This spring, Christie's
will present A Magnificent And Extremely Rare Large Doucai Vase, to be offered as a leading highlight in the Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art auction on 30 May, 2022.
Proceeds from the sale of the lot will benefit The Helen Munson Williams Acquisition Fund, solely for the purchase of artwork for the permanent collection.
The Munson-Williams-Proctor Doucai Vase
Carefully Applied Technique: A unique technique and style of decoration, doucai was both difficult and expensive to execute. After shaping and drying the vase, fine underglaze cobalt blue outlines were painted onto its porous unfired body. As the cobalt immediately soaked into the unfired clay, no mistakes could be rectified.
Exceptionally Rare: There are very few surviving doucai vases of such massive size from the Qianlong period. A related Qianlong vase in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, is different in shape but very similar in decoration and size. The chilong handles can be compared to those on a doucai decorated vase in the Palace Museum, Beijing.
Striking Colour and Auspicious symbolism: The ruyi motif, based on the form of a lingzhi fungus, represents a wish for everything you desire and was a popular motif for imperial birthdays. In addition, four bold gilt swastikas, wan 卍, popular Buddhist symbols of good luck, are found on the body of the vase.
Documented Provenance: Mrs. Helen Elizabeth Munson Williams bought the vase from the American Art Galleries in 1883, and it has remained in the collection of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute of Utica in New York.
The Munson-Williams-Proctor Doucai Vase is superbly enameled, with four stylised lotus blossoms interspersed with smaller lotus blossoms above gilt wan emblems, all amidst a lush pattern of leafy scrolls, and bordered by a band of stylised bats above clouds on the shoulder and a band of petal lappets above the foot. The tall waisted neck is decorated on either side with a lotus blossom, centered by a gilt shou medallion above a cluster of lingzhi fungus, all set against leafy scrolls and bordered above and below by ruyi-head bands, and flanked by a pair of handles formed as chilong, with scrolling bifurcated tails finely shaded in iron-red and with gilt detail.
The original receipt for this vase is still in existence, issued in 1883 by the American Art Gallery, a division of the American Art Association in New York City. The receipt confirms the vases purchase by Mrs. Helen Elizabeth Munson Williams (18241894), whose collection would later be the foundation for the the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute. The American Art Gallery sold both American paintings and Asian ceramics, both of which Mrs. Williams was buying in the late 1880s, a typical pursuit of sophisticated wealthy Americans at the end of the nineteenth century.
It is very rare to find such beautifully documented provenance dating back to the late 19th century. Christies is thrilled to present this magnificent work of imperial porcelain from one of the most prolific reigns of the Qing Dynasty, the Qianlong reign.
Marco Almeida, Head of Department, Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, commented: Christies has established long-lasting and loyal relationships with museums and institutions around the globe, as they appreciate our expertise and professionalism when handling these highly important works of art. This season, we are honoured to bring the 'Munson-Williams-Proctor' Doucai vase to the market and an array of rare Chinese works of art, mostly with stellar provenance. We strongly believe that the 'Munson-Williams-Proctor' Doucai vase, with its documented provenance, will prove to be a huge sensation amongst collectors worldwide.