Xuande 'three fish' stemcup makes $5.6m at Sotheby's Hong Kong

A Xuande "three fish" stemcup sold for $5.6m in a single lot auction at Sotheby's Hong Kong on October 8.

The piece dates to the 15th century and is one of the earliest examples of Chinese porcelain to feature a design in red glaze.

The unusual bowl 'is without par', according to Sotheby's

Sotheby's explained its importance prior to the sale: "The radical simplicity of this three-fish and related three-fruit designs is without par in the history of Chinese porcelain decoration and exceptional among Chinese imperial works of art…

"The admirable, jewel-like colour and texture of these silhouettes was achieved only in the Xuande reign and was not matched again even in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), when these designs were frequently copied, particularly in the Yongzheng (1723-35) and Qianlong (1736-95) eras."

In recent years, large numbers of discarded experiments in red glaze have been discovered at the imperial kiln at Jingdezhen, indicating the complexity of the method.

Only a handful of completed red glaze examples from this era are known to exist, the vast majority of which are held in museums and other permanent collections.

The 15th century was a golden era for porcelain production in China and pieces from this era are highly coveted.

Earlier this year a Meiyintang "chicken cup" achieved $36.2m at Sotheby's Hong Kong.  

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