of archaic bronze form, the lobed body rising from a short spreading foot to a tall neck with chilong handles and an everted rim, finely moulded to each side with square panels enclosing confronting archaistic dragons reserved on a robins-egg glazed ground, the foot and neck with similarly decorated ruyi and stiff leaf bands, all reserved on a speckled gold ground, the base with a four-character reign mark picked out in gilt
Collection of W.W. Winkworth.
Acquired in February 1992.
Among the many simulations created by the imperial workshops for the Qianlong emperor, those imitating archaic ritual bronzes appear to have been the most popular. Ritual bronze vessels particularly of the late Shang (c.1600-c.1050BC) and Western Zhou (c.1050-771BC) period collected by the emperor inspired precise trompe-l'oeil copies as well as 'modern' interpretations, like the present vase. Furthermore, bronze shapes and design elements entered the general repertoire of Qianlong porcelain and provided inspiration for vessels otherwise unrelated to the ancient metal versions.
No simulated bronze vase of this form appears to have been recorded, although a much larger ovoid vase of this decorative type and style, from the J.T. Tai collection, was sold in these rooms, 7th October 2010, lot 2128. In shape the present vase is loosely based on archaic bronze hu vessels, a form that, however, was not normally lobed or flanked with such ornate handles. The design equally mixes archaic designs with Qing period elements: whereas the confronted dragons dissolve into almost abstract angled scrollwork derived from bronze design, the bands of auspicious bats and ruyi heads are stylistically firmly rooted in the Qianlong period.
Bronzes were simulated through a variety of glazes, typically a brown of 'café-au-lait' or 'teadust' type heightened with gold, and this was often combined with a mottled turquoise or green glaze to evoke the blue-green patina of ancient metalwork. The lavish use of robin's-egg glaze seen on the present vase is, however, usual.
Compare a massive vase in the Palace Museum, Beijing, echoing an archaic bronze zun with only a narrow band of this robin's egg glaze reserved on an overall teadust surface, illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Beijing, 1989, p. 412, pl. 93, together with a gu and a bell simulating bronzes, pp 414f, pls 95 and 96. A miniature vase of hu form with much simpler decoration simulating inlaid bronze, with a band executed in a similar colour scheme with coffee-coloured dragon motifs raised on a mottled turquoise glaze, included in the Min Chiu Society exhibition An anthology of Chinese Ceramics, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1980, cat. no. 138, was sold in these rooms, 14th November 1989, lot 340.
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