Copper red-decorated jars of this type are extremely rare and this piece, with its meticulously executed design in vibrant red, boasts the technical advances made at the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province during the Qianlong period while referencing revered wares of the past. A highly temperamental pigment, copper-red glazes had largely been abandoned since the early Ming dynasty and were revived and drastically improved in the early Qing period, starting in the Kangxi reign. It is under the Qianlong Emperor, however, that ever more complex designs painted with almost pencilled lines in underglaze red began to appear.
Both the form and decoration of this piece are modeled after Yongle (1403-1424) prototypes, which were themselves inspired by Middle Eastern designs. The highly complex motif of concentric geometric enclosures radiating from a multi-faceted six-pointed star required careful calculation and composing before painting in order for it to succeed visually, especially on a round surface. This motif probably originated in Middle Eastern works on paper, such as a 14th century Quran painted in Iran, illustrated in Regina Krahl, ‘Chinese Designs: The Fluidity of the Brush’, Chinese Art from the Reach Family Collection, Eskenazi, London, 1989, p. 11, fig. 7. For a Yongle prototype of this form and motif, see a blue and white jar in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red (I), Hong Kong, 2008, pl. 43.
Qianlong jars of this type are more commonly known in underglaze blue, such as one in the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, illustrated in Lu Minghua, Qingdai Yongzheng-Xuantong guanyao ciqi [Qing Dynasty Official Wares from the Yongzheng to the Xuantong Reign], Shanghai, 2014, pl. 4-11 (left); one in the Hangzhou Tu Huo Zhai Museum of Antique Ceramics, Hangzhou, included in the exhibition Treasures of Imperial Porcelain, Zhejiang Provincial Museum, Hangzhou, 2011, p. 102; a pair, from the collection of Edward T. Chow, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 3rd May 1994, lot 173; and a further pair sold in our London rooms, 16th June 1999, lot 798.
Compare also Qianlong mark and period moonflasks painted in copper red with a similar design: one in the collection of C.P. Lin, included in the exhibition Elegant Form and Harmonious Decoration, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London, 1992, cat. no. 171; another included in the Min Chiu Society exhibition An Anthology of Chinese Ceramics, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1980, cat. no. 118; and a third sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 1st November 1999, lot 370.