8. M4845


Chinese pottery phoenix-head ewer, fengshouhu, with slender pear-shaped body, moulded on each side in an oval shape reserve on a splayed buff-coloured pottery foot, with slender neck and stem-form handle forming a flower behind the phoenix bird’s head of predominately blue colour splashed with cream, green and amber glaze beneath a crest and flat rim, one side moulded with a galloping archer turning back to perform the Parthian shot surrounded by flowerheads on a blue ground, the other side with an open-winged phoenix bird standing on one foot perched on a flowerhead surrounded by further flowerheads on a blue ground, the neck and handle of a rich amber glaze, the flat rim with three spur marks from the firing.

13 inches, 33 cm high.

Tang dynasty, Gongxian kilns, Henan Province, 7th – 8th century.


Provenance & Additional Information

  • Formerly in a Japanese private collection, inventory 5-1941-6.
  • Formerly in the personal collection of Jintsu of Jintsu Seigando Company, Tokyo, Japan, who stated that he purchased it from Mr. Fujishiro of Asahi and Company in the 1970’s.
  • Published by Marchant in their exhibition of Chinese Ceramics Tang to Song, 2022, no. 8, pp. 24-27.
  • A similar blue-ground ewer, possibly the pair to this piece, from the Collection of and Mrs. Ernest S. Heller, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, gift of Mr. Stanley Herzman in memory of Adele Herzman, is illustrated by Suzanne G. Valenstein in The Herzman Collection of Chinese Ceramics, no. 6, p. 17, included by Ezekiel Schloss in the exhibition of Foreigners in Ancient Chinese Art, China Institute of America exhibition, New York, 1969, Foreigners in Ancient Chinese Art, no. 59, purchased by Stanley Herzman at Sotheby’s New York in their auction of Fine Chinese Ceramics, Works of Art and Paintings, 6thNovember 1981, lot 161, also included by Suzanne G. Valenstein in an article in Orientations magazine in their June 1990 edition, Chinese Ceramics in the Collection of Adele and Stanley Herzman, fig. 4, where the author notes, “The many foreign influences seen in Tang dynasty ceramic vessels are a result of China’s extensive economic and cultural exchanges with countries to the West at that time. Figure 4, a phoenix-headed ewer, is an excellent example of a Chinese ceramic based almost entirely on outside prototypes. Its shape is copied directly from silver originals, produced in Sogdian Persia; the motif of a mounted archer delivering his ‘Parthian shot’ and the palmettes that frame the principal motifs can also be traced to ancient Persia. Exotic vessels of this nature were apparently quite popular in Tang China: similar ewers have been excavated from contemporary tombs and a number can also be found outside China. A mould for making this type of phoenix-headed hu has been found at the Gongxian kilns in Henan Province (Zhongyuan Wenwu, 1981:3, pp. 16-22, and pl. 1:3).” Another with the panels on the blue ground and with blue splashes on the bird’s head, previously sold by Kochukyo, Tokyo, circa 1930’s and by Hirano Kotoken, Tokyo, circa 1980’s, was sold by Poly Auction Hong Kong in Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 2nd April 2019, lot 3039.
  • Another similar ewer in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco is illustrated by He Li in Chinese Ceramics, A New Comprehensive Survey, no. 166, where the author notes, “Such ewers display a conscious sense of luxury, largely thanks to the modeling skills of their makes.” Another formerly in the Johannes Hellner Collection, now in the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm, is illustrated on a full colour page and included by Bo Gyllensvärd in The World’s Great Collections, Oriental Ceramics, 8, no. 23; two others, one previously in the Alfred Clark Collection and illustrated by the Oriental Ceramic Society in their exhibition of Wares of the T’ang Dynasty, 1949, no. 58, and again in the exhibition of The Arts of the T’ang Dynasty, 1955, no. 128, again by the Los Angeles County Museum in their exhibition of The Arts of the T’ang Dynasty, 1957, no. 188, and finally in the Indianapolis Museum of Art exhibition of The Arts of the T’ang Dynasty, 1973, no. 53, were included by Margaret Medley in the catalogue of Tang Sancai Pottery, Selected from the Collection of Alan and Simone Hartman at an exhibition at the International Ceramic Fair, London, 1989, nos. 32 & 33, pp. 58-61.
  • Another sancai phoenix-head ewer, previously in the Henan Province Museum, Zhengzhou, now in the Luoyang Museum, excavated in 1961 at Tawancun, Luoyang, Henan Province, is illustrated by Sun Xinmin in Three-Color Ware of the Tang Dynasty, The Henan Province Discoveries, 79, p. 109, and is also illustrated by Yang Daomin in The Complete Collection of Chinese Ceramics, Vol. 7, Tang Sancai, no. 62; another rather burnt example is illustrated by Li Huibing in Porcelain of the Jin and Tang Dynasties, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Beijing, no. 208, pp. 226/7; another with blue splashes to the phoenix head and crest, by repute from the collection of Baron Fujita, was sold by Christie’s Hong Kong in their auction of Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 30thNovember 2016, lot 3306, pp. 110/1.


Overall excellent condition, a foot chip restored, a small area above the right eyebrow retouched, a few flakes to the surface especially near the moulded decorations, spur marks to the rim, general glaze wear and firing imperfections.