This vase epitomises the ivory carving style of the Imperial Workshops during the eighteenth century. This style combined the two dominant carving styles that had emerged from the beginning of the Qing dynasty: the intricate carving prowess of Suzhou in the south and the polished textural effects of the private and court-owned workshops of the north in Beijing. Under the patronage of the Qianlong Emperor and dictated by his taste, the court artisans created a unique courtly style of ivory carving. The designs were characterised by a fusion of elaboration and restraint. Knife work was the focal point of intricate and richly detailed motifs, while simple designs relied on smooth and highly finished surfaces. An imperial, stateliness was created through the addition of colour by the addition of gilt lacquer and staining in carefully selected areas.
No other related example appears to have been published although vases of this facetted form with deeply-carved panels are known. See a pair of larger vases of broader proportions, but depicting Immortals in landscapes and flanked with ringed mask-head handles, sold at Bonhams Hong Kong, 25th May 2011, lot 465. A later vase and cover similarly carved with panels of flower sprays, but the vase of lozenge section and also flanked with ringed mask-head handles, was offered in our New York rooms, 30th March 2006, lot 140; and a pair of tall, square section baluster vases with dragon handles, each side decorated with scenes from Sanguozhi yanyi [Romance of the Three Kingdoms], from the collection of Sir Victor Sassoon, is illustrated in S.E. Lucas, The Catalogue of Sassoon Chinese Ivories, vol. 2, pls 484A-D.
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