“May Your Happiness Reach Up To The Tips of Your Eyebrows”

Chinese porcelain famille verte cylindrical brushpot, bitong, painted in a continuous scene with one magpie resting on a prunus branch and four others in flight, amongst angular rockwork and branches of plum blossom with sprays of red, green and blue, petal edges and stamens highlighted in gilt, the base with a circular recess and underglaze blue wan-character maker’s mark.

15.4 cm high, 18.2 cm / 7 1/4 inches diameter.

Kangxi, 1662-1722.

Provenance & Additional Information

  • Sold by Bonham’s London in their auction of The Marsh Collection, Art for the Literati, 3rd November 2022, no. 37.
  • Published and illustrated by S. Marsh in Brushpots: A Collector’s View, Hong Kong, 2020, pp.230-231.
  • Sold by Marchant, London, 13th November 2000.
  • Included by Marchant in their Recent Acquisitions exhibition, 2000, no. 19.
  • Famille verte brushpots of this size and height are extremely rare.
  • Magpies on prunus form the pun “xishang meishao“.  Magpies, 喜鵲, xique, provide a homophone for happiness, 喜, xi, whilst on top, 上, shang, of the plum tree, 梅梢, meishao, which is a pun for the tips of eyebrows, 眉梢, meishao, so forming the rebus “May Your Happiness Reach Up To The Tips of Your Eyebrows”, “喜上眉梢”.
  • The use of gilt is rarely found on famille verte, it was reserved for only the very best pieces.
  • The design appears to be related to woodblock prints of flowers and birds, such as the Shizhuzhai shuhua pu (Ten Bamboo Studio Manual of Calligraphy and Painting), published by Hu Zhengyan (1584-1674) and printed between 1619 and 1633. The increasing availability of illustrated woodblock printed books, including pharmaceutical literature dealing with plants and their medicinal properties helped facilitate their design on porcelain. See for example, a blue and white brushpot, cyclically dated to 1638, with similar design of flowers and birds, and its source from the Ten Bamboo Studio Manual of Calligraphy and Painting, illustrated by T.Canepa and K.Butler, Leaping the Dragon Gate: The Sir Michael Butler Collection of Seventeenth-Century Chinese Porcelain, London, 2021, p.231.
  • A similar brushpot in the Gugong is illustrated in The Complete Collection of the Treasures of the Palace Museum: Porcelains and Contrasting Colours, 2007, p.97, no.89.


Excellent condition