the finely potted cylindrical body resting on a slightly splayed foot and rising to a short waisted neck below a flaring mouth, moulded around the sides with four raised gilt-edged canted rectangular panels enclosing alternating inscriptions, and delicately enamelled clusters of flowering and budding chrysanthemum and prunus growing from leafy knotty branches, all reserved on a rich yellow ground filled with stylised lotus scrolls, the neck with a frieze of bats suspending double cash emblems interspersed by shou characters below a band of smaller bats at the rim, the interior and base turquoise, with a central square on the base reserved in white for the iron-red six-character mark seal mark
The poem titled Fu de yejing xunmei jian xiaochun (Encountering Little Spring When searching for Plum Blossoms Along a Rustic Path) was written by the Qianlong Emperor and is included in Yuzhi Leshantang quanji (Complete Works from the Leshantang) of the Siku quanshu (Complete Library of the Four Treasuries) no. 27:9a. The poem can be translated as follows:
In a secluded valley where perfume would fade on jade cheeks,
I sought fragrant blossoms and finally found a bough in bloom.
After a snowfall the rustic path led ever farther into the distance—
Where spring had reached a mountain village just then arrived.
I love best those branches light and slender with only a few blossoms,
And feel not the least sad when in great disorder they fall in heaps.
A bright window now elegantly assists my inspiration for this new poem
As here to where I sit I've invited a prunus mume to keep me company.
Chen Han (Written by His Majesty).
The second poem does not appear to be recorded although it may still be by the Qianlong Emperor or was written by his son, the Jiaqing Emperor. It can be translated as follows:
Frost flowers touch up the chill on white blossoms,
As maple leaves lie scattered in all directions and willow strands hang withered.
Under the hedge I love to see white jade cups,
And on branch tips so quickly formed, fine gold dishes.
When these late fragrant blossoms wither and fall,
the perfume lingers,
So as such austere beauty is loath to part
their elegance unexpectedly hangs on.
I am a poet as well as a chronicler of flowers,
So with each word I chant in praise,
I take another look.
The present vase is amongst the finest famille-rose decorated examples of the Jiaqing period. The enamelled decoration is of superb quality and the rendition of the flowers in the varied and vibrant tones of enamel colours is masterly executed. Stylistically this vase is comparable to examples of the Qianlong period, hence it can be considered as a product of the first years of Jiaqing's reign, possibly when the Qianlong emperor was still alive.
A Jiaqing mark and period vase of this elegant lantern form but painted with a continuous figure scene on ruby-ground was sold in these rooms, 2nd November 1998, lot 411.
The form of this piece is inspired by earlier, Qianlong, versions of lantern-shaped vases decorated with various figure scenes between different colour-ground borders. Compare two Qianlong vases, one in Beijing illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 350, pl. 31; the other in the Nanjing Museum included in the exhibition Qing Imperial Porcelain of the Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong Reigns, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1995, cat.no. 87.
For the inspiration of designs with poems in panels see a pair of Qianlong yellow-ground wall vases sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 27th April 1997, lot 32, containing the emperor's poem in his hand.
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