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the ovoid body painted with five evenly spaced phoenix and peony scroll medallions above a band of raised upright lotus petal border, the shoulder moulded with five raised stylised bats just below a raised band, the waisted neck further encircled by a row of archaistic phoenix bird scrolls rising to a trumpeted mouthrim, all supported on a short slightly splayed foot, the base inscribed with a large six-character reign mark
This jar is unusual for its medallion motifs which each contain an elegant archaistic phoenix and scrolling peony blooms. A related vase of this form and decoration, but with a slightly reduced neck and decorated in copper red with medallions of phoenix amidst camellia between bands of upright lappets, was sold in our London rooms, 7th April 1981, lot 278.
The present jar appears to be a Qing interpretation of a 15th century original, and is thus an example of the creative ingenuity characteristic of those working under the Qianlong emperor. In the Xuande prototypes, the small ovoid jars have shorter trumpet necks which are decorated with upright lappets and a key-fret border encircling the shoulder and foot while the body is adorned with a pair of phoenix flying amid blossoming foliate scrolls. The Qianlong version has condensed the phoenix and flower design into medallions and shifted the placement of the lappets and key-fret bands. The simple band around the neck retains the geometric form of its predecessor while incorporating the emperor's love of archaism by rendering it as a band of archaistic dragons. For a Xuande jar see one included in the Special Exhibition of Hsuan-te Wares, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1980, cat. no. 10; and another from the collections of A.D. Brankston and H.R.N. Norton, sold in our London rooms, 16th May 1967, lot 96.
Further reference to its Ming inspiration is seen in the 'heaped and piled' technique used to render the designs. Qing craftsmen carefully manipulated the cobalt pigment to simulate the uneven blue tones characteristic of early fifteenth century wares that occurred as a result of the cobalt and firing.
The Qianlong seal mark of the present vase is unusual, particularly for the Qing and Qian characters. The style of rendering has been identified by Peter Lam as indicative of belonging to the early Qianlong period, related to Tang Ying's tenure at Jingdezhen and thus predating the 21st year of his reign (1756), (discussed in 'A Dating Framework for Qianlong Imperial Ware', Oriental Ceramic Society, London, lecture given 15th December 2009, publication forthcoming in Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society). Further examples of vases bearing related Qianlong reign marks include two lantern vases decorated in underglaze blue and red, one in the Wang Xing Lou collection, included in the exhibition Imperial Perfection. The Palace Porcelain of Three Chinese Emperors, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, 2004, cat. no. 27; and another sold at Christie's London, 9th December 1985, lot 124.
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