The Mary and Cheney Cowles Collection of Chinese Ceramics
The Mary and Cheney Cowles Collection of Chinese Ceramics has been quietly and judiciously assembled over the last fifty years. It was purchased from many of the world’s finest dealers and auctions, with a discerning eye for artistic beauty and excellent quality. Their achievement illustrates the true spirit of collecting; not for profit or fame, but as an expression of intellectual rigor and the sheer delight of beauty.
The fifty-six pieces on offer span one thousand years, from the 4th through 14th centuries. They include concentrations in white and sancai Sui-Tang Dynasty earthen wares, as well as Yue, Yaozhou, Ding, Qingbai, Jun, and Cizhou kiln type wares, with black and brown kilns from Northern and Southern China represented. Several of the works have illustrious early 20th century provenance, including Cunliffe, Hellner, Bernat, Falk, Yamanaka, Eskenazi and Lally.
Some standout examples include a large and intact Yueyao storage jar, a Junyao brush washer from the Hellner Collection, a rare carved Yaozhou yuhuchun-ping, a large carved Qingbai lidded meiping, and a lioness and cubs shaped Cizhou pillow from the Cunliffe Collection.
It has been my pleasure to know and work with Mr. and Mrs. Cowles for over 30 years, and I am honored to be entrusted with the sale of their spectacular collection. This exhibition offers a brief opportunity to view a collection only seen by a handful of visiting scholars, and rarely in its entirety.
Tang Dynasty, 618-907 AD, China
Height: 30 cm
A large ovoid jar with domed lid surmounted by a lotus bud finial. The finely formed ovoid body has a short, flared mouth-rim and a slightly flared base with flat foot. The piece is covered in a translucent, finely crackled glaze down to its foot, which has fired to a mottled tan color.
Chinese Porcelain Company, New York
Private New York Collection
Tang Dynasty, 618-907 A.D., China
Diameter: 24cm (9.35 inches)
A flat-bottomed plate with gently curved cavetto and broad, flat rim with raised edge. The inside is decorated with a Persian inspired floral medallion surrounded by six lotus depictions in profile and six closed buds between them. The decoration is incised, then colored with blue, green and amber glazes that adhere well to the pattern. The rest of the plate is white and covered with a translucent, finely crackled glaze, now slightly degraded in some areas, that continues on the back to the flattened bottom. The entire piece sits on three legs of stylized lion's paw form.
Zetterquist Galleries, 2001
Liao or Five Dynasties,10th c. A.D., China
Height: 21.6 cm
A porcelaineous stoneware ewer covered with a translucent ivory colored glaze that stops just short of its finely potted foot rim. The piece is formed of two spheres conjoined by a narrow connection giving it the appearance of a double gourd. The bottom section has a slightly flattened and ridged spout formed for pouring sideways. (old repair at tip.) A wide, flattened looped handle joins the top and bottom sections, and has a molded floral decoration. The unglazed under-foot has an incised "guan" character, incised after firing. A piece of similar form, but with double strand handle, appears in Xing Kiln of China, Beijing, 2012, pl. 97.
Private American Collection
Zetterquist Galleries, 2014
Northern Song Dynasty, 960-1127 AD, China
Diameter: 22.2 cm
A finely potted and exquisitely carved Dingyao porcelaineous stoneware bowl with foliate form rim divided by six notches. The deep interior is decorated a masterfully incised lotus depiction, with the main flower rising above the center well and scrolling lotus along the bottom two-thirds of the cavetto. The exterior is plain with the exception of faint turning lines and glaze pools to a viscous color typical of Northern Song Ding pieces. There is a small rim chip, slight hairline crack to the interior.
Myron and Pauline Falk collected Chinese antiquities since their honeymoon in China in the 1930’s. With an exquisite eye (and impeccable timing) they were able to amass an important collection, which they generously shared with students, scholars, and collectors in their Park Avenue apartment through the decades.
Pauline and Myron Falk Jr. Collection, New York
“Chinese Art: Symbols and Images, Wellesley College Museum of Art”, 1967, pl. 24.
“Chinese Art: Symbols and Images”, Wellesley College Museum of Art, 1967
Yuan Dynasty 1271 - 1368 AD, China
Diameter: 14.2 cm
A porcelain bowl of shallow conical form sitting on a small round foot rim. The interior is decorated with a molded plum branch and a crescent moon amongst clouds on the opposing side, all below a molded key-fret band well below the rim. The entire piece is covered in a clear glaze that pools to a very pale blue color near the foot.
J.J. Lally and Co., 1987
Yuan Dynasty, 1271 - 1368 AD, China
A large porcelaineous jar of baluster form body with high shoulders surmounted by a short, wide neck that tapers up to a thick rolled mouth-rim. The bottom half of the jar is has deeply carved overlapping lotus petals confined by raised borders. The upper half of the body has deeply and masterfully carved scrolling peonies and foliage, all under a lappet of lotus petals around the base of the neck. The entire piece is covered with a brilliant translucent and finely crackled turquoise blue glaze that ends just above the foot. The foot rim and center of the flat foot-well are unglazed, revealing a white porcelaneous stoneware body fired to a light buff color.
A more elongated Meiping version with identical carving is published in “Inaugural Exhibition, Vol. 1, Chinese Ceramics” from the Museum of East Asian Art, Bath, 1993. Pl. 131.
TL tested by Oxford Authentication Sample #P122k74
J.J .Lally and Co., 1988
Jin Dynasty 1127 - 1279 AD, China
Height: 13.3cm x Length: 21.6 cm
A Cizhou pillow of dark stoneware with a layer of cream colored slip and translucent glaze. The body is in the form of a recumbent lioness with two intertwined cubs at her side, one biting the others haunch, and the other biting the mother’s ear. The canopy, which raises out of the figure’s back, is of quadrofoil form with one side flattened, and canting backwards from the front of the figural group. It is deeply incised with a large peony spray over a ring-matte ground, and contained by a double-lined border. Small chips to extremities. The flat base is unglazed and fired to a dark brown.
Bluett and Son’s, London
J.J. Lally & Co., 1995
Oriental Ceramic Society, London, 1960
Southern Song Dynasty, 1127 - 1279 A.D., China
A large conical stoneware bowl with elegantly flared mouth-rim. The entire piece is covered with a thick shiny black glaze streaked with persimmon colored glaze in the Hare’s Fur style. The glaze stops in thick drips just short of the carved foot- rim revealing a dark brown stoneware clay body. For a similar example, see “Hare’s Fur, Tortoiseshell, and Partridge Feathers” by Robert D. Mowry. Harvard University Art Museums, 1995. pl. 81.
Zetterquist Galleries, 2011
Tang Dynasty, 618-907 AD, China Length: 11 cm
A ruyi-form Xing-yao white-ware box with flat bottom and slightly domed lid. The lid has a molded depiction of knotted ribbon with two mandarin ducks facing each other. the exterior is decorated with bright green highlights on the lid and splashes on the sides and bottom, then covered overall with a translucent glaze.
A similar piece with Sancai glazed decoration sold at Christie’s Hong Kong (November 2016) while another is published in Xi'an Institute of Cultural Relics Preservation, “Xing Kiln of China”, Beijing, 2012, p. 342.
William Chak, Hong Kong, 1997