Of baluster form with high arched handle and spout, the body decorated in bright enamels with a continuous scene of Buddhist lions playing with embroidered balls and long flowing ribbons, surrounded by wispy clouds against a turquoise background, all between ruyi-head lappets around the shoulder and lotus petals around the foot, the handle enameled with two bands of ruyi-heads borne on foliate scrolls and the neck and spout with floral scrolls. 21.8cm (8 5/8in) wide.
Condition: Some enamel loss to right hand side of lower handle, replaced.
- 十六世紀 掐絲琺瑯瑞獅戲球圖執壺Although the lion is not native to China, its image has long been important to the repertoire of Chinese iconography. Lions were first presented to the Han court by emissaries from Central Asia and Persia, and the Chinese for lion (shi 獅) is thought to be derived from the Persian word šer. Lions were often seen in stone statuary, symbolising protection and law, and from the Tang dynasty, appeared on decorative arts. The Buddha’s teachings are often referred to as the ‘lion’s roar’ in the sutras, indicating their power and nobility. Buddhist lions playing with a brocade ball became the most popular form of imagery for the lion and appear during the Ming dynasty. For a very similar decoration of Buddhist lions, see a cloisonné enamel dish, 16th century, illustrated by C.Brown, Chinese Cloisonné: The Clague Collection, Phoenix Art Museum, 1980, pp.22-23, pl.3.Compare with a very similar cloisonné enamel ewer and cover, 16th century, also decorated with lions and with the cover, illustrated by H.Brinker and A.Lutz, Chinese Cloisonné: The Pierre Uldry Collection, London, 1989, no.98. The author notes that ‘no prototype in porcelain [of this shape] exist, but other examples are known in cloisonné enamel. These ewers, sometimes decorated with lions, sometimes with scrolling lotus, possibly served as ritual vessels in Buddhist or Lamaist ritual ceremonies.’Compare with a very similar cloisonné-enamel ewer and cover, 16th century, which was sold at Christie’s Paris, 7 December 2007, lot 6; see another very similar cloisonné-enamel ewer and cover, 17th century, which was sold at Christie’s London, 12 November 2010, lot 1146.