The Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795) is known to have commissioned close copies of early Ming porcelains at the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen. Although there appears to be no exact prototype of this kind of suantouping from the early Ming period, its design of individual fruiting branches is seen on ceramic wares as early as the Yongle reign (1403-1424). The Yongle prototypes are painted with six or ten fruiting sprigs, varying in size and border decoration, see Zhongguo taoci quanji [Complete series on Chinese ceramics], Shanghai, 1999-2000, vol. 12, pl. 12 where a Yongle meiping vase is illustrated from the Palace Museum in Beijing. At that time, the design is mostly seen on vases, although bowls, however rare, are also known, such as the bowl sold in these rooms, 7th October 2015, lot 3606.
After the Yongle period, the ‘fruiting branch’ design, celebrating auspicious wishes for longevity and prosperity, continued to be popular on imperial wares, but then mainly on bowls and less on vases, compare for example, a Xuande bowl of conical shape, illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 1994, vol. 2, no. 671. In the Qing dynasty, this design re-appears on vases.
The origin of the ‘garlic-mouth’ as a decorative element, is uncertain, but the vessel itself is modeled after an archaic bronze wine vessel named hu with a mouth distinctively formed of garlic cloves, see Jenny So, Eastern Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, New York, 1995, no. 52, where the hu is attributed to the late Eastern Zhou, late Warring States period, 4th-3rd century BC. The bronze hu equally features a slightly flaring ring foot, but a shorter, rounder body and a longer neck. In its shape, the suantouping of the Ming period tends to be closer to the bronze prototype than the Qing variant, which is much more elegantly shaped and better adapted to Qing court taste.
‘Garlic-mouth’ vases of this design were first produced in the Yongzheng reign, a Yongzheng example was sold in these rooms, 29th November 1978, lot 234, and continued to be popular throughout the Qing dynasty; compare a Jiaqing version in the Palace Museum in Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (III), Hong Kong, 2000, pl. 145; and a Daoguang example, included in the exhibition Imperial Porcelain of Late Qing, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1983, cat. no. 1, from the Simon Kwan collection.
These vases are also known with various monochrome glazes, celadon, teadust, iron-red or claire-de-lune. A rare Qianlong-marked Ru-type glazed vase, was sold in these rooms, 8th October 2013, lot 3120.
Identical vases of Qianlong mark and period are in several museums: in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, illustrated in Gugong cang ci. Qing qinghua ci/Porcelain of the National Palace Museum. Blue and White Ware of the Ch’ing Dynasty, Hong Kong, 1968, vol. 2, pls 5a-c; in the Capital Museum in Beijing, included in Zhongguo taoci quanji [The complete works of Chinese ceramics], vol. 15: Qing (II), Shanghai, 1999, no. 8 and in the Nanjing Museum illustrated in Zhongguo Qingdai guanyao ciqi/The Official Kiln Porcelain of the Chinese Qing Dynasty, Shanghai, 2003, p. 211.
Similar examples have been sold in these rooms, 19th November 1986, lot 225 and in our New York rooms, 30th March 2006, lot 314.
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