A MAGNIFICENT YELLOW-GROUND FAMILLE-ROSE DOUBLE-GOURD VASE SEAL MARK AND PERIOD OF QIANLONG
- Height: 16 inches
masterfully potted, the large globular lower bulb gracefully sweeping up to a significantly smaller upper bulb rising to a proportionally elegant slender neck and flared mouth, the lower bulb meticulously painted in soft pastel famille-rose enamels with large stylized lotus, double-lotus, peonies and attendant hibiscus flowers, all borne on a continuous meandering scrolling foliate vine intertwined around an iron-red and gilt wan lattice, the foliate scroll rising vertically to the upper bulb encircling two gilt shou medallions below a pair of pink lotus flowers, all between a pink and blue ruyi-head collar at the mouth and an upright lotus petal band skirting the foot, and reserved against a pale lemon-yellow ground finely incised with a dense scrolling feather sgraffiato ground, the interior and underside glazed in bright turquoise, the mouth and foot edged in gilt, the base inscribed with a six-character iron-red mark on a white ground
Collection of Lord Loch of Drylaw (1827-1900) (?).
Collection of Alfred Morrison (1821-1897), Fonthill House, Tisbury, Wiltshire.
Collection of John Morrison (1950s).
The Rt. Hon The Lord Margadale of Islay, T.D.
Christie's London, 18th October 1971, lot 74.
Jen Chai Art Gallery, New York, no. A530 (one of the gallery labels of J.T. Tai & Co.).
Soame Jenyns, Later Chinese Porcelain. The Ch'ing Dynasty (1644-1912), London, 1951, pl. CVIII, fig. 1.
Anthony du Boulay, Christie's Pictorial History of Chinese Ceramics, Oxford, 1984, p. 245, fig. 9.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
In form and decoration this pale yellow gourd-shaped vase represents one of the classic styles of the Jingdezhen imperial workshops during the Qianlong period, but its elegant design is particularly successful, making it one of the most stylish creations accomplished in this technique. When porcelain painters at Jingdezhen adopted techniques developed at Beijing in the early Qianlong reign, it resulted in most sumptuous porcelain decoration. Sgraffiato work, where a formal design is carved into a solid background colour, was developed at Beijing, where the carved designs usually consisted of formal diaper patterns. It generally appeared on the outside of bowls and dishes that on the inside showed freely-drawn nature scenes. At Jingdezhen, this style was elevated to primary decoration and was perfected through most delicate engraving of scrollwork with a needlepoint, which conveys an impression of rich brocade.
On the present vase the carefully shaded floral scrolls in subtle pastel tones are entwined around red-and-gold trellis, like climbers on a pergola. The multiple overlapping of the different colours required formidable organization of the design. Not surprisingly, it does not appear to have been often attempted. A pair of yellow-ground yangcai vases in the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, recorded and illustrated in Liao Pao Show, Huali cai ci: Qianlong yangcai/Stunning Decorative Porcelains from the Ch'ien-lung Reign, Taipei, 2008, pl. 32 and p. 281 shows a somewhat reminiscent design, but with more fanciful strapwork (fig. 1).
The double lotus blooms in the centre of both sides echo a motif from an auspicious flower painting done in 1723 by the Italian court painter Giuseppe Castiglione (Lang Shining) and presented to the Yongzheng Emperor upon his enthronement. The painting shows a bunch of lotus and other plants, with double blooms, a double pod and double ears of corn – auspicious omens heralding a prosperous reign; see Wang Yaoting, Lang Shining yu Qing gong xiyang feng/New Visions at the Ch'ing Court. Giuseppe Castiglione and Western-Style Trends, Catalogue of an exhibition at the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2007, pl. 11 (fig. 2). Similar double lotus blooms can also be seen on yangcai vases in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Liao Pao Show, op.cit., pls 27-29.
The band of lotus petals shaded from rose-pink over white to pale green that encircles the base of the vase is a feature known from the best famille rose vessels of the Yongzheng and Qianlong periods, which is not usually combined with sgraffiato decoration. Compare a fine Yongzheng box and Qianlong gourd-shaped vase with similar lotus petals in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. 2, London, 1994, pls 961 and 962.
This vase comes from Fonthill House, one of the grand English country estates, from the collection of Alfred Morrison (1821-1897), and may go back even further, to Lord Loch of Drylaw (1827-1900).