A fine blue and white 'Fruits and Flowers' vase, meiping. Seal mark and period of Qianlong - Photo Sotheby's

based on the Ming Dynasty prototype, robustly potted with elegantly curved shoulders, rising to a slightly waisted neck collared by ring of florets below a lipped mouth, the body skilfully painted in brilliant shades of cobalt blue, enhanced by the simulated 'heaping and piling' effect, with alternating registers of fruiting sprays of peach, pomegranate and lychee, and flowering leafy branches of peony, prunus and chrysanthemum, all between a band of radiating stylised lappets at the shoulders and upright overlapping leaves encircling the foot, the slightly recessed base centred with a six-character reign mark in underglaze blue; 32.3 cm., 12 3/4 in. Estimation: 8,000,000 - 12,000,000 HKD

PROVENANCE: Collection of Robert Chang

NOTE DE CATALOGUE: Vases of this type represent the technical advances made in porcelain production which provided a canvas on which to recreate celebrated Ming ceramic designs suitable to contemporary taste. The fine porcelain body and the craftsman’s ability to manipulate the pigment are particularly notable in the present vase, as seen in the lucidly painted design which has been rendered in a range of vivid cobalt tones. A closely related example in the Nanjing Museum, Nanjing, is illustrated in The Official Kiln Porcelain of the Chinese Qing Dynasty, Shanghai, 2003, p. 215; and one, from the Edward T. Chow collection, sold in these rooms, 19th May 1981, lot 546, is illustrated in Michel Beurdeley and Guy Raindre, Qing Porcelain, London, 1987, pl. 153. See a third vase published in Chinese Porcelain. The S.C.Ko Tianminlou Collection, Hong Kong, 1987, cat. no. 63, where Julian Thompson discusses this group of Qing blue and white wares as painted with re-designed Yongle motifs and patterns, particularly in the borders and the simulated ‘heaping and piling’ of cobalt blue which further serves to heighten the three-dimensional quality of the design (p. 30).  

Further vases of this type include one from the T.Y. Chao collection, included in the exhibition, Ming and Ch’ing Porcelain of the T.Y. Chao Family Foundation, Hong Kong, Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1978, cat. no. 79, sold as one of a pair in our New York rooms, 24th May 1974, lot 420, and again in these rooms, 19th May 1989, lot 270; another sold twice in these rooms, 20th May 1986, lot 41, and again, 8th October 2010, lot 2635; and a third example from the Shorenstein collection, sold twice at Christie’s Hong Kong, 18th March 1991, lot 567, and again, 1st December 2010, lot 2970.


By the Qianlong period, the nonchalant charm of the Ming original had evolved into a crisply organised motif: the form of the meiping, its dramatic silhouette characterised by broad shoulders tapering to a narrow foot, required a reinvention of the early design. Leafy flowering branches extend out around the shoulder, neatly converging at a point in the form of an inverted triangle to complement the swell of the shoulders, while the fruiting branches composed in a diamond form highlight the narrow lower section of the vase.

For the 15th century prototype of this design see a meiping in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Minji meihin zuroku, vol. 1, Tokyo, 1977, pl. 12; and a larger meiping illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 1994-2010, vol. 4, no. 1641, most recently sold in these rooms, 5th October 2011, lot11. See another sold twice in our rooms 14th November 1983, lot 98 and again 2nd May 2005, lot 504 (fig. 1).

Sotheby's. Exceptional Qing Porcelain from the Collection of Dr. Alice Cheng. Hong Kong | 09 oct. 2012 www.sothebys.com