Lot 357. A famille-verte 'Figural' rouleau vase, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722). Height 17 1/2 in., 44.4 cm. Estimate 20,000 — 30,000. © Sotheby's
the cylindrical body richly painted with two large rectangular panels reserved against a scrolling peony ground, one panel with the Eight Daoist Immortals in a landscape of textured rocks, gnarled pine, red-leafed trees, and auspicious animals, a dragon and phoenix appearing in a large plume of qi exhaled by the immortal at the center, the other panel with an official on horseback bidding his son farewell, one attendant leading the horse by the reins and another following behind with supplies, the sloped shoulder with fish and crustaceans in quatrelobed cartouches reserved against a polychrome diaper ground, the neck with two panels of butterflies framed by a scrolling peony ground, a band of green-enameled spirals at the rim, simplified polychrome lappets above the foot, coll. no. 1265.
The Jie Rui Tang Collection.
Provenance: Collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Christie's New York, 21st September 2000, lot 317.
The Chinese Porcelain Company, Ltd., New York, 2003.
Note: Exquisite draftsmanship and mastery of the overglaze enamel technique characterize each decorative element of the present vase. The extensive use of black is particularly notable. Enamel in this color was achieved through a novel formula of high quality cobalt mixed with tin, an innovation of Kangxi ceramicists.
The pictorial panels draw upon conventions in painting and print culture. Like their two-dimensional counterparts, these are compositionally balanced and their images described in a combination of fine inky black lines, colored washes, and deep-hued accents that contribute precision and dynamism. The figural panels additionally exhibit a sense of depth through diagonals and the use of negative space. The patterned grounds illustrate the artisan's familiarity with contemporary textiles. Intricate stitches of the fabrics are here translated onto porcelain. This rouleau exemplifies the achievement of Kangxi ceramicists in synthesizing diverse media into their craft and pushing the famille-verte technique to new heights.
The vase features two occasional scenes that suggest its intended functions. The scene with auspicious animals and the Eight Immortals hint that the vase was designed as a birthday gift to wish the recipient long life. The image of the richly clad scholar-official bidding farewell to his son before setting off on horseback, may allude to advancement in the prestigious civil service system. The two scenes illustrate the genre of aspirational imagery that was in vogue in the Kangxi period. Wishes for longevity, professional success, progeny, wealth, and other blessings were often expressed in decorative form singularly or in combination, as exemplified by the present vase.