A White jade water vessel and spoon Fanggu Mark and Period of Qianlong
Sotheby's London, 20th June 2001, lot 110.
The elegant form and simple yet stylish carved decoration of this water vessel make it a particularly fine example amongst the many jade vessels made for the Qianlong emperor. The jade is of beautiful celadon colouration and the combination of the smooth overall modelling and the finely incised decorative lines is characteristic of the technique employed by the highly skilled carvers in the Palace Workshop located in the Forbidden City. The six-character Da Qing Qianlong fanggu ('Exemplifying Antiquity during the Qianlong Reign of the Great Qing Dynasty') mark on the base confirms that the vessel was made for the emperor who had a penchant for pieces that were after ancient forms or designs. An almost identical mark, possibly engraved by the same hand, can be found on a jade dou form vessel, from the Qing Court collection and still in Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Jadeware III, Hong Kong, 1995, pl. 153; on a celadon jade covered vase with ring handles, ibid., pl. 147; on a spinach-green champion vase, ibid., pl. 151; and on the jade water vessel in this collection, lot 1830.
The carved decoration found on this water vessel, which simulates ropes separated by huang or bi disc rings, was a standard decorative motif of the Palace Workshop during the Qianlong period. The concept is derived from archaic bronze decoration; for example see a bronze ling of the Spring and Autumn period (770 – 476 BC), published in The Imperial Packing Art of the Qing Dynasty, Beijing, 2000, pl. 4, where the design formed by intertwining two-strand cords are so vivid that the vessel appears to be wrapped up by them. See also a bronze hu of the Warring States period (475 – 221 BC), from the Palace Museum Collection, illustrated ibid., pl. 7, where the body is decorated with the rope pattern while its base features a circle of thick cord motif after contemporary cord packaging.
For examples of Qianlong period Imperial wares with the rope design see a hu-form jade vase from the collection of the Palace Museum included in Chinese Jades Throughout the Ages – Connoisseurship of Chinese Jades, vol. 12, Hong Kong, 1997, p. 76, pl. 38, where it is mentioned that the vase was made in the Qianlong period when copying ancient Bronze Age vessels in jade was especially popular. Compare also the design found on a round lacquer box used to contain jade bi or mirror, illustrated in The Imperial Packing Art of the Qing Dynasty, op.cit., pl. 73.