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Christie’s sale preview – Sunday November 26 – Rosemary Scott – Flowers and Birds in Chinese Ceramics


Blue and White magpie and prunus moonflask, Yongzheng period (1723–1735).  Image courtesy: Christies

Flowers and Birds

The first depictions of both motives were focusing on the food and supply rather than on aesthetics. The emerging use for art dates back from 265-420 with 2 painters specialised in it. During the Tang Dynasty, about 80 painters were recorded for bird and flower paintings. Naturalistic groups were painted on 2 dimentional works but also on ceramics.


Image 1 peacocks. 12-14th c by Zhang Daquian or after him.

The pieces from the Changsha kilns show examples of Tang dynasty ceramics with birds and flowers. During the Song dunasty, Cui Boas a painter – 11th, shows the rise of popularity in painting plums blossom. In the Song dynasty,  an imperial painting academy was established by emperor Huizong 1101-1125. Pillows for tombs were also decorated with the Yibi style ( literaty style) showing birds or animals, for instance the Tiger pillow from Jin dynasty excavated in 1996.


image 4: Zhao Mengfu

Painter at court for Kubulai Khan, Zhao Mengfu, painted in a manner tending to go back to Song classics, such as Wang Yuan,painter from 1280 to 1349. In the Yuan dynasty, Porcelain was painted with birds and flowers but motives were still limited, mainly  Lotus and ducks.


Image 5 : Bian Lu

Ming and Qing dynasty:

Naturalistic paintings emerged on porcelain with the Ming. In 15th century, birds went from vase to dishes and cricket jars. Then, hen, chicks and chicken cups became fashionable. Birthday plates and flasks with enamels were also bearing birds.Wild geese were very popular as well. They appeared as early as Song dynasty and related to the many symbols of geese, each position matching a blessing or a symbol.

Ming and Qing dynasty pieces with birds and flowers are now the most expensive pieces of imperial porcelains. During the Qing dynasty,  Castiglione  or Mao Yi painted many panels which are highly valued today. 


For the Imperial Court:

Qing porcelain from the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art

Rosemary E. Scott, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art

MathildeHK at ICMM – International Congress for Maritime Museums

You like old Warships,

You are interested in Maritime archeology,

You like History,

Lecture part of the ICMM HONG KONG – November 6 2015.


I attended the final talk of the 17 th edition of the ICMM at Hong Kong Maritime Museum. The subject was highly interesting and dealt with doing research and extending the missions of Maritime Museums. The lecturers were from Europe, coming from major museums such as: Klas Helmerson, retired from the Vasa Museum, Fred Hocker from the same Vasa Museum and Christopher Dobbs from the Mary Rose Tust. they discussed the issue of ” Connecting the past to the present : Maritime Archeology”


Main research question: Why maritime museums need research programme?

The talk was devided into 2 sections, one dedicated to the VASA and the other to the MARY ROSE.


The vasa museum,

I the VASA – 17th century Canons and ballistics – Sweden by Fred Hocker

“THE MAIDEN VOYAGE … On Sunday, the 10th of August, 1628, Vasa lay rigged and ready for sea just below the royal palace Tre Kronor. Ballast, guns and ammunition were all on board. On the quays and shores along Strömmen, an excited public waited to watch the ship leave Stockholm and celebrate her departure.Over a hundred crewmen were on board, as well as women and children. The crew had permission to take family and guests along for the first part of the passage through the Archipelago.” by Vasa Museum
According to Fred Hocker, there are good reasons why Museums should do research rather than other institutions:
The main one would be the proximity with the objects. Ex : the museum sold 15000 copies for the Vasa research catalogue. Another book also found some public: The archeology of a swedish warship of 1628. Research creates new knowledge in the museum to enlarge the audiences. Its showing all collections, not just the pieces on display and its also a way to get new sponsors.


Project 2015 : the canon project.


The research dealt with how to understand the capabilities of waepons and why the warship sank after 55 min in 1628.
In 1626, the king wanted to encourage canons and fire weapons. Ballistics was not perfect. were canons responsable for the desaster?


The museum undertook research on ergonomics and munition. They decided to replicate an ordnance tablet and they recreated the alloy for the weapon making and the gun of the canon. They replicated the different ammunitions as well to recreate the whole canon. Fred explained us they also needed to find gun shooters. They called the members of an american association…so they could study the impact of bullets on a replicated flank of the Vasa. the smell, the noise and the results were amazing.

The project has cost half a million USD, they did a total of 54 rounds with 125 kg powder. All staff could actually fire it and get trained. Fred Hocker looked very satisfied of that attend and claimed the influence of the Mary Rose Trust…

II Recreating life on board – Christopher Dobbs – Mary Rose Trust

Built in 1510 by Henri VIII, the Mary Rose was a warship from 1510 to 1545 and sank in wars against the French, with  only 35 survivors. The Mary Rose trust was created in 1979 to promote and bring ashore the ship on display in Portsmouth.In 1982,  the mary rose raised. Brought to a structure just newly renovated in 2013 – reports. Biggest excavation under the sea.


Christopher Dobbs explained how important it was for him to avoid replicas. The Museum display matches the display undersea. The boat is on the one side and the galleries with objects on the other side.During undersea research, the team found a big pile of bricks. Some were still together: there were the ovens. The museum decided the reconstruction of the cauldrons. They built a fule scale replica outside the museum in order to explain the visitors about the everyday life on board.The showcase also show the way they found things in the sea with the way they rebuilt them. The museum also tells personal stories  since they found personal boxes in the ship. Museology and research programmes are true successes since the museum is welcoming over a million visitors per year!


According to Christopher, the Main three best excavating, curating and showcasing instances of Maritime Museums are the VASA, excavated in 1961 in Stockolm, the MARY ROSE found in 1982 in UK and the NAN HAI I found in 2012 in China.


The world is stil waiting for the Chinese ancient warship to emerge from its bath…