Details & Cataloguing

Important Chinese Art

Hong Kong

exquisitely potted with a globular lower bulb rising from a short splayed foot to a slender waisted neck and a small bulbous upper bulb tapering to a small mouthrim, flanked by a pair of undulating strap handles extending from the upper bulb and terminating with a pair of ruyi heads on the shoulder, the lower bulb crispy moulded and carved with four large flowering lotus blooms borne on a gracefully undulating stem issuing curling leaves, the upper bulb similarly rendered with two lotus flowers wreathed by scrolling foliage below a ruyi band encircling the rim, the bulbs divided by two lappet borders radiating from the raised rib around the waisted neck, all above a petal lappet border above the foot, covered overall save for the unglazed footring with a translucent and sensuous celadon glaze paling on the raised designs, the base with an underglaze-blue six-character seal mark
29 cm, 11 3/8  in.
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Spink & Son Ltd., London.
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 2nd May 2000, lot 573.

Catalogue Note

This vase, with its harmonious combination of form, carving style, design and glaze colour, is a characteristic product of the period, when Tang Ying (1682-1756) was supervisor of the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen, and could have been produced in the late Yongzheng period (1723-35) just as well as in the early Qianlong reign (1736-95). It was a period when the expectations on a piece of porcelain were set to the highest level, with every aspect of a vessel precisely calculated and planned but at the same time endowed with a sense of effortless elegance. The companion piece to this rare vase, from the Umezawa Kinekan, Tokyo, was included in the exhibition Shinsho toji [Porcelains from the Qing dynasty], MOA Art Museum, Atami, 1984, cat. no. 15. One of these two vases probably comes from the collection of Allen J. Mercher, sold at Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 2nd November 1956, lot 308, and again in our New York rooms, 5th December 1972, lot 343.

Vases of this type were first created during the Yongzheng period and are extremely rare; see one sold in these rooms, 2nd May 1995, lot 102. The Yongzheng prototype has a longer neck and smaller lower bulb, the large lotus bloom surrounded by long leafy stems. A more ornate style is captured in the Qianlong version through its tight curling acanthus leaf scroll, stylised lotus blooms and more dramatic proportions of the vase, thus reflecting the differences in taste between the emperors. Compare a related Qianlong mark and period double-gourd vase with similar decoration, but of a more bulbous form and with a very short mouth, from the Hosokawa Clan Collection, illustrated in Sekai tōji zenshū/Collection of World’s Ceramics, vol. 12: Shinchou henfu Annan, Thai/Ch'ing Dynasty with a Supplement on Annamese Ceramics, Tokyo, 1956, pl. 92; and its Yongzheng predecessor,  in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Works of Chinese Ceramics, vol. 14, Shanghai, 1999, pl. 212, together with another decorated in doucai enamels, pl. 183.

Ceramics with celadon glazes never lost their attraction from when they began to be produced during the Song dynasty. Remarkably, over its extensive history, new ways were ever developed to set in scene the wonderful glaze colour. The crisp celadon glaze that covers this vase further reveals the Qianlong Emperor’s appreciation of past traditions including his admiration of Longquan celadon wares of the Song period. As a result, the Emperor encouraged innovative approaches towards celadon glazes. The high quality of the raw materials and the advanced techniques developed at the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen during the 18th century allowed potters to develop different tones of celadon. Much admired by contemporary connoisseurs were the douqing, of a bright sea-green colour, and the present fenqing, a pale bluish-green glaze. When applied to finely carved pieces, the thinning and pooling of the glaze on the raised lines and the recesses create very attractive contrasting tones as seen on the present piece.

With the present vase, which stands in this long tradition, the potters again discovered a new format. The familiar double-gourd form has been transformed into a sensuous profile by streamlining the upper bulb into a more slender shape and the addition of gracefully arching handles. Furthermore, the chrysanthemum-like petals gathered at the flanged waist and radiating the foot enhance the sweeping curves of the vase while perfectly framing the body and its delicate lotus scroll. The illustration of such flower scrolls was perfected under Tang Ying. His exposure to the imperial art collection during his youth provided him with the opportunity to study celebrated masterpieces from the past and adapt them to the contemporary taste of the emperor. The carefully composed design, the success of which lies in the careful balance between positive and negative space, emerges from the luminous celadon glaze.

Several varieties of celadon-glazed double gourd-shape vases were produced during the Qianlong period; see one potted with a flat base and carved with double-gourd vines, sold twice at Christie’s Hong Kong, 22nd/23rd March 1993, lot 780 and 20th March 1990, lot 617B, and a third time in these rooms, 10th April 2006, lot 1522;  and a vase with a truncated lower bulb, carved with an archaistic scroll, included in An Exhibition of Important Chinese Ceramics from the Robert Chang Collection, London, 1993, cat. no. 71. The form of this vase is also known covered in a tea-dust glaze, for example see one decorated in silver and gold with double-gourds, with a Qianlong reign mark and of the period, from the collections of Alfred E. Hippisley and J.M. Hu, sold in our New York rooms, 4th June 1985, lot 36, at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28th November 2005, lot 1311, and in these rooms, 6th April 2016, lot 3608; and another, but without decoration, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Kokyū Shin shi zuroku/Illustrated Catalogue of Ch’ing Dynasty Porcelain in the National Palace Museum, Republic of China. Ch’ien-lung Ware and Other Wares, Tokyo, 1981, pl. 80.

Important Chinese Art

Hong Kong