The Yongzheng Emperor took a keen interest in the production of porcelain at the Jingdezhen imperial kilns, and his personal taste greatly influenced the workshop’s artistic direction. The Emperor’s preference for harmonious proportions, sophisticated and yet uncontrived designs resulted in the development of a distinctive style celebrated for its subdued elegance and material refinement. While butterflies are a relatively common theme on porcelain of the Kangxi period (1662-1722), the motif was given here a fresh modern aesthetic through the generous spacing of each design element and the exceptional level of detail.
Dishes painted with this motif are very rare and no other closely related example appears to have been published. Compare a Yongzheng mark and period dish, painted in doucai and famille-rose enamels with roundels of butterflies on the exterior and five butterflies on the interior, sold in our London rooms, 7th June 2000, lot 129. See also a doucai bowl painted with this motif, but lacking the reign mark, from the collection of Edward T. Chow, sold in these rooms, 19th May 1981, lot 559.
This motif is also known painted in underglaze blue, such as a Yongzheng mark and period dish, in the Nanjing Museum, illustrated in The Official Kiln Porcelain of the Chinese Qing Dynasty, Shanghai, 2003, pl. 149; and a smaller dish sold in these rooms, 19th November 1986, lot 228, and again at Christie’s New York, 15th September 2011, lot 934, from the collection of Xu Hanqing.
For a prototype of this design, compare a famille-verte dish with butterflies among fruiting sprays, with a spurious Chenghua reign mark and attributed to the Kangxi period, illustrated in Michel Beurdeley and Guy Raindre, Qing Porcelain, Famille Verte, Famille Rose, London, 1987, pl. 94, and sold in these rooms, 3rd May 1994, lot 209.
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