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Details & Cataloguing

Important Chinese Art

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A FINE PAIR OF IMPERIAL BRONZE ALTAR VASES
QIANLONG MARKS AND PERIOD
each body of pear shape raised on a high spreading foot to a tall flaring neck and straight rim, cast in high-relief around the exterior with dragons chasing flaming pearls amidst ruyi-shaped cloud scrolls, the neck set with a pair of ribs joined by a pair of dragon handles suspending loose rings, all between classic scroll and keyfret bands at the rim and lotus lappet and classic scroll bands at the foot, the side of the foot cast with the six-character mark in relief within a rectangle  
Quantity: 2
43 cm, 16 3/4 in.
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Provenance

A Midwest private collection, USA, purchased in the 1960s. 

Catalogue Note

This pair of vases is impressive for their large size and lavish decoration of dragons writhing amongst scrolling clouds, and embodies the grandeur and power of the Qianlong reign (r. 1735-1796). They are a successful marriage of archaism, as seen in the ritual bronze hu form, with contemporary design. A closely related vase, from the F. Gordon Morrill Collection, was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28th November 2012, lot 2254; two were sold in these rooms, one, 9th November 2016, lot 142, the other, 8th November 2017, lot 46; and a larger pair was sold at Christie’s London, 15th May 2012, lot 188. See also a pair of vases cast 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, sold at Christie's London, 9th November 2004, lot 17. 

Such vases would have formed 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 larger vases of this type, two candlesticks and a censer, was sold in these 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 Tranquillity) 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 (Old Summer Palace), sold three times in our Hong Kong rooms, 29/30th April 1997, lot 730, again, 10th April 2006, lot 1537, and 9th October 2007, lot 1322.

Important Chinese Art

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London