Particularly fashionable was the so-called ‘whipped tea’, whisked to produce a white froth on the top, and so bowls that showed this to its best advantage were regarded as desirable.
Black and deep purple tea bowls became fashionable and were made at a number of kilns across China.
The Northern Song Emperor Huizong (r.1101-25), a great devotee of tea drinking who wrote a 12-chapter book on the subject, particularly admired the so-called hare’s fur bowls. He stated: “The black hued tea bowls are to be preferred. Those with the distinctive hare’s fur glaze are the best.”
A Southern Song example with a brown-streaked black glaze was the highlight of the Hurdle Collection of classic era Chinese ceramics offered by Hansons (25% buyer’s premium) in Etwall, Derbyshire, on April 29.
As well as its good glaze and exceptional condition, this was an inscribed piece with a painted mark to the unglazed foot that read Gongyu (imperial tribute) or Jin Zhan (for presentation). It is thought bowls of this type represented the finest wares of their type and were made to be presented to the court.
It was estimated at £1500-2000 but raced away to bring £56,000.