Lot 546
  • 546


300,000 - 500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Porcelain
  • Height 11 1/2  in., 29.2 cm 
each of slightly compressed spherical form, pierced with three kuilong roundels, open at the top with a reticulated coin-shaped cover and supported on a columnar stand comprised of a bell-shaped base, a lobed mid-section and ovoid upper section terminating in a lotus-form support, all vibrantly enameled with lotus sprays, shou characters, florets, ruyi, lappet and keyfret borders on a turquoise ground, flanked by two boys, both gazing updward with jovial expressions, one holding a vase with a deer underfoot, the other kneeling beside a gold ingot, their clothes and facial features finely detailed, all raised on an integral faux bois stand (2) 


Sotheby's Monaco, 13th February 1983, lot 312. 
Earle D. Vandekar, London. 

Catalogue Note

In its complex decoration and elaborate construction, the present pair of hat stands is a rare example of utilitarian porcelain vessels made at the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen. From the Qianlong period, hat stands began to be produced in a range of idiosyncratic designs that demonstrated the technical mastery of craftsmen working at the imperial kilns. Owing to the highly malleable nature of porcelain, these stands were produced in a variety of forms. Constructed from several pieces, every step of its manufacturing process required mastery and precision, from its shaping and firing to its glazing. In construction and design, the present hat stands have inherited technical innovations of the Qianlong period in their playful combination a number of techniques, such as applique, trompe l’oeil and reticulation.

The present pair is unusual for the additional molded figures who stand on a base enameled to simulate wood. During the Qianlong period, such figures were more often found adorning vases; see two Qianlong mark and period examples, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Kangxi, Yongzheng, Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, pl. 49, and the other included in the exhibition China. The Three Emperors 1662-1795, The Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2006, cat. no. 301; another sold twice in these rooms, 23rd-24th April 1975, lot 371, and again, 18th March 2008, lot 117; and a fourth vase, from the collection of Marcus D. Ezekiel, illustrated in Hobson, The Later Ceramic Wares of China, London, 1925, pl. LX, fig. 2, sold at Christie’s London, 12th December 1977, lot 211, and again in our Hong Kong rooms, 29th November 1978, lot 318. 

These hat stands continue the variation and novelty characteristic of porcelain hat stands produced from the 18th century; see one modeled and enameled to simulate lacquer, with a Qianlong reign mark and of the period, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Special Exhibition of K'ang-Hsi, Yung-cheng and Ch'ien-lung Porcelain Ware from the Ch'ing Dynasty in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1986, cat. no. 112; another sold in our London rooms, 16th May 2012, lot 179; and a revolving hat stand with openwork top section, decorated with dragons in famille-rose enamels, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, exhibited in Stunning Decorative Porcelains from the Ch'ien-lung Reign, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2008, cat. no. 75. A Daoguang mark and period hat stand, decorated to the top with dragons surrounding reticulated medallions, sold at Christie’s London, 8th November 2016, lot 80. Porcelain hat stands were often modeled with reticulated upper sections to allow incense to be burned within it, thus infusing the hat with a pleasant scent.

The imagery of boys playing together has traditionally been a popular theme in Chinese decorative arts and represents the wish for many sons. Male heirs were required for families in order to perform ancestral sacrifices and to ensure the continuation of the family life line, which was central to Confucian ideology. One of the boys holds a vase, and together they form an auspicious visual pun and a rebus for the phrase zisun ping’an, which can be translated as ‘peace among sons and grandsons’, with the word for vase (ping) a homophone for the word peace.