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Details & Cataloguing

Yongzheng – The Age of Harmony and Integrity

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Hong Kong

A FINE AND SUPERBLY PAINTED BLUE AND WHITE 'DRAGON' VASE
MARK AND PERIOD OF YONGZHENG
superbly potted with an ovoid body elegantly sweeping to a tall cylindrical neck, all supported on a splayed foot, exquisitely painted in vibrant shades of deep cobalt blue with a pair of scaly five-clawed dragons soaring sinuously through a dense network of scrolling foliage bearing large floral blooms, their scales meticulously rendered, all between a wave band and an upright ruyi-shaped petal lappet bordering the rim and base respectively, the splayed foot detailed with floral scrolls, the base inscribed in underglaze blue with a six-character reign mark within a double-circle
38.6 cm., 15 1/8  in.
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Provenienza(e)

An old English collection, North Yorkshire.

Nota a catalogo

This magnificent dragon vase, superbly potted with an ovoid body gently rising to a tall slender neck, skilfully painted with forceful five-clawed dragons soaring through a dense network of floral scrolls, summarises the Yongzheng Emperor’s admiration of antiquity and his endeavour for aesthetic excellence. It is notable for its dynamic design of dragons amongst floral scrolls, a motif that is known from fifteenth century blue and white wares and which was revived under the Yongzheng emperor. The dragon is perhaps the most important motif in the repertoire of the Chinese potter and artist. It represents the emperor and is the symbol of imperial power. The effectiveness of the overall design of the present vase is also due to the brilliant deep blue cobalt, which has been applied to replicate the ‘heaping and piling’ effect of early Ming underglaze blue designs and reflects the high level of technical achievement attained by the craftsman.

Large dragons depicted amongst lotus scrolls are found on Yongle globular vases (tianqiuping). By the Zhengde reign, the dragons were reduced in size and surrounded by a tighter ground of flower scrolls in a style more closely related to the present decoration, with this motif decorating a range of wares including vases, dishes and bowls. The craftsman has achieved a contemporaneity on the present vase through the elegant pear-shape which was more commonly employed for monochromes of the Qing dynasty. Compare a Yongle tianqiuping sold in our London rooms, 1st/2nd April 1974, lot 187; and a Zhengde zhadou, illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London 1994, vol. 2, pl. 686, and sold in these rooms, 7th April 2011, lot 60.

This exquisite dragon vase is extremely rare for its slender form decorated with a striking deep blue design of two dragons among a composite flower scroll. No other Yongzheng example appears to have been published although a Qianlong mark and period version, but of slightly larger size and the dragons rendered against a dense lotus scroll ground, from the Mrs Christian Holmes and Evelyn Annenberg-Hall collections, sold at Christie’s New York, 29th March 2006, lot 169, and again in these rooms, 8th April 2011, lot 3106.  Compare also a Qianlong vase of this shape, similarly decorated with a broad band of underglaze red dragons amongst a cobalt blue floral ground between ruyi and lappet borders and stiff leaves around the neck, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red (III), Hong Kong, 2000, pl. 209, together with a Yongzheng baluster vase rendered with a related motif of four dragons against a composite flower scroll, pl. 89.

This elegant form was adopted by the Qianlong Emperor who also employed it on monochrome glazed vessels; for example see a large flambé-glazed vase, in the Nanjing Museum, included in Zhongguo Qingdai guanyao  ciqi, Shanghai, 2003, p. 345; another in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in The Official Kiln Porcelain of the Chinese Qing Dynasty, Shanghai, 2003, pl. 345; and a third flambé-glazed vase decorated in gilt with a floral motif, from the Qing Court collection, illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 393, pl. 74.

Yongzheng – The Age of Harmony and Integrity

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Hong Kong