A Rare Pair Of Transitional Grape Vine Bowls

Description: A pair of large, rare blue and white bowls from the Maurice Collis collection, painted in rich vivid tones of cobalt blue with branches of grapes suspended from slender vines bearing coiled tendrils and broad leaves. The underside painted with Jiajing six character marks.

The grape motif is comparatively rare on Chinese works of art as the fruit was mainly grown in Central Asia. It appeared in the Tang dynasty when the Silk Road enabled a close contact with this region, and re-appeared in the Yuan dynasty, when China again had many economic and cultural ties with the West, before becoming increasingly popular during the Yongle reign.

Provenance: Maurice Collis embarked on his journey of collecting Chinese ceramics during his time in Burma in the 1920s and 30s, while serving in the British Empire. His fascination with these artifacts began when a gold miner presented him with relics found near the ancient city of Tenasserim, not far from Collis’ base in Mergui, a region of Burma sandwiched between Siam on two sides.

This marked the inception of his enduring passion for early Chinese ceramics, an enthusiasm he continued to nurture upon his return to Britain. In his homeland, he became an active member of the Oriental Ceramic Society, where he contributed articles and meticulously documented his research and discoveries.

After retiring in 1936, Collis transitioned into a prolific writing career. His literary endeavors spanned a wide array of subjects, including Southeast Asia, China, and various historical themes. He delved into the history of Siam and China, as well as the rivalries among Western nations for dominance in sea-power and trade during the late Middle Ages in the East.

Interior of Maurice Collisis house in Mergui 1933/34

During his time in Burma, Collis had already become deeply engrossed in historical research. In 1941, he published “The Great Within,” a profound exploration of Chinese life spanning the Ming dynasty era to the early 20th century when the Manchu dynasty was overthrown. His work “Foreign Mud” delved into the opium trade and the Anglo-Chinese war, shedding light on these significant historical events. In “The First Holy One,” Collis delved into Confucius’s life and the profound impact of his doctrines on the Chinese people.

Maurice Collis in Rangoon by Burmese artist Ba Nyan.

Collis was not limited to historical narratives. He penned several noteworthy biographies, including one on Stamford Raffles, a biography of Lady Astor, and a comprehensive portrayal of the painter Stanley Spencer. Additionally, he proved his versatility as an author by crafting plays, poems, and producing extensive writings on art and artists for various publications and catalogues. His memoirs, titled “The Journey Up,” were published in 1970, providing a captivating glimpse into his extraordinary life and experiences.

Exhibited: 1913 Manchester City Art Gallery exhibition label. Bought at Christies 1941. Recently Provided Provenance History: From the Collection of Robert Henry Benson (1850-1929). Exhibited at the ‘Exhibition of Chinese Applied Art’ City of Manchester Art Gallery, 1913, no’s 460 & 461, described as Jiajing Period. Included in Christies celebrated sale of part of the Benson Collection, July 1st 1924, Lot 189 (as Jiajing), bought by Harcourt Johnstone (1895-1945) for 15 guineas. Included in the Sotheby’s sale of the Harcourt Johnstone Collection, June 13th 1940, Lot 49 and described as Transitional.

Age: 17thc

Size: Approx 18.5 cm wide x 9 cm high

Condition: Usual wear consummate with age

Price: £14,500