Lot 3432
  • 3432


4,000,000 - 6,000,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • 31.5 cm, 12 3/8  in.
superbly cast with an ovoid body rising from a short foot to a constricted neck and wide mouth-rim, one side of the vessel with an elongated gilt-bronze phoenix-head spout rendered issuing from a dragon's mouth, opposite a corresponding dragon tail, the exterior of the body densely enamelled with a wide band of Indian lotus strapwork between bands of pendent ruyi heads and upright lappets and overlapping cloud scrolls, the flat shoulder and neck enamelled with floral scrolls, all against a bright turquoise ground, the shoulder further surmounted by a handle decorated with two facing dragons amongst swirling 'wish-granting' clouds, the gilt-bronze base incised with a six-character reign mark within a double square


A European private collection, acquired in the 1980s.
Sotheby's London, 5th November 2008, lot 56.

Catalogue Note

It is rare to find ewers made in cloisonné enamel and even rarer are those bearing an imperial reign mark which identifies the vessel to be made for the Palace. Only one other similar ewer, possibly the pair to the present vessel, appears to be recorded, the ewer in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Enamel Ware in the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasty, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1999, no. 61 (fig. 1). The spout in the form of a phoenix head, the swing-handle decorated with two facing dragons amongst swirling 'wish-granting' clouds (ruyi yun) and the dragon tail decoration on the side of the vessel are all highly auspicious design elements associated with the emperor and the empress. Two facing dragons symbolise a happy reunion (xi xiangfeng), while the dragon and phoenix together represent good fortune and blessings for the emperor and the empress. The dragon and phoenix are the most auspicious amongst the mythical animals and together form a typical motif used at weddings. The clouds are named after ruyi (as you wish) and symbolise the granting of all wishes for the happy couple. From its rich decoration, this ewer was probably made as a wedding gift.Qianlong ewers appear to have been inspired by an earlier, Ming-dynasty ewer such as the one published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Metal-bodied Enamel Ware, Hong Kong, 2002, pl. 67. While the two Qing ewers closely follow the Ming prototype, they have one additional design element – the dragon tail. Qing craftsmen made liberal changes to earlier models by adding their own design elements, thus creating vessels that were contemporary and individual. The dragon tail may be regarded as a continuation of the spout that has the phoenix head emerging out from the jaws of a dragon mouth.

For an example of cloisonné enamel ewer of different form see one of squat drum shape with three feet and curving spout, in the Phoenix Art Museum, illustrated in Chinese Cloisonne. The Clague Collection, Phoenix, 1980, pl. 32, attributed to the 17th century.