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12 mars 2024

Pair of Landscape Models, no. 15998, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722)

Pair of Landscape Models, no. 15998, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722)

Pair of Landscape Models, no. 15998, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722). Porcelain decorated in famille verte enamels on the biscuit. H. 43 cm L. 25 cm. JORGE WELSH WORKS OF ART at TEFAF 2024. © 2024 TEFAF

 

Provenance: Unknown.

Landscape models are examples of the sophistication and intricacy achieved with ‘enamel on biscuit’ porcelains. The exact purpose for which these objects were made is not clear, although it is thought they were most likely used as ornaments in interior settings. Interestingly, the making of similar examples are portrayed in an early 19th century gouache painting, one of a series illustrating the process of porcelain production.
Mountains and mountain landscapes have been of great importance in Chinese culture since the Zhou dynasty (1050-221 BC). Mountains were considered to be the manifestation of qi, or the ‘life force of the universe’. The home of the spirits and gods, they were the focus of religious activities. Mountains and rocks were also traditional symbols of longevity and reliability. It is for these reasons that Chinese gardens quite often incorporated a large rockery, which was sometimes big enough for humans to walk through. Representing a rockery or mountain landscape, this model may have reflected such symbolic meaning in miniature. Authors have suggested that landscape models such as the present example served as garden ornaments.
This mountain landscape may also have been used for interior decoration, perhaps to invoke the idea of an outside garden within the confines of an indoor setting. Interesting and peculiarly shaped rocks were frequently used for indoor ornamentation in China; they were valued for their symbolic associations and used as an object of contemplation within the scholar’s studio. This was so popular that the form of a rock was frequently imitated in jade and glass. Such objects were often mounted on a finely made stand, to further increase their importance. Thus the present landscape model may have been intended for a similar interior ornamental purpose.
Landscape models were also exported to Europe, most probably as curiosities. The sale of porcelain from a Dutch estate in 1744 included ‘A rock full of figures’. Comparable porcelain examples painted with famille verte enamels on the biscuit are in museums and private collections. A tall pyramidal rock on a round base with various pagodas and buildings, as well as platforms, stairways and several figures, is in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. A large landscape model, which is labelled as a brush washer, is in the Musée Guimet in Paris. The Copeland Collection has three comparable miniature landscape models. Several landscape models of varying sizes belonged to the former George Eumorfopoulos Collection. A pair of miniature rockery models, with lotus flowers and cranes, was in the former Anthony de Rothschild Collection.

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