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.
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