Important Chinese Art


each of elegant baluster form slightly waisted above the foot, the shoulders moulded with a beribboned lime-green sash tied at the centre and filled with a floret-studded classic scroll, reserved on the overall pink-enamelled ground decorated with stylised lotus scrolls above multi-coloured lappet band on the foot, the shoulder applied with four gilt-decorated loop handles, the stepped domed cover similarly decorated with registers of floral blooms surrounding a central 'lotus bud' finial, wood stands
23.9 cm, 9 3/4  in.
Zustandsbericht lesen Zustandsbericht lesen


Collection of J.M. Hu (1910-92).
Sotheby's New York, 4th June 1985, lot 72.
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 1st November 1999, lot 400.


This pair of magnificent vases was made for the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795) and may be unique, as no similar examples appear to be recorded in the world. The Qianlong Emperor is famous for his fascination of objects that simulate other materials. The painted knotted cloth is a Japanese concept reflecting Japanese furoshiki packaging customs, and this design element is frequently used on Japanese lacquer ware. The decoration simulating a textile wrapping around the vessel appears on a variety of media made in imperial workshops of the Qianlong Emperor, such as porcelain, metal-bodied wares with painted enamels, cloisonné, glass and wood or lacquer. However, these were all made in only very small numbers, and the current pair of porcelain vases is very special in that they feature a pink instead of the more common yellow ground, and with the knotted cloth in an elegant green colour, both unseen or very rare in any media with the knotted cloth design. The vases are also remarkable to survive as a pair with the original covers. Also remarkable is that their floral scrolls on the pink ground feature a palette that was favoured by the Qianlong Emperor as yangcai or ‘foreign colours’, since this colouration had been inspired by European enamels introduced to the Qing court by Jesuit artisans.

This pair of porcelain vases is very comparable in form and design to two Qianlong-marked metal-bodied jars painted in enamels with a knotted cloth on a yellow ground, one in the Palace Museum, Beijing, included in the exhibition Splendours of China's Forbidden City. The Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong, The Field Museum, Chicago, 2004, cat. no. 336; the other formerly in collections of Lord Loch of Drylaw (1827-1900), Alfred Morrison (1821-1897) and Rt. Hon. Lord Margadale of Islay, T.D., at Fonthill House, Wiltshire, sold at Christie's London, 9th November 2004, lot 19, and again in these rooms 9th October 2007, lot 1325 (fig. 1). Also related are Qianlong-marked metal-bodied covered jars painted in enamels with a knotted cloth on yellow ground, but of different form and much smaller height, one in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in the Museum’s exhibition Enamel Ware in the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties, Taipei, 1999, pl. 109; and a pair formerly in the collection of Alfred Morrison, sold at Christie's London, 9th November 2004, lot 20.

Porcelains with the knotted cloth design are also exceedingly rare and these are all of different form and decoration to the current vases. See a zun-shaped vase painted with a pink-coloured knotted ribbon on a turquoise ground, illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, pl. 40; and a long-necked blue and white vase with a yellow-coloured ribbon, in the Musee Guimet, Paris, illustrated in La Chine des Porcelaines, Paris, 2004, pl. 54, and included in the exhibition The Imperial Packing Art of the Qing Dynasty, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2000, cat. no. 66.

For examples of glasswares, compare a Qianlong vase modelled in the form of a yellow brocade bag with a pink sash at the neck looped in a knot, from the collections of Prince Gong Yixin, brother of the Xianfeng Emperor (r. 1851-1861), A.W. Bahr and Paul and Helen Bernat, illustrated in Hugh Moss, By Imperial Command, Hong Kong, 1976, pl. 41, sold in these rooms, 15th November 1988, lot 77 (fig. 2), and now in the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, included in the exhibition China. The Three Emperors 1662-1795, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2005, cat. no. 99. A Chinese lacquer box with the knotted design was included in the exhibition Imperial Packing Art of the Qing Dynasty, op. cit., cat. no. 161.

For examples of Japanese lacquer boxes see those included in the exhibition, Toyo no urushi kogei (Oriental Lacquer Arts), Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, 1977, cat. no. 297.

The pair of vases was once in the collection of J.M. Hu (1910-1992), a great connoisseur-collector and patron of the arts who made a large donation of ceramics to the Shanghai Museum, which today is exhibited there at the Zande Lou Gallery of Ceramics, and published in Wang Qingzheng and George Fan, Selected Ceramics from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. J.M. Hu, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, 1989. An exhibition of part of his ceramic collection was jointly organised in 2005 by the Art Museum of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Shanghai Museum and the Capital Museum in Beijing, see Qing Imperial Monochromes in the Zande Lou Collection, Hong Kong, 2005. Twelve of his Qing imperial monochromes were sold at a theme sale in these rooms, 9th October 2012.

Important Chinese Art