Lot 3602. A rare turquoise-ground famille-rose 'Nine Dragon' cloisonné-imitation vase, seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795), 35.5 cm, 14 in. Estimate 800,000 — 1,200,000 HKD. Lot sold 3,700,000 HKD. Photo: Sotheby's.
the elegant baluster body rising from a slightly splayed foot to rounded shoulders surmounted by a tall waisted neck flaring at the rim, painted to the body with lively dragons, each with a bifurcated tail and in a different colour and outlined in gilt, all soaring between pale green, deep blue and red lingzhi-shaped clouds, above breaking waves at the base, with a similar thin band of breaking waves at the shoulder below two further dragons and a thin band of ruyi at the rim, the turquoise base gilt-inscribed with a six-character seal mark.
Provenance: Christie's London, 16th December 1996, lot 12.
Note: Meticulously painted with sinuous chilong among clouds on a blue ground, this piece belongs to a group of vessels commissioned by the Qianlong Emperor which was created to imitate cloisonné enamel. Qianlong was particularly fond of cloisonné work which he revived on a grand scale after a period of disregard under the Yongzheng Emperor. He had it imitated in painted enamel and porcelain, where the wires separating the cloisons of different enamels were mirrored by finely painted golden lines, as seen in the present piece. However a greater sense of depth and movement was able to be captured on these painted versions through the use of darker stipples of enamel, such as on the bodies of the dragons, to result in a more sumptuous overall effect.
A closely related pair of vases is illustrated in E. Gorer and J. F. Blacker, Chinese Porcelain and Hard Stones, London, 1911, pl. 188. See also a larger turquoise-ground vase of similar baluster shape but painted with dragons amongst billowing clouds, sold in our New York rooms, 13th March 1975, lot 465, and twice in these rooms, 20th May 1987, lot 555, and 2nd May 2005, lot 509. For a turquoise-ground vase, from the collection of J.T. Tai, similarly enamelled in cloisonné style, but decorated with bajixiang, see lot 3609.