The Song dynasty (960–1279 AD) was one of the most creative and innovative periods in Chinese history and is regarded as the era in which the foundations of modern China were established. In terms of ceramic production the industry reached a high point, in which ‘Five Great Wares’ were defined: Ru, Jun, Guan, Ge and Ding.
Ding ware was produced in Ding Xian (modern Chu-yang), Hebei Province, slightly south-west of Beijing. Already in production when the Song emperors came to power in 940, Ding ware was the finest porcelain produced in northern China at the time, and was the first to enter the palace for official imperial use.
Song Dynasty porcelain is famed for its sophisticated forms, subtle monochrome glazes — in tones that vary from milky white to intense smoky black — and delicate impressed decoration. The Ding kilns were coal fired, dictating a narrow, high kiln design in which wares were stacked, upside down, for maximum efficiency. The ‘upside-down’ firing process necessitated the rims to be wiped clean of glaze before firing, to prevent them from becoming stuck to the kiln floor, leading to a distinctive unglazed rim often with bands of gold or silver applied.
Around the middle of the 11th century, Ding kiln craftsmen began decorating their porcelain vessels with incised decor, using broad-bladed carving tools in a variety of techniques to quickly execute lines that mimic the variations in thickness of brush-strokes, mostly have a painterly quality. Among the motifs incised, most commonly seen are lotus or day-lily blossoms and leaves, while dragons with a calf-like face and striding with head held high are rare.
The elegant Ding ware dish illustrated here will be offered in our forthcoming Fine Asian Works of Art auction in November. The interior delicately carved with a three-clawed dragon with bulging eyes and a scaly body in powerful stance. The dish is covered overall with a clear ivory-tinged glaze of typical fine quality Ding wares, showcasing the white porcelain body. The rim mounted with a metal band. It comes from a private Japanese collection. A closely comparable Ding ware piece dated to the same period and similarly incised with a three-clawed dragon motif on the interior, formally of the Qing Court collection, can be found in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei (NPM collection numbers: Guci 14467).
AUCTION | Fine Asian & Islamic Works of Art | Wednesday, 6th November 12:00 | The Hellenic Centre, 16-18 Paddington Street, London W1U 5AS
VIEWING | Sun 03 November 12pm – 5pm | Mon 04 November 10am - 7pm | Tues 05 November 10am – 5pm | Wed 06 November 10am - 11am | 22 Connaught Street, W2 2AF