AN EXTREMELY RARE 'FAMILLE-ROSE' BEIJING ENAMEL TROMPE L'OEIL JAR AND COVER MARK AND PERIOD OF QIANLONG
- 35.5cm., 13 7/8 in.
Removed from the Yuanmingyuan, Beijing, 1860.
Collection of Lord Loch of Drylaw (1827-1900).
Collection of Alfred Morrison (1821-1897).
Thence by descent to the collection of the Rt. Hon. Lord Margadale of Islay, T.D., at Fonthill House, Tisbury, Wiltshire, no. 333 (Fonthill Heirlooms).
Christie's London, 9th November 2004, lot 19.
Vessels with the eye-catching design of a knotted cloth were much favoured by the Qianlong emperor who enjoyed objects that contained elements of simulations of other materials. He challenged his artists working in the Zaobanchu (Imperial Palace Workshops) to make pieces that were technically innovative and unconventional in their aesthetics. The refinement of materials and craftsmanship and the expansion of the range of glaze and enamel colours allowed artists to become highly ambitious in their repertoire. However, vessels as eccentric as the present covered jar were rarely produced.
This vase is a remarkable example of a decorative piece made for the pleasure of the Emperor, and only one other comparable covered jar of this rare decoration and colour combination appears to be recorded; the jar 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 Palace Museum jar is slightly smaller in size and has a more rounded body with a narrower base.
The inspiration for the design of this jar came from a smaller Yongzheng covered jar that was in the Qing court collection and is now in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Enamel Ware in the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties, Taipei, 1999, pl. 108. The Qianlong version of the design faithfully follows the Yongzheng example by using the same colours and almost identical details such as the textile design of butterfly roundels and peaches and bats on a pink lattice ground. The only significant difference in the design between the Yongzheng jar and this piece is the additional turquoise-band decoration around the foot. An identical jar and cover to that of the Yongzheng jar was also produced by Qianlong's enamellers, most probably under the emperor's orders, and can be found in the National Palace Museum included ibid., pl. 109.
The elegant and majestic form of this jar appears in a number of variations among Qianlong enamelled wares; for example see a covered jar painted with flower and butterfly roundels, from the Qing Court collection and still in Beijing, included in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Metal-bodied Enamel Ware, Hong Kong, 2002, pl. 218; and another with a lobed lower section to form lotus petals painted with insects on a yellow-ground, in the National Palace Museum, published in Enamel Ware in the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties, op.cit., pl. 130.
The design of simulating a textile wrapping around the vessel appears on other mediums such as porcelain, cloisonné and glass. See a ceramic zun-shaped vase painted with a silk ribbon tied in a knot, in the Palace Museum, illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, pl. 40; and a pair of pink-ground famille-rose covered jars luxuriously 'wrapped' in silk, from the J.M. Hu Family collection, sold in our New York rooms, 4th June 1985, lot 72, and again in these rooms, 1st November 1999, lot 400. Compare also a cloisonné-enamel twin-vase with the brocade decoration, from the Qing Court Collection, published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Metal-bodied Enamel Ware, op.cit., pl. 98; and a Qianlong glass 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, 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.
The present covered jar is also interesting because it is clearly inspired by two cultures. Chinese influence can be seen in the shape and floral scroll decoration, but the painted knotted cloth is a Japanese concept reflecting Japanese furoshiki packaging customs. This design element is frequently used on Japanese lacquer ware. For examples of Japanese lacquer boxes see those included in the exhibition, Toyo no urushi kogei (Oriental Lacquer Arts), Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, 1977, passim. A Chinese lacquer box conceived after Japanese designs, from the Palace Museum, Beijing, was included in Imperial Packing Art of the Qing Dynasty, Beijing, 2000, pl. 161.