Lot 545
  • 545


100,000 - 150,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Porcelain
  • Height 8 in., 20.3 cm
each of rectangular section, carved with an integral openwork imitation gilt-lacquer base, waisted foot, and subtly tapered square body surmounted by a waisted neck supporting a pair of simplified dragon-form handles beneath a galleried rim, the body centered with a square panel respectively painted with an imperial poem or with a spring landscape of figures and pavilions amidst blossoming cherry trees and verdant weeping willows around a mountain lake, the panels reserved against an opulent ground of stippled polychrome chilong and scrolling lotus and dahlia over a dense network of iron-red coiling leafy vines, bands of petal-lappets and ruyi heads at the foot and neck, the back and interior enameled turquoise, the base with a horizontal gilt six-character mark in seal script (2)

Catalogue Note

Conceived as a pair with one vase illustrating a scene that complements the poem on its mate. Surviving complementary vessels of this type are exceedingly rare and reflect the creativity of craftsmen that was encouraged by the Qianlong emperor. They are reminiscent of rich albums and handscrolls depicting idealized landscapes and accompanied by calligraphic inscriptions and seals of the artist or collector, which were bordered in sumptuous textile. As such, vessels of this type would have appealed to the emperor both for their craftsmanship and association with other scholarly pursuits.

The poem inscribed on one vase was composed by the Qianlong emperor in 1742 and included in the Qianlong yuzhi shiji (Imperial Compositions of Qianlong). It can be translated as follows:

Guan wares and those of Ruzhou are famous classes [of ceramics],
Yet the shapes of the new wares are even more admirable.
This hanging vase inspires the traveler both to sing,
And to gather flowers by the wayside.
A sedan chair is indeed a suitable place for it to be hung,
As over its side wild flowers incline so appropriately.
The red dust [of the mortal world] is barred from entrance,
But fragrance can penetrate the gauze of the window blind.
Composed by the Emperor in the Qianlong period and inscribed by his order.

The poem records the emperor’s admiration of wall vases, particularly referencing those hung in sedans. While porcelain wall vases were produced from the late Ming period, the present examples embody the technical advances in porcelain production during the early 18th century and combine several decorative techniques which were developed at the imperial kilns. The Qianlong emperor’s predilection for porcelain vessels that contained elements simulating objects in other materials resulted in remarkable examples of trompe l’oeil. The stands on which the vases rest resemble gilt-decorated lacquer stands, while the vases themselves follow in the style of painted metalwares with their shaped handles, unconventional square form, and gilt borders. In Tao shuo, published in 1774, Zhu Yan noted that ‘among all the works of art in gold, embossed silver, chiselled stone, lacquer, mother-of-pearl, bamboo and wood, gourd and shell, there is not one that is not now produced in porcelain, a perfect imitation of the original (fang xiao er xiao)’. Together with the rich web of iron-red scrolls and a reinterpretation of a classic 'confronting phoenix' motif in the newly developed pastel palette, a lavish design has been created in accordance with the emperor’s taste.

The poem on the present vase is found on several Qianlong mark and period wall vases. See one painted in yangcai enamels on a yellow ground, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Museum’s exhibition Stunning Decorative Porcelains from the Ch’ien-lung Reign, Taipei, 2008, cat. no. 20; a blue-ground pair, in the Nanjing Museum, Nanjing, included in the exhibition Qing Imperial Porcelain of the Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong Reigns, Art Gallery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1995, cat. no. 97; another from the collection of Sir Percival David, now in the British Museum, illustrated in Rosemary E. Scott, Qing Porcelain for the Imperial Court, London, 1998, pl. 3; and a fourth example, the inscription enameled in gilt, included in the exhibition Chinese Porcelain. The S.C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, vol. 1, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1987, pl. 116.