the baluster body rising from a short spreading foot to a tall flaring neck with everted straight rim, finely and deeply carved around the exterior with five scaly five-clawed dragons in pursuit of 'flaming pearls', all reserved on a dense foaming wave ground and between lotus lappets reserved on a diaper ground at the foot, ruyi and lotus bands at the collar and stiff leaf bands reserved on a diaper ground at the neck, the interior and base lacquered black
This impressive 'Dragon' vase appears to be the only recorded example of a carved lacquer vase of this type. It would have been prized by the Qianlong emperor who had a penchant for technically innovative pieces that were highly challenging and unconventional. Only one other vase carved with a scene of dragons has been published, from the Qing Court collection and still in Beijing, and illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Lacquer Wares of the Qing Dynasty, Hong Kong, 2006, pl. 47.
The five-clawed dragons have been meticulously rendered with ferocious expressions and rigorous scaly bodies while the swirling waves, captured with the same level of precision, add to the overall sumptuous effect of the vase. The five-clawed dragon symbolised the emperor and frequently adorned imperial items, particularly textiles; for example, see an imperial court robe (jifu) with a frontal dragon flanked by further dragons, richly embroidered with thousands of small pearls, and worn by the Qianlong emperor on his birthday celebrations, sold in these rooms, 10th April 2006, lot 1540; and a doucai moonflask, from the Qing Court collection and still in Beijing, included in the exhibition China. The Three Emperors 1662-1795, The Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2006, cat. no. 217.
For lacquer wares similarly carved with dynamic scenes of dragons amongst waves, see a square box published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, op. cit., pl. 9, together with a hatstand, pl. 49; and a circular box in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, illustrated in Chinese Art in Overseas Collections. Lacquerware, Taipei, 1987, pl. 154.
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