A massive famille rose Romance of the Western Chamber punch bowl. Yongzheng
Of massive form, the deep U-shaped sides very finely painted in very colorful famille rose enamels including shades of yellow, turquoise, pink, strong blue, lavender, yellow, bianco sopra bianco, pink, green and black. The exterior of the punch bowl is painted with a continuous frieze of large figures and depicts two episodes of the Romance of the Western Chamber. The first episode depicts Zhang on horseback with his attendant travelling to the capital beside a young archer. The second episode depicts Zhang’s attendant bringing news of his master to Yingying and Hongniang. He passed his examinations but has fallen ill and is delayed. He holds her letter in his hands. The interior of the bowl is decorated with flowers and a large figure of Shou-Lao beside a jar with a ruyi sceptre and scrolls.
- Period :
- Yongzheng period (1723-1735), circa 1730/1735
- 15.35 in. (39 cm)
- Reference :
The estate of the Pillet-Will (régent de la Banque de France) / Pimodan family
For a very similar bowl but depicting the Generals of the Yang family riding horses, see Sotheby’s NYC, Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, 31 march 2005, lot 145.
For another example, from the Kline Collection, see Christie’s NYC, Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 25 March 2022, lot 1136.
In China, at the end of the 12th century, a certain Dong Jieyuan wrote a book in which he compiled existing text variants of popular theatrical plays, romances and ballads recounting a well-known love story. It was published as the Xixiangji zhugongdiaoi (The Story of the Western Wing in All keys and Modes). In turn, this book was adapted and expanded by Wang Shift (c. 1250-1300), a playwright, who published it as a comedy play in eight books, called the Xixiangji (The Romance of the Western Chamber). Although the Xixiangji entered the realm of classical Chinese literature, the story itself remained immensely popular among all classes in China. Even as recently as the 1980’s Peking opera companies still staged performances, movies were made and even comics used the theme. Without exaggeration it can be stated that the Xixigji is an essential part of China’s oral, literary and theatrical heritage.
Because the story was so popular in China, the most important scenes became conventionalized images and were easily recognized by the public. Woodblock illustrations in the many editions also concentrated on core scenes, thus creating a corpus of motifs that was widely used by painters, silk embroiderers, lacquer workers and other craftsmen
Porcelain decorated with “The Romance of the Western Chamber” became a widespread fashion in the Shunzi period (1644-1661). These porcelains heralded its popularity in the Kangxi period (1662-1722) on famille verte and blue and white wares, when these depictions were not only produced for the domestic Chinese market but were also exported to Europe.
Most of the Kangxi (1662-1722) and Yongzheng (1723-1735) porcelains illustrating the Romance of the Western Chamber depict only one episode of the play, and porcelain embellished with several scenes form the play are very rare.
Photography : Jérémie Beylard / Agence PHAR