who hope to raise money for their acquisition fund. It is expected to fetch $500,000-$700,000.


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