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Details & Cataloguing

Important Chinese Art

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A RARE AND FINELY CAST IMPERIAL BRONZE 'DRAGON' VASE
QIANLONG MARK AND PERIOD
each side solidly cast with a pair of confronting sinuous dragons in pursuit of a flaming pearl among swirling clouds, below three narrower borders collaring the waisted neck with further dragons and a ruyi-head lappet band enclosing the galleried mouth, the neck set with a pair of C-shaped archaistic dragon handles suspending loose rings decorated with C-scrolls, the foot skirted by a ring of plantain leaves above the six-character reign mark reading Da Qing Qianlong nian zao (Made during the Qianlong reign) in a line within a recessed rectangular panel, marble stand
Quantity: 2
45 cm, 17 3/4  in.
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Catalogue Note

This magnificent vase is impressive for its large size and lavish decoration of dragons writhing amongst scrolling clouds, and embodies the grandeur and power of the Qianlong reign. It is a successful marriage of archaism, as seen in the ritual bronze hu form, with contemporary design. A pair of lavishly decorated bronze vases of related form, cast solely with phoenixes instead of dragons which indicates that the pair may have been commissioned as a tribute to the Qianlong Emperor's mother, from the Alfred Morrison collection, was sold at Christie's London, 9th November 2004, lot 17; a single vase was sold at Christie's London, 22nd July 1981, lot 110; and another, but of smaller size and lacking one handle, was sold in these rooms, 11th May 2011, lot 254.

Such vases would have comprised part of a five-piece altar garniture made for specific temples in the Imperial Palace and were generally commissioned as tribute to the emperor. The imposing size would have created a dramatic scene during ritual ceremonies, thus emphasising the importance and solemnity of such events. A set of altar garnitures comprised of two closely related vases, two candlesticks and a censer, was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 11th April 2008, lot 2826; and an undecorated set of similar large size, in the Xianruo Temple, located in the garden of Cining Gong (Palace of Compassion and Tranquility) within the Forbidden City, where the empress and consorts conducted Buddhist religious ceremonies, is illustrated in situ in Qingdai gongting shenghuo, Hong Kong, 1985, pl. 467.

Compare also a pair of imperial bronze vases of square section cast with dragons and phoenixes, made for one of the buildings of the Yuanming Yuan (Imperial Summer Palace), sold three times in our Hong Kong rooms, 29th/30th April 1997, lot 730, 10th April 2006, lot 1537, and again 9th October 2007, lot 1322.

Important Chinese Art

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London