A rare iron-red decorated `Bat' double-gourd vase, Seal mark and period of Qianlong

Lot 97. A rare iron-red decorated `Bat' double-gourd vase, Seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795); 10cm., 4in. Estimate 50,000 — 80,000 GBP. Lot sold 168,000 GBP. Photo: Sotheby's 2007

the ample voluptuous double gourd finely painted with bats in flight, their eyes picked out in black enamel, all beneath a gilt band at the neck.

NoteVases decorated with the design of innumerable bats were made for special celebratory occasions. Bats have traditionally been the symbol of good fortune, and red bats were especially auspicious, the red being the colour which wards off demons and identical in sound to the word 'enormous' (hong) indicating especially 'great' fortune. Double-gourd shaped containers were also highly favoured for their reference to gourds with their many seeds symbolizing fertility and abundance.  

No other similar miniature vase of this form and design appears to be recorded although a larger double-gourd shaped vase painted with hundreds of bats on a turquoise-ground from the Palace Museum Collection, also with a Qianlong reign mark and of the period, was included in the exhibition China. The Three Emperors, the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2006, cat.no. 287. Another gourd-shaped vase, also with a Qianlong reign mark, with a similar bat design painted in iron-red on a gilt-ground, but with a simulated ribbon decoration painted in polychrome enamels around the body, in the Baur collection, is illustrated in John Ayers, The Baur Collection, Geneva, vol. 4, Geneva, 1974, pl. A643, and also in Sekai toji zenshu, vol. 15, Tokyo, 1983, pl. 117.

Compare another related vase, from the collection of Marcus D. Ezekiel Esq. sold at Christie's London, 18th March 1930, lot 96, and again in these rooms, 10th November 2004, lot 669; and a Qianlong blue-and-white double-gourd shaped vase decorated with bats among gourd vines included in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (III), Hong Kong, 2000, pl. 129.

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, London, 16 May 2007