Its glaze incandesces like the fiery red sky after the rain.
Once out of the kiln, it has to return to the flickering flames.
The world's vermillion simply does not compare,
All the rubies of the West cannot rival its colour.
Place flowers in it and they blush in shame,
It is impossible to capture
the richness of its glaze in a painting.
The Records state that sacrificial red wares were
first made in the Xuande period,
Though such wares were first fired
during the Song dynasty.
Notable for its rich red glaze and unusual stepped meiping form, this vase is inscribed on the base with a poem composed by the Qianlong Emperor that praises its attractive colouring. A Kangxi langyao vase inscribed with the same poem, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Monochrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 14, where it is noted that the reference to Xuande suggests that the Qianlong Emperor was under the impression that these vases were produced in the Xuande period, p 16. Another langyao vase with this poem, from the collection of M.F. Arbouin, included in the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1935-6, cat. no. 2312, was sold in these rooms, 2nd May 2005, lot 525, and again, 8th October 2014, lot 3653; and a copper-red ‘Monk’s Cap’ ewer, was included in Special Exhibition of Selected Hsuan-te Imperial Porcelains of the Ming Dynasty, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1998, cat. no. 29.
Copper-red glazes were revived on a grand scale under the Kangxi Emperor after two centuries of neglect. Monochrome copper-red porcelains were perfected during the Yongle and Xuande reigns, but the large number of discarded sherds at the Jingdezhen kiln sites highlights the difficulties experienced by even the most highly accomplished imperial potters of that time to achieve satisfactory results. After the Xuande reign, the copper pigment was therefore almost completely abandoned. Also known as sang-de-boeuf (‘ox-blood’), langyao was developed under Lang Tingji (1663-1715), supervisor of the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen from 1705-12, and the term is thought to derive from his name. Under his direction the imperial potters attempted to recreate the lost formula of the early Ming period and perfected the creation of comparable deep and even copper-red glazes such as the present. It was also manipulated to produce the delicate mottled glazes of ‘peachbloom’ wares.
Kangxi langyao meiping of this size are more commonly modelled with a more pronounced shoulder and lacking the stepped foot, such as one from the Edward T. Chow and Leshangtang collections, illustrated in The Leshantang Collection of Chinese Porcelain, Taipei, 2005, pl. 34, and sold in these rooms, 25th November 1980, lot 64; another form the Kostolany Collection, included in the Oriental Ceramic Society Exhibition of Monochrome Porcelain, London, 1948, cat. no. 128, and sold in our London rooms, 3rd March 1953, lot 110; and a third from the collection of Evelyn Annenberg-Hall, sold at Christie’s New York, 29th March 2006, lot 139. See also a langyao meiping with a shorter and slightly splayed mouth, included in the Min Chiu Society exhibition An Anthology of Chinese Ceramics, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1980, cat. no. 107.
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