The Alexander Vase A fine and very rare large Chinese blue and white double gourd vase.
Yuan Dynasty, mid 14 th century, 47.5cm. high The body is painted in under-glaze cobalt blue with a gourd vine. The leaves, fruit and spiralling tendrils issue from a single continuous undulating stem which grows from a root at the base of the vase and develops to encircle the body several times before terminating at the rim. A single six petalled flower-head (the last fruit of the year) is visible on the upper lobe. The outlines of the stems and tendrils show heaped and piled under-glaze blue, the leaves have naturalistic veining. The base is un-glazed and has a shallow cut broad foot rim.
The vase represents one of the first Chinese vessels where the shape and decoration were designed to match, an idea frequently taken up again in later reigns, particularly in the Qing Dynasty. The only directly comparable vase to the current piece is in the Villanueva Collection in the Philippines, which is a broken double gourd vase where only the lower section survives.
Literature: Regina Krahl, Orientations March 2005, The Gourd of Long-Lasting Happiness and Prosperity: A New Departure for Porcelain Decoration in the Yuan Dynasty.
Provenance: The Alexander Collection.
William Cleverley Alexander (1840-1916) was one of the most noted connoisseurs of his day, an accomplished draughtsman and a member of the Burlington Fine Arts Club, he was renowned for his taste in Western paintings and Asian works of art. The collection was started in 1867 and included items form the Tang, Song, Ming and Qing dynasties. Alexander's notes suggest that this piece was bought on 23 rd May 1900 for 10 pounds (or guineas).
d 1900 was a very early time for a piece of Yuan blue and white to have reached England and an adventurous choice for a collector at the time. Yuan blue and white had not yet been identified and the vase would probably have puzzled the great authorities of the day. This may be why the piece didn't feature in the exhibitions at the Burlington Fine Art Club, London or the City of Manchester Art Gallery, 1913, to which Alexander lent generously, and why it has never been published. It has remained in the family ever since.
For further details about The Alexander Collection Cf. Hobson, Rackham and King, Chinese Ceramics in Private Collections, 1931, where 58 pieces from the collection are illustrated.
Estimate upon request.