|By Susan Emerson Nutter
NEW YORK, N.Y. — A Chinese bowl, a $3 tag sale find that was offered for bids Tuesday, March 19 at Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art auction, has the town abuzz.
And why not? The rare and historic “Ding” bowl from the Northern Song Dynasty was estimated to sell between $200,000 and $300,000. The piece stunned observers by attaining a $2.23 million winning bid.
Four bidders vied for this bowl, which was purchased by the consignor at a New York state neighborhood tag sale in 2007. According to Dan Abernethy of Sotheby’s press office, “At the time, the purchaser had no idea that they had happened upon a 1,000 year old treasure.”
The bowl was used as a decorative item in the living room of the consignor’s home for several years until someone became curious enough about the bowl and contacted experts in the field of Chinese art.
Upon learning the piece had a value greater than $3, the bowl made its way to Sotheby’s Fine Ceramics and Works of Art auction where once it was presented for sale, four bidders in the room and on telephones battled until the last man standing was legendary London dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi.
Measuring just a bit more than five inches across, the bowl is a wonderful example of Song pottery, which Abernethy said, “Is celebrated for its thin potting, fine near-white body, and ivory-colored glaze.”
The finely potted body of the bowl is a slightly rounded and steep flared form rising from a short spreading foot to an upright rim It features carving to the interior with scrolling leafy lotus sprays, while the exterior is carved and molded with three rows of overlapping upright leaves.
The bowl’s ivory-colored glaze is evenly applied and displays characteristic teardrops at its base. The rim of the bowl and the footrim are unglazed.
As stated in Sotheby’s catalogue description, “’Ding’ wares were ranked among the ’five great wares’ of the Song, a term coined by collectors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The high quality of the potting seen here is evident in the feather light weight of the bowl with the carved walls especially thin and delicate.”
It is interesting to note that most Ding ware did not require the application of a slip to appear white after firing. With this example sold, the glaze is expertly applied and enhances the incised lotus spray design decorating the interior of the bowl that flows wonderfully with the overlapping leaves applied to the exterior of the piece.
The naturalistic and fluid design of the bowl is again true to characteristics associated with Ding ware.
“The only other known bowl of the same form, size and almost identical decoration has been in the collection of the British Museum in London for over 60 years having been bequeathed to the museum by the prominent British collector Henry J. Oppenheim in 1947,” according to Abernethy.
The Ding bowl was just one of many treasures presented for bids at Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art auction – with sales totaling just shy of $22.5 million – during the Asia Week in New York event.
“Song Ceramics are increasingly sought-after by Chinese Art connoisseurs,” Abernethy said. “And this was just one of a number of strong prices achieved for examples of these works in the sale.”
Sotheby’s celebrated the cultures of Asia, some of the world’s oldest and most diverse, March 14-21 with a week of exhibitions, lectures and events that were coordinated within the city-wide initiative of Asia Week New York.
Contact: (212) 606-7176