This rare vase belongs to a group of wares produced at the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen during the early years of Jiaqing's reign. Wares of this period continued to be influenced by Qianlong designs and were possibly produced by the same potters who made wares for the Qianlong emperor and his household. The form of this fine and meticulously painted vase is reminiscent of Qianlong vases also depicting boys at play with similarly high sloping shoulders and a tall cylindrical neck painted with lotus blooms and twin-fish, but with rims turned over and moulded into a border of ruyi heads and without handles; see a pair sold in our London rooms, 10th June 1997, lot 95; another sold at Christie's New York, 1st December 1994, lot 440; and another, but of globular form, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Beijing, 1989, p. 341, pl. 22.
For further examples of Jiaqing vases of various shapes depicting the theme of boys at play, see one with angled shoulders and archaistic handles flanking a flaring yellow-ground neck enamelled with flowers and emblems, sold at Christie's London, 16th November 1999, lot 248; and another portraying the boys participating in a dragon boat race between ruby-ground and famille-rose decorated neck and foot, in the Huahaitang collection, included in the exhibition Ethereal Elegance. Porcelain Vases of the Imperial Qing, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2007, cat. no. 138.
The depiction of multiple boys at play in a garden, representing the wish for many sons, was a popular theme in the decorative arts of the Ming and Qing dynasties. In the present vase, each of the boys are engaged in activities potent with symbolism; the first character of 'lantern' is a pun for 'bumper harvest' (fengdeng), which equates with peace, while the boys carrying lanterns in the shape of a fish (yu) is a pun for 'abundance'.
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