Superbly decorated with an even glaze marked with an attractive matrix of ‘iron-wire’ and golden crackles, the present vase belongs to a group of vessels inspired by the celebrated ge wares of the Song and Yuan (1279-1368) dynasties. In addition to the crackles, which were often stained to enhance their prominence, these archaistic vessels were dressed on the unglazed bodies with a dark brown slip, as seen on the footring of the present vase, to simulate the so-called 'iron foot' characteristic of the stoneware prototypes.
The form of the vase also reflects elements borrowed from archaic bronze vessels and this is particularly evident in the skilful incorporation of the stylised dragon handles. With their heads sharply turned backwards, they evoke late Spring and Autumn period vessels, including two illustrated in Special Exhibition of Shang and Chou Dynasty Bronze Wine Vessels, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1989, pls 69 and 70.
The current vase is very rare and only two closely related examples appear to have been sold at auction, the first sold in these rooms, 28th November 1978, lot 201, and later included in A Selection of Ming and Qing Porcelains, Eskenazi Ltd, London, 2004, cat. no. 17; and the other sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 30th May 2006, lot 1365.
For a related, albeit smaller, guan-type vessel, demonstrating the Qianlong Emperor’s fascination with the past, see one similarly modelled with a quatrelobed body but bearing an underglaze-blue Qianlong imperial inscription eulogising the handled guan-type vase, published in Obtaining Refined Enjoyment: The Qianlong Emperor's Taste in Ceramics, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2011, cat. no. 76.
See also a Ming dynasty ge-type moonflask offered in this sale, lot 3615.
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