A magnificent celadon-glazed carved baluster vase Qianlong seal mark in underglaze blue and of the period (1736-1795)

Lot 1112. A magnificent celadon-glazed carved baluster vase, Qianlong seal mark in underglaze blue and of the period (1736-1795), 15¼ in. (38.7 cm.) high, box. Estimate USD 2,000,000 - USD 4,000,000Price realised USD 7,922,500 © Christie's Images Ltd 2011

The tapering ovoid body rising to a sharp angle below the sloping shoulder that continues into the waisted neck below a galleried mouth rim, finely molded and carved with five registers of archaistic patterns including a broad band of wave pattern, bands of dragon or bird scroll and a lower band of pendent lappets enclosing C-scrolls, covered inside and out with a glaze of rich sea-green color thinning to a paler tone on the raised areas, the base similarly glazed.

ProvenanceNew England private collector; Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 17-18 1971, lot 140 (not illustrated). 

NoteThis rare and finely decorated vase is representative of the archaistic style frequently seen in porcelain vessels of Qianlong date. The interest of the Qianlong Emperor in archaic bronzes and antiques of all types influenced the efforts of the potters at the Imperial kilns to interpret the shapes and designs of early bronzes in porcelain.

The decoration and shape of the present vase was inspired by Western Zhou dynasty bronzes, such as the bronze lei dated to the 9th century BC, illustrated by John A. Pope et al., Freer Chinese Bronzes, vol. 1, Washington DC, 1967, pl. 83. (Fig. 1) Crisply cast bands of decoration similar to that of the broad wave-pattern band on the present vase can also be seen on the large bronze De Ke ding and on the Hu gui in the Shanghai Museum, illustrated by Chen Peifen in Ancient Chinese Bronzes in the Shanghai Museum, London, 1995, pp. 70-1, no. 43 and pp. 74-5, no. 46, respectively. 

The present vase is also an excellent example of the effect that could be created by the use of the carved decoration on a monochrome porcelain vessel. The technique allows the details of the elaborate, crisp decoration around the body to be highlighted by the thin translucent glaze pooling in the deeper recesses to provide a contrast of color tones, thereby creating two shades of green, while accentuating the dense archaistic design. 

A few other vases of this rare combination of shape and decoration, with Qianlong marks, are published. One by J. Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, vol. 2, Geneva, 1999, pl. 290 [A379], (Fig. 2) and again in Sekai Toji Zenshu, vol. 15, Tokyo, 1983, p. 111, pl. 121. One formerly in the T.Y. Chao Collection, was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 1 November 2004, lot 875. (Fig. 3) One in the Chang Foundation, Taipei, is illustrated by J. Spencer, Selected Chinese Ceramics from Han to Qing Dynasties, Taipei, 1990, pl. 155; and one in The Wang Xing Lou Collection is illustrated in Imperial Perfection: The Palace Porcelain of Three Chinese Emperors: Kangxi - Yongzheng - Qianlong, Hong Kong, 2004, p. 184, no. 68. 

Christie's. Magnificent Qing Monochrome Porcelains and Earlier Works of Art from the Gordon Collection, 24 March 2011, New York