Early in his reign, the Kangxi Emperor employed the gifted painter, Liu Yuan (c. 1638-1685) for a decade from c. 1678 to 1688, to create porcelain designs. This approach of involving a designer was highly unusual at the time and resulted in a new departure for porcelain decoration. The finely penciled lines of the four different flowers with extending scrolling leaves, for example, would seem to owe their elegant design to Liu Yuan’s influence.
Closely related waterpots are held in important museums and collections worldwide; see one in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Beijing, 1989, pl. 22; one in the Shanghai Museum, published in Underglaze Blue and Red. Elegant Decoration of Porcelain from Yuan, Ming and Qing, Hong Kong, 1993, pl. 118; another, from the Meiyintang Collection, included in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. 2, London, 1994, pl. 733, where the author identifies the stylized flower sprays as peony, lotus, chrysanthemum and hibiscus; and a fourth waterpot from the collection of C.P. Lin, included in the exhibition Elegant Form and Harmonious Decoration, Percival David Foundation, London, 1992, cat. no. 113, previously sold in these rooms, 28th November 1979, lot 221, and illustrated in Sotheby’s Hong Kong, Twenty Years 1973-1993, Hong Kong, 1993, pl. 88. Further examples sold at auction include one from the collection of the Xuantong Emperor (r. 1909-11), sold in our New York rooms, 16th April 1983, lot 488; and one formerly in the collections of Herschel V. Johnson and Roger Pilkington, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 6th April 2016, lot 54.
Waterpots of this form were also produced in other glaze colors; see a peachbloom example, formerly in the J. Pierpont Morgan Collection, in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, illustrated in The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Decorative Arts, Part II. Far Eastern Ceramics and Paintings. Persian and Indian Rugs and Carpets, Washington, D.C., 1998, pl. 72.; and a clair-de-lune glazed waterpot in the Shanghai Museum, illustrated in Wang Qingzheng (ed.), Kangxi Porcelain Wares from the Shanghai Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, pl. 240.
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