Similar treatment to the handles can be seen in a number of archaistic jade vessels dated to the Qianlong reign, including a fangding bearing the Emperor’s yuzhi seal mark, supported on similar tubular legs and carved with taotie masks, exhibited in Virtuous Treasures. Chinese Jades for the Scholar’s Table, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2008, no. 6; and another covered vessel illustrated ibid., no. 33.
Indeed, the Qianlong Emperor had a strong preference for wares that imitated antiquities and disapproval for the florid ‘new style’ is documented in palace records and poems that he composed. In the catalogue to the exhibition The Refined Taste of the Emperor. Special Exhibition of Archaic and Pictorial Jades of the Ch’ing Court, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1997, p. 49, it is noted that the Emperor followed the literati aesthetic that developed in the Song dynasty, whereby the study and appreciation of antiques allowed scholars "to experience the artistic freshness and moral strength of the classical period. In turn, they hoped to invest their own generation with these values, thus enriching both art and public life". In order to promote this the Emperor ordered the court to publish collections of drawings of antiquities and circulate them among craftsmen.
Undecorated jade vessels of this form are very rare, as they are more commonly carved with dense archaistic motifs, see one in the collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, illustrated in René-Yvon Lefebvre d’Argencé, Chinese Jades in the Avery Brundage Collection, Tokyo, 1977, pl. LIII; and another, with carved straight legs and upright rim handles, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Museum’s exhibition Great National Treasures of China, Taipei, 1996, cat. no. 45.
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