LONDON - The Qianlong Emperor’s specifications for any item produced for his court called not merely for perfection, but extravagant perfection. He took a keen interest in everything produced in the imperial ateliers and workshops, where he supervised and reviewed the creations of artisans, sometimes suggesting changes or creating designs himself. Thus, he propelled the development of a ‘Qianlong style,’ which often combined antiquity with innovation.


A Fine Pair of White Jade Bowls. Qing Dynasty, 18th Century
. To be offered in the Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art sale in London on 14 May. Estimate £150,000-200,000.

Deceptively plain at first glance, this pair of jade bowls embodies the opulent vision and sophisticated taste of Qianlong. Perfectly proportioned and finished to a lustrous sheen, the sensitive modeling and lack of any embellishment reflects its porcelain-inspired form and a deep respect for the stone itself, which is one of the most highly valued materials in China. The thin walls of the vessel highlight the evenness of tone, translucence of the material and purity of its colour, three characteristics shared with its porcelain prototypes. Only the most proficient jade craftsman who possessed an intrinsic understanding of the characteristics of jade would have been able to fashion such vessels. The direction, size and form were all considered before beginning the long process of wearing away and shaping the resilient stone. 

Undecorated jade vessels in porcelain shapes probably represented the highest quality eating and drinking utensils. Such large flawless stones were available from the mid-18th century as a result of the prosperity and trade relations that marked the Qianlong reign.

These bowls boast further significant provenance. They belonged in the collection of Colonel Lieutenant Kenneth Dingwall DSO (1869-1946), a highly decorated officer, Chinese art collector and one of the founding members of the Oriental Ceramic Society, which formed in 1921. He was the single largest donor of Chinese ceramics to the Victoria and Albert Museum between 1910 and 1937, leaving a further bequest in 1948, and donating four pieces to the British Museum.

A Fine Pair of White Jade Bowls. Qing Dynasty, 18th Century will be offered in the Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art sale in London on 14 May. Estimate £150,000-200,000.