Lot 75. A 'doucai' 'Chilong' ovoid vase, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722); 49.8cm., 19 3/8 in. Estimate 50,000 — 70,000 GBP. Lot sold 73,250 GBP. Courtesy Sotheby's 2011.
of ovoid form with cylindrical sides rising from a short slightly spreading foot to a waisted neck and a flared rim, decorated overall in doucai enamels with five sinuous chilong intertwined amongst leafy floral tendrils, all between a border of lotus lappets enclosing floral sprays around the foot and a band of linked ruyi heads around the mouth, the rim bound with metal.
Note: This impressive vase is unusual for its design of chilong crawling amongst ornate leafy and flowering scrolls in the doucai technique. Such a design was more commonly rendered in copper red and underglaze blue; for example see an ovoid vase illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (III), Shanghai, 2000, pl. 208; a meiping sold at Christie's Tokyo, 15th February 1981, lot 313; and a large tianquiping sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 20th March 1990, lot 576. Compare also a double gourd vase similarly decorated with chilong clambering amongst lingzhi scrolls in copper red, with a Qianlong reign mark and of the period, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 8th April 2010, lot 1867.
For doucai vases of related design, but depicting a five-clawed dragon and phoenix amidst comparable flowering scrolls, see one of baluster form sold twice in our Hong Kong rooms, 29th November 1978, lot 326, and again, 22nd May 1985, lot 177; and a cylindrical example with angled shoulders, sold in our Paris rooms, 9th June 2010, lot 80.
The chi dragon was one of the 'true' dragons of the Ming dynasty, along with the five-clawed long and the four-clawed mang, and is described in Ming texts as the 'immature or hornless dragon'. Its main characteristics are a broad feline head, sinuous dragon body with little or no scales, rounded paws with short claws and a curly tail. By the Qing dynasty, the true identity of the Ming chilong as the 'child dragon' was lost and, as seen on this vase, it was depicted in adult-like form.