A very rare pair of Imperial white-glazed relief-carved bottle vases, Qianlong seal marks and of the period (1736-1795)

3

4

2

Lot 30. A very rare pair of Imperial white-glazed relief-carved bottle vases, Qianlong seal marks and of the period (1736-1795); 33.7cm (13 1/4in) high (2)Estimate HK$ 1,500,000 - 2,000,000 (€160,000 - 220,000). Sold for HK$ 15,700,000 (€1,692,813). Photo: Bonhams.

Each compressed globular body rising from a short spreading foot to a tall waisted neck surmounted by a flaring rim, flanked by a pair of ruyi-shaped handles, the body superbly and vividly carved in crisp relief with radiating lotus blossoms borne on an undulating and meandering foliate scroll issuing smaller floral blooms, enclosed within two bands of interlocking ruyi-heads, the neck decorated with a register of bats in flight suspending an auspicious emblem, between a ruyi-head band below the rim and upright stiff leaves collaring the neck, all above a border of ruyi-shaped leaf lappets, covered overall with a smooth white glaze.  

ProvenanceAn English private collection, and thence by descent.

NoteThe present pair of vases is very rare and no identical example appears to have been published. They belong to a small group of wares produced during the Qianlong reign referred to as fang Ding yao, or 'in imitation of Ding ware' produced during the Song dynasty. The aesthetic reference to the Ding wares is a personal reflection of the Qianlong Emperor's personal affinity to antiquity and his admiration and desire to learn and be inspired by the forms and glazes first introduced during the Song dynasty. Compare a white-glazed baluster shaped vase carved with a lotus scroll, Qianlong seal mark and period, described as imitating Ding, in the Qing Court Collection, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Monochrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1999, no.239; see also two vases in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the first a related white-glazed vase with moulded decoration, Qianlong seal mark and period, museum no.CIRC.112-1935 (which the museum acquired with the assistance of Sir Percival David); and another white-glazed relief-decorated vase, Qianlong seal mark and period, with stag handles and dragons and lingzhi decoration, museum no.C.553-1910.

Vase, China, Qing dynasty, Qianlong mark and period (1736-1795)

Vase, China, Qing dynasty, Qianlong mark and period (1736-1795), white-glazed porcelain with moulded decoration. Height: 33 cm, Diameter: 18.4 cm. Purchased with the assistance of The Art Fund, the Vallentin Bequest, Sir Percival David and the Universities China Committee, CIRC.112-1935 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Vase, China, Qing dynasty, Qianlong mark and period (1736-1795)

Vase, China, Qing dynasty, Qianlong mark and period (1736-1795), porcelain with decoration in relief. Height: 27.6 cm, Diameter: 17.5 cm. Salting Bequest, C.553-1910 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

In form, the pair of vases incorporates rounded stepped shoulders, which are a distinct Qianlong reign innovation; see for example a famille rose vase with similar stepped domed shoulders, Qianlong seal mark and period, in the Qing Court Collection, illustrated in The Complete Collection of the Treasures of the Palace Museum: Porcelains with Cloisonne Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, Shanghai, 2009, no.122; and see also a similarly shaped turquoise-ground ' famille rose bajixiang' vase, Qianlong seal mark and period, which was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 7 October 2010, lot 2132. 

A fine and rare large turquoise-ground 'bajixiang' imitation-cloisonne vase, seal mark and period of Qianlong

 A fine and rare large turquoise-ground 'bajixiang' imitation-cloisonné vase, seal mark and period of Qianlong; 55 cm., 21 5/8 in. Sold for 40,980,000 HKD at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 7 October 2010, lot 2132. Photo: Sotheby's.

The carved design on the pair of vases is precise and crisp and beautifully spaced around the surface of the vases, demonstrating the technical virtuosity achieved by the master potters during the Qianlong reign. The necks are decorated with bats suspending a wan emblem, wanfu, meaning 'ten thousand blessings'; the ruyi-shaped handles and lappet border represent bestowing good wishes; and the lotus scroll, in addition to being one of the Eight Buddhist Emblems, also represents purity, longevity and nobility as well as peace when combined with a vase. These auspicious blessings would have made the present pair of vases particularly suitable for an Imperial birthday celebration; compare a related larger celadon-glazed relief-carved vase, with ruyi handles and lotus scroll design, Qianlong seal mark and period, illustrated in Qing Imperial Monochromes: The Zande Lou Collection, Hong Kong, 2005, p.120, pl.43.

A smaller related relief-carved white-glazed 'dragon' bottle vase, incised Qianlong seal mark and period, was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 3 October 2017, lot 3603; see also a smaller related white-glazed relief-carved vase, incised Qianlong seal mark and period, which was sold at Sotheby's London, 7 November 2012, lot 110; and a related smaller relief-decorated white-glazed baluster vase, incised Qianlong seal mark and period, which was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 28 November 2012, lot 2129.

3

 A rare relief-carved white-glazed 'Dragon' bottle vase, seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795), 28.7 cm, 11 1/4  in. Sold for 2,000,000 HKD at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 3rd October 2017, lot 3603. Photo Sotheby's. 

Cf. my post: A rare relief-carved white-glazed 'Dragon' bottle vase, seal mark and period of Qianlong

 4

 A rare relief-decorated white-glazed baluster vase, Qianlong incised six-character seal mark and of the period (1736-1795), 8 1/16 in. (20.5 cm.) high, stand. Sold for HKD 1,940,000 at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28th November 2012, lot 2129© Christie's Images Ltd 2012 

Cf. my post: A rare relief-decorated white-glazed baluster vase, Qianlong incised six-character seal mark and of the period (1736-1795)

Bonhams. FINE CHINESE CERAMICS AND WORKS OF ART, 28 Nov 2017, 14:00 HKT - HONG KONG, ADMIRALTY