Lot 3611. A fine pink-ground famille-rose 'Eight Daoist Immortals' jar, seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795); 20.1 cm, 8 1/4 in. Estimate 9,000,000 — 12,000,000. Lot sold 12,080,000 HKD. Courtesy Sotheby's 2016.
superbly painted around the tall ovoid lantern-shaped body with the 'Eight Daoist Immortals', riding on their respective vehicles on finely combed waves painted in soft washes of turquoise, each figure holding an attribute and some standing in a windswept stance, the scene set between ruyi-head borders outlined in blue and white enamels and decorated with scrolling lotus on a pink ground, the straight foot painted with keyfrets in blue enamel, all below a gilt rim, the interior and base enamelled turquoise, the base centred with an iron-red six-character seal mark within a square cartouche reserved in white.
Provenance: Collection of Léon Bartholin (1871-1918), Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, France.
Note: This rare vase illustrates the Eight Daoist Immortals as they cross the rough seas after attending the peach festival of the Queen Mother of the West. Rather than travelling by their clouds, they combined their powers to sail past the tempest. The proverb is a lesson on how individual strengths and gifts can be used to tackle the same obstacle. A very similar scene, painted between related pink-ground ruyi head borders decorated with a floral scroll, is found on a slightly larger pair of Qianlong mark and period jars and covers, sold twice at Christie’s Hong Kong in 1992 and 1995, and again in our New York rooms, 17th March 2009, lot 124, from the collection of Gordon Getty. See also a vase of related lantern form, but with a longer waisted neck, featuring the Immortals at sea, sold in these rooms, 9th November 1982, lot 302; and another, illustrating the Eight Immortals celebrating the Queen Mother’s birthday as she arrives on a phoenix, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 350, pl. 31.
With its combination of a continuous figural scene with formal scrollwork on a coloured ground, this vase represents a somewhat later stage of porcelain decoration in the Qianlong reign. Although the individual elements of both shape and decoration are all well-known from this reign, close counterparts are difficult to find as the Qianlong potters were masters at combining their many style elements in myriad ways to create ever new designs. The pink-ground neck and foot with formal floral scrolls are simulating the work characteristic of yangcai porcelains, which were probably inspired by brocade designs.
Qianlong mark and period vases of related form were typically decorated with figural scenes between coloured borders; see a slightly smaller example with a cover, decorated with children at play between ruby-ground borders, but with a short straight neck, included in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Porcelains with Cloisonné Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 128; another with turquoise-ground borders, illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, op. cit., p. 353, pl. 34, together with larger examples, pls. 29 and 30, decorated with a landscape scene and children at play respectively; and a green-ground version in the Nanjing Museum, published in The Official Kiln Porcelain of the Chinese Qing Dynasty, Shanghai, 2003, p. 320.
This style of decoration remained popular during the succeeding Jiaqing and Daoguang reigns, and some vessels may have been created by the same craftsmen who produced pieces for the Qianlong Emperor. Compare a vase of similar form, but with slightly taller neck, painted with four elderly Daoist Immortals in an idyllic landscape setting looking out across to the Eastern Sea to the Daoist Immortals Paradise, with similarly rendered crashing waves, drapery and borders, but of ruby-ground, sold in these rooms, 7th October 2010, lot 2163.
Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, Hong Kong, 06 Apr 2016