PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION
These remarkably well-preserved vases are rare for the archaistic design that covers the entirety of the surface, although a group of Qianlong vessels imitating bronzes are known either with raised designs inspired by archaic bronzes or with gilt in imitation of later silver and gold inlaid bronzes. Compare a pair of gilt vases with raised archaistic decorative bands sold in these rooms, 17th May 1988, lot 88, together with a parcel-gilt 'gold-splashed' and 'inlaid' bulb bowl, lot 89.
The present vases appear to belong to the group of eighteenth century wares with 're-interpretations' of earlier designs, combining contemporary ruyi motifs with archaic themes. A Qianlong celadon-glazed hu vase carved with a related design, from the W.W. Winkworth collection, sold in these rooms, 29th November 1979, lot 370, was included in the Special Exhibition of Important Chinese Ceramics from the Robert Chang Collection, Christie's, London, 1993, cat. no. 72; a white-glazed 'soft paste' version, in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, is illustrated in Suzanne G. Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, New York, 1989, pl. 268; and a Yongzheng example in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum, Beijing, 1989, p. 276, pl. 105.
Imperial records of the Qianlong period note that the emperor urged the craftsmen working in the imperial workshops to follow the styles and specifications recorded in ancient catalogues. Thus, the archaic pear-shaped hu ritual bronze that served as the prototype for the present vases also inspired vessels of this type to be produced in various materials; for example see two related jade hu vases, one with a Qianlong fanggu (imitating antiquity) mark, from the collection of Sir Isaac and Lady Wolfson, sold in our London rooms, 8th June 1982, lot 315; and a slightly later example sold in these rooms, 11th April 2008, lot 2870. For the original Western Zhou bronze vessel, see one in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the exhibition Possessing the Past, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1996, cat. no. 42.
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