A very fine blue and white ‘Flower and Fruit’ garlic-mouth bottle vase, seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795)

2

4

3

5

Lot 14. A very fine blue and white ‘Flower and Fruit’ garlic-mouth bottle vase, seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795); 27.7 cm, 10 7/8  in. Estimate: HK$5,000,000 - 7,000,000/ US$ 637,250 - 892,150. Courtesy Sotheby's.

with a pear-shaped body supported on a spreading foot and tapering to a tall slender neck with a garlic-head mouth and thin lip, the body painted in bright cobalt-blue tones with stipples to imitate the ‘heaped and piled’ effect, decorated with alternating flowering and fruiting branches of the sanduo arranged in two registers, all between lappet borders, the neck adorned with a band of pendent lappets, each enclosing a double-trefoil motif above a key-fret band and pendent ruyi heads, the bulbous mouth with a floral scroll below a further key-fret frieze at the rim, the foot skirted with a band of waves, the base inscribed with a six-character seal mark, wood stand.

Provenance: Collection of T.Y. Chao (1912-1999).
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 18th November 1986, lot 81.

ExhibitedExhibition of Ming and Ch'ing Porcelain from the Collection of the T.Y. Chao Family Foundation, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1978, cat. no. 91.
Chinese Porcelain in the S.C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1987, cat. no. 61.
Blue and White Porcelain from the Tianminlou Collection, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1992, cat. no. 86.
Tianminlou qinghua ci tezhan [Special exhibition of blue and white porcelain from the Tianminlou collection], Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, 1996. 

LiteratureLiu Liang-yu, A Survey of Chinese Ceramics, vol. 5: Ch'ing Official and Popular WaresTaipei, 1991, p. 159.
Blue and White Porcelain from the Collection of Tianminlou Foundation, Shanghai, 1996, no. 92.

Note: Elegantly shaped with smoothly sloping shoulders and elongated neck, suantouping or ‘garlic-mouth’ vases are among the most interesting vessel shapes of Chinese porcelain. The form, featuring a distinctive bulbous mouth in the shape of a garlic fruit, was popular in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Generally, imperial porcelain vases during the Qing period were manufactured for decorative purposes or as flower vases. Suantouping, with their typical narrow mouth, would be suited to hold one flower or a single fruiting branch, which would match one of those depicted on the vase. Fired at the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen, this attractive design is beautifully rendered, successfully displaying the mottled ‘heaped and piled’ effect of the most desirable of early Ming period (1368-1644) blue-and-white porcelains.

The Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795) is known to have commissioned close copies of early Ming porcelains at the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen. Although there appears to be no exact prototype of this kind of suantouping from the early Ming period, its design of individual fruiting branches is seen on ceramic wares as early as the Yongle reign (1403-1424). The Yongle prototypes are painted with six or ten fruiting sprigs, varying in size and border decoration, see Zhongguo taoci quanji[Complete series on Chinese ceramics], Shanghai, 1999-2000, vol. 12, pl. 12 where a Yongle meiping vase is illustrated from the Palace Museum in Beijing. At that time, the design is mostly seen on vases, although bowls, however rare, are also known, such as the bowl sold in these rooms, 7th October 2015, lot 3606.  

After the Yongle period, the ‘fruiting branch’ design, celebrating auspicious wishes for longevity and prosperity, continued to be popular on imperial wares, but then mainly on bowls and less on vases, compare for example, a Xuande bowl of conical shape, illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 1994, vol. 2, no. 671.  In the Qing dynasty, this design re-appears on vases.

The origin of the ‘garlic-mouth’ as a decorative element, is uncertain, but the vessel itself is modeled after an archaic bronze wine vessel named hu with a mouth distinctively formed of garlic cloves, see Jenny So, Eastern Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, New York, 1995, no. 52, where the hu is attributed to the late Eastern Zhou, late Warring States period, 4th-3rd century BC. The bronze hu equally features a slightly flaring ring foot, but a shorter, rounder body and a longer neck. In its shape, the suantouping of the Ming period tends to be closer to the bronze prototype than the Qing variant, which is much more elegantly shaped and better adapted to Qing court taste.

‘Garlic-mouth’ vases of this design were first produced in the Yongzheng reign, a Yongzheng example was sold in these rooms, 29th November 1978, lot 234, and continued to be popular throughout the Qing dynasty; compare a Jiaqing version in the Palace Museum in Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (III), Hong Kong, 2000, pl. 145; and a Daoguang example, included in the exhibition Imperial Porcelain of Late Qing, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1983, cat. no. 1, from the Simon Kwan collection.

These vases are also known with various monochrome glazes, celadon, teadust, iron-red or claire-de-lune. A rare Qianlong-marked Ru-type glazed vase, was sold in these rooms, 8th October 2013, lot 3120.

Identical vases of Qianlong mark and period are in several museums: in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, illustrated in Gugong cang ci. Qing qinghua ci/Porcelain of the National Palace Museum. Blue and White Ware of the Ch’ing Dynasty, Hong Kong, 1968, vol. 2, pls 5a-c; in the Capital Museum in Beijing, included in Zhongguo taoci quanji [The complete works of Chinese ceramics], vol. 15: Qing (II), Shanghai, 1999, no. 8 and in the Nanjing Museum illustrated in Zhongguo Qingdai guanyao ciqi/The Official Kiln Porcelain of the Chinese Qing Dynasty, Shanghai, 2003, p. 211.

Similar examples have been sold in these rooms, 19th November 1986, lot 225 and in our New York rooms, 30th March 2006, lot 314.

An imperial inscribed celadon-ground gilt-decorated wall vase, seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795)

7

8

Lot 315. An imperial inscribed celadon-ground gilt-decorated wall vase, seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795); overall 23.7 cm, 9 3/8  in. Estimate: HK$800,000 — 1,200,000/ US$ 101,960 - 152,940. Courtesy Sotheby's.

of rectangular section, the facetted body with a flat back and supported on a splayed foot, rising to a waisted neck flanked by a pair of handles modelled in the form of chilong, the front centred by a rectangular cartouche inscribed with an imperial poem dated to yiyou year of the Qianlong reign (in accordance with 1765), followed by two red seals reading Qian and Long, all reserved against a pale celadon ground and framed by gilt-decorated archaistic kui dragons, the neck similarly decorated with a pair of kui dragons below stylised ruyi and foliate strapwork, the foot skirted with a lappet band, fitted wood stand.

ProvenanceAcquired in Hong Kong, 1977.

ExhibitedChinese Porcelain in the S.C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1987, cat. no. 116. 

Note: The innovation of wall vases can be traced back to at least the Ming dynasty. Flattened at the back as though cut in half and often made in pairs, these vases were used to hold flowers both in indoor settings and inside sedan chairs. During the Qianlong reign, they were particularly favoured by the Emperor and many wall vases were made using different materials, frequently inscribed with imperial poems and seals. In a poem featured on one porcelain wall vase, the Qianlong Emperor commented on the pleasure provided by these vases when filled with flowers, which allowed him to enjoy their fragrance while the 'red dust' (cares of the world) could not reach him (see the catalogue to the exhibition China. The Three Emperors 1662-1795, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2005, pl. 445). A wall vase hanging on the interior of a sedan chair is depicted in the painting An Ice Game by Jin Kun, Cheng Zhidao and Fu Longan, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Paintings by the Court Artists of the Qing Court, Hong Kong, 1996, no. 61. A group of Qianlong wall vases of different forms can be seen in situ at the Sanxitang (The Studio of Three Rarities) in the Palace Museum, Beijing, as illustrated in the exhibition catalogue China. The Three Emperors 1662-1795op.cit., p. 44, fig. 15. 

According to an official memorial on wall vases written by Tang Ying (1682-1756) dated to the 7th year (1742), imperial poems were to be inscribed in one of four styles – seal, clerical, cursive and regular scripts – to match the different forms of wall vases.

The poem inscribed on this wall vase, entitled On Porcelain Wall Vase, was written by the Qianlong Emperor in the 30th year of his reign (corresponding to 1765) and was included in a compilation of imperial poems the following year (fig. 1). Four yangcai wall vases in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, are adorned with the same poem, albeit in various scripts: Two handled vases bear inscriptions in regular script (accession nos zhong ci 01932 and 01931), another handled vase features clerical-script poem (zhong ci 01934) and a fourth one running-cursive script (zhong ci 01926). They all bear similar seals reading Qian and Long, and are inscribed with four-character horizontal reign marks. See also a blue-ground gilt-decorated double-gourd wall vase in the Palace Museum, Beijing, decorated with the same poem in regular script, illustrated in Hall of Mental Cultivation of The Palace Museum – Imperial Residence of Eight Emperors, Hong Kong, 2017, cat. no. 53.

9

 fig. 1. Qing Gaozong yuzhi shiwen quan ji [Anthology of imperial Qianlong poems], Yuzhi shi san ji [Imperial poem, vol. 3], juan 56, p. 9.

Evenly enveloped by a Longquan-inspired celadon glaze and pencilled in gilt with archaistic kui dragons, this wall vase exemplifies the Qianlong period's reverence for antiquity. However, despite the chilong handles which draw reference from ancient bronzes, the present flattened rectangular form appears to be a Qianlong period innovation. Wall vases of this form are preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei; a robin's-egg glazed archaistic example similarly decorated with kuidragons in gilt, is included in The Enchanting Splendor of Vases and Planters: A Special Exhibition of Flower Vessels from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Taipei, 2014, no. II-47 (zhong ci 01946). There are also a famille-rose wall vase with floral scrolls (zhong ci 01927) and another decorated with puce enamel (zhong ci 05391).

A fine and large blue and white 'bajixiang' vase, hu, seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795)

10

11

12

13

Lot 16. A fine and large blue and white 'bajixiang' vase, hu, seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795); 49.5 cm, 19 1/2  in. Estimate: HK$8,000,000 — 12,000,000/ US$ 1,019,600 - 1,529,400. Courtesy Sotheby's.

the robust ovoid body supported on a splayed foot, sweeping up to a waisted neck and everted rim, set with two taotie-mask handles suspending mock rings, brightly painted in deep shades of cobalt accented by contrived 'heaping and piling' with a wide band of scrolling lotus, the large blooms borne in an alternating double register with the upper row each supporting one of the beribboned bajixiang (Eight Buddhist Emblems), each of the lotus blooms further superbly decorated in the central pod with a shou character, the neck encircled by a band of quatrefoil crenulated motifs divided by flower sprigs and further wrapped with a lotus scroll, the base skirted with petal panels, all between a band of tumultuous waves encircling the rim and foot, the base inscribed with a six-character seal mark.

ProvenanceSotheby's Hong Kong, 29th November 1977, lot 206.

ExhibitedChinese Porcelain in the S.C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1987, cat. no. 58.
Blue and White Porcelain from the Tianminlou Collection, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1992, cat. no. 83.
Tianminlou qinghua ci tezhan [Special exhibition of blue and white porcelain from the Tianminlou collection], Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, 1996.
Auspicious Emblems: Chinese Cultural Treasures – 45th Anniversary Exhibition of the Min Chiu Society, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 2005, cat. no. 212.

 

LiteratureLiu Liang-yu, A Survey of Chinese Ceramics, vol. 5: Ch'ing Official and Popular WaresTaipei, 1991, p. 156.
Blue and White Porcelain from the Collection of Tianminlou Foundation, Shanghai, 1996, no. 89.

 

Note: With its ample, majestic form, flanked by two animal-mask handles, this imposing vase embodies the Qianlong Emperor’s (r. 1736-95) taste. It combines the rich vocabulary of the Emperor’s interests with the technology available at the time.

In line with and perhaps surpassing his grandfather, the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662-1722) and his father, the Yongzheng Emperor (r. 1723-35), the Qianlong Emperor was a passionate patron of the arts. With his insatiable appetite for collecting, the imperial collections grew to become vast holdings. The Emperor’s passions were wide-ranged, from scholarly and literary to scientific and religious.

The porcelains manufactured at the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen during the Emperor’s reign, were directly connected with Tang Ying (1682-1756), Superintendent of Customs and Director of the imperial kilns, who began his career at the imperial factory under the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor. He ingeniously transformed the Emperor’s wishes into perfect end products. The present vase is typical of his work ‘in the style of the ancients’, illustrating the Qianlong Emperor’s great interest in archaic bronzes, but also his religious involvement with Tibetan Buddhism.

Archaic bronze shapes always appear to have inspired artworks in various materials and the present porcelain piece also falls in this categoryThe bronze vessel that may have been a model for this vase could have been a hu from the late Eastern Zhou period, 3rd century BC, such as the one illustrated in Jenny So, Eastern Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, New York, 1995, no. 51. Such bronze hu may also have been the source of inspiration for hu-shaped painted lacquer bottles of the Western Han period (206 BC-AD 9), illustrated in Hubei chutu Zhanguo Qin Han qiqi/Lacquerware from the Warring States to the Han periods excavated in Hubei province, The University of Hong Kong, 1944, nos 71A and 71B, and for similarly shaped painted pottery hu from around the same period, as illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 1994, vol. 1, no. 71, attributed to the Western Han dynasty, late 2nd or 1st century BC .

The Eight Buddhist Emblems is a decorative design introduced from Tibetan Buddhist art. On Chinese blue-and-white porcelain, we find the motif as early as the Yuan dynasty, on vases and jars, mostly as border decoration, compare for example, a jar illustrated in Krahl, op.cit., vol. 2, no. 640. With time, the Eight Buddhist Emblems developed into a principal motif, in combination with lotus, on mainly bowls and dishes. For an example of a bowl, from the Tianminlou collection, see Blue and White Porcelain from the Collection of Tianminlou Foundationop.cit., no. 46 and the Min Chiu Society exhibition catalogue The Radiant Ming 1368-1644 through the Min Chiu Society CollectionHong Kong Museum of History, Hong Kong, 2015-2016, cat. no. 122. In the Qing period, the Eight Buddhist Emblems on lotus re-appear on upright vessels. The present vase shows the familiar design, but includes an uncommon variant, a shou character in the lotus pod.

As a fervent believer and patron of Tibetan Buddhist art and literature, the design of Eight Buddhist Emblems with lotus on an archaic-inspired vessel, would have met the Emperor’s approval. The decoration with the motif of lotus enclosing a shou character in its pod may be compared to that of an important documentary blue-and-white altar vase with a dedicatory inscription of Tang Ying, dated to 1741, which was sold in these rooms, 8th April 2007, lot 508. Although without the Buddhist emblems, the scrolling shou lotus on the altar vase is rendered in a similar way.

An identical vase with a Qianlong reign mark, was included in the Hong Kong Museum of Art exhibition catalogue Anthology of Chinese Art: Min Chiu Society Silver Jubilee Exhibition, Hong Kong, 1985, cat. no. 185 and another was sold in these rooms, 29th October 1991, lot 152, and is illustrated in Sotheby’s Hong Kong Twenty Years 1973-1993, Hong Kong, 1993, pl. 179. An unmarked Qianlong period vase, featuring the shou character enclosed in a lotus pod, is illustrated in Ethereal Elegance. Porcelain Vases of the Imperial Qing. The Huaihaitang Collection, Art Museum, The Chinese University of Hong KongHong Kong, 2007, cat. no. 97.

A Yongzheng vase of very similar design, but not including a shou character in a lotus pod, with ruyi lappets encircling the shoulder and a classic scroll at the foot, is illustrated in Qing Imperial Porcelain of the Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong Reigns, Art Gallery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1995, cat. no. 44.

A fine and rare blue and white vase, yuhuchunping, seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795)

15

16

Lot 17. fine and rare blue and white vase, yuhuchunping, seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795); 28.9 cm, 11 3/8 inEstimate: HK$3,000,000 — 4,000,000/ US$ 382,350 - 509,800. Courtesy Sotheby's.

well potted with a pear-shaped body supported on a gently splayed foot, elegantly rising to a waisted neck and flared rim, the exterior painted in bright cobalt blue with long leafy stems of bamboo and plantain growing beside craggy rocks, amongst a fenced garden landscape with further flowering sprays above a lappet band, all below upright plantain leaves, a foliate scroll and pendent trefoils around the neck, the foot skirted with a band of demi florets, inscribed to the base with a six-character seal mark.

Provenance: Acquired in Hong Kong, 1986. 

ExhibitedChinese Porcelain in the S.C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1987, cat. no. 62.
Blue and White Porcelain from the Tianminlou Collection, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1992, cat. no. 87.
Tianminlou qinghua ci tezhan [Special exhibition of blue and white porcelain from the Tianminlou collection], Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, 1996.

LiteratureBlue and White Porcelain from the Collection of Tianminlou Foundation, Shanghai, 1996, no. 93.

Note: Expertly crafted with an elegant round body tapering to a flared neck, this vase epitomises the height of early Qing porcelain production at Jingdezhen, when craftsmen strived to design innovative wares as well as recreate historical masterpieces that acted as reminders of China’s glorious past. Such developments were realised by the hands of highly skilled and creative potters under the instruction of talented superintendents, such as Tang Ying (1682-1756) who was active at Jingdezhen in the Yongzheng and early Qianlong reigns. Equally crucial was the early Qing Emperors’ eagerness to revive the celebrated porcelain tradition as a means to legitimise their right to rule.

From the Yongzheng reign, treasured antiquities were sent to the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen to be copied and the Qianlong Emperor increased such commissions. Underglaze blue porcelains of the early Ming dynasty were particularly appreciated, as evidenced in Tang Ying’s record of official porcelain from 1732, which lists copies both of Yongle and Xuande blue and white wares. While the auspicious motif on this vase first appeared in the Hongwu reign, it is most likely that the Qing version was based on a Yongle prototype, such as a vase in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglaze Red (I), Hong Kong, 2000, pl. 33. The arrangement of flowers and rocks, the depiction of lappets and the scroll band at the neck, as well as the small lotus flowers at the foot are very similar.

Scenes of sophisticated gardens with fantastic rocks, bamboo, banana trees and other plants began to be painted on blue and white porcelain during the Yuan dynasty, where the motif proved most popular among a Middle Eastern audience who was attracted by the exotic nature of these plants. In the Ming dynasty, the design took a highly symbolic character and embodied the qualities and virtues of the scholar. Bamboo symbolises longevity, endurance and loyalty, as it remains green in winter and does not break in the wind. Rocks symbolise durability and steadfastness and are associated with reliability and friendship. Plantain leaves on the other hand, are one of the fourteen treasures of the scholar and represent education and self-cultivation. Banana leaves were used for practicing calligraphy by famous historical figures and poets, including Huaisu (c. 735-c.799). The Qianlong Emperor himself is portrayed writing on a banana leaf as Prince Hongli in the anonymous painting Prince Hongli Practicing Calligraphy on a Banana Leaf, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, included in the exhibition China: The Tree Emperors 1662-1795, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2005, cat. no. 187.

A closely related vase in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is illustrated in Porcelain of the National Palace Museum. Blue and White Wares of the Ch’ing Dynasty, vol. II, Hong Kong, 1968, pl. 12; one in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in Zhongguo taoci quanji [Complete series on Chinese ceramics], vol. 15, Shanghai, 2000, pl. 12; another was sold in our New York rooms, 20th March 1976, lot 174, and again at Christie’s New York, 17th September 2008, lot 459; and a fourth example was sold Christie’s Hong Kong, 30th May 2006, lot 1410, and again in these rooms, 8th October 2010, lot 2773.

A Ming-style blue and white pear-shaped vase, yuhuchunping. Qianlong seal mark in underglaze blue and of the period (1736-1795); 11 3/16 in. (28.4 cm.) high. Sold for $72,100 at Christie's New York, 17 September 2008, lot 459. © Christie's Imges Ltd 2008

Cf.my post: A Ming-style blue and white pear-shaped vase, yuhuchunping. Qianlong seal mark in underglaze blue and of the period (1736-1795)

A fine Blue and White 'Garden' yuhuchun vase, Seal Mark and Period of Qianlong (1736-1795)

35d252600c29a4224673d40d2e43e2f7

 A fine Blue and White 'Garden' yuhuchun vase, Seal Mark and Period of Qianlong (1736-1795); 29 cm., 11 1/2 in. Sold for 2,420,000 HKD at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8th October 2010, lot 2773. Courtesy Sotheby's.

well potted with a pear-shaped body, decorated in vivid cobalt-blue with a balustraded garden scene, planted with bamboo and plantain trees beside rocks, all set between pendent ruyi-heads and upright lappets, the waisted neck collared with scrolls and stylised plantain leaves rising to a trumpet mouth, the flared foot further decorated with lotus, the base inscribed with a six-character reign mark.

ProvenanceChristie's Hong Kong, 30th May 2006, lot 1410.

Note: The present landscape design originated in the early Ming dynasty and this combination of motifs was popular amongst the literati for its auspicious meaning. Bamboo symbolises longevity, endurance and loyalty as it remains green in winter and does not break in the wind, while the plantain tree represents education. Classical legends tell the tale of a scholar who wrote on plantain leaves as he was too poor to afford any paper. Rocks symbolise durability and steadfastness and are associated with reliability and friendship.

For the prototype of this type of vase, see one attributed to the Yongle reign, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (I), Hong Kong, 2000, pl. 33; and another attributed to the Xuande period, also in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in Ye Peilan, Appraising Ancient Chinese Ceramics, Taipei, 1994, pl. 83.

A closely related example in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is illustrated in Porcelain of the National Palace Museum. Blue and White Wares of the Ch'ing Dynasty, bk. II, Hong Kong, 1968, pl. 12; another in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is published in Zhongguo taci quanji, vol. 15, Shanghai, 2000, pl. 12; and a third example was sold in our New York rooms, 20th March 1976, lot 174, and again at Christie's New York, 17thSeptember 2008, lot 459.

Vases of this design were made from the Yongzheng reign through the Xuantong period; a closely related vase is illustrated together with examples from the Yongzheng, Daoguang, Xianfeng and Tongzhi reigns in the Shanghai Museum in Lu Minghua, Qingdai Yongzheng – Xuantong guanyao ciqi [Qing dynasty official wares from the Yongzheng to the Xuantong reigns], Shanghai, 2014, pls 3-107 and 3-32.

 

A fine and rare blue and white ewer, seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795)

23

24

25

Lot 18. A fine and rare blue and white ewer, seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795); 26.7 cm, 10 1/2 inEstimate: HK$3,000,000 — 5,000,000/ US$ 382,350 - 637,250. Courtesy Sotheby's.

superbly potted, the generous pear-shaped body rising from a splayed foot to a waisted neck flaring at the rim, set on one side with a curved spout joined to the neck by a cloud-shaped strut, opposite the arched strap handle adorned by grooves and surmounted by a small loop on top and accented with three knobs of clay at the base, imitating metalwork studs, finely painted in deep cobalt-blue tones with simulated 'heaping and piling', with a quatrefoil panel on either side, one enclosing a branch of peaches with two fruit among blossoms and foliage, the other with a branch of loquat with many stylised fruit, the panels flanked by flowers of the 'Four Seasons' with pomegranate, peony, chrysanthemum and camellia, all between the neck collared by lotus scroll and upright plantain leaves, and the foot skirted with a band of upright lappet petals, the spout decorated with a foliate scroll, with ruyi-clouds on the strut and sprays of lingzhi on the handle, inscribed on the base with a six-character seal mark.

ProvenanceSotheby's Hong Kong, 20th May 1986, lot 43.

ExhibitedChinese Porcelain in the S.C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1987, cat. no. 59.
Blue and White Porcelain from the Tianminlou Collection, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1992, cat. no. 84.
Tianminlou qinghua ci tezhan [Special exhibition of blue and white porcelain from the Tianminlou collection], Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, 1996.

LiteratureRosemary E. Scott, ‘Archaism and Invention: Sources of Ceramic Design in the Ming and Qing Dynasties’, George Kuwayama ed., New Perspectives on the Art of Ceramics in China, Los Angeles, 1992, p. 87, pl. 21.
Blue and White Porcelain from the Collection of Tianminlou Foundation
, Shanghai, 1996, no. 90.

Note: Striking for its elegant and well-proportioned form, flawless potting and carefully executed motif, this ewer represents one of the most successful porcelain designs of the Qianlong reign and belongs to an exclusive group of wares made to imitate early 15th century porcelains. The decoration is notable for its bold and vigorous rendering in brilliant hues of cobalt and reflects the high level of resources available to the potters working at the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen. The Qianlong Emperor’s reverence for Ming dynasty porcelain is well recorded and he is known to have commissioned close reproductions of such pieces.

Ewers of this elegant form were first made in the Hongwu and Yongle reigns, and are known with a variety of motifs, including flower scrolls, garden scenes and fruit. Their form and the use of quatrefoil panels as decorative devices date back to the Yuan dynasty. However, the motif of peaches and loquats and the surrounding ‘Flowers of the Four Seasons’, which include rose, peony, chrysanthemum and camellia, would have resonated with significance among the Ming aristocracy and literati elite. One of China’s most auspicious fruit, the peach is an omen of longevity and harbinger of happiness, while the loquat embodies the spirit of the four seasons: it buds in autumn, blossoms in winter, sets fruit in spring and ripens in summer.

Copies of Ming prototypes were first created in the Yongzheng reign, but became more popular during the Qianlong period, when the original design was successfully transformed to suit contemporary taste. The effectiveness of the Qing version lies in its reinterpretation of the original design as displayed in the more linear rendering of the flowers and leaves and the composition of the design to complement the elegant form. Furthermore, while attempting to imitate the sought-after ‘heaping and piling effect’ of 15th century examples with the deliberate application of darker spots of cobalt, craftsmen skilfully reproduced the ripening skin of the fruits and turning of leaves.

Vases of this form are held in important museums and private collections worldwide; a closely related ewer from the Qing Court collection and still in Beijing, is illustrated in Geng Baochang, Gugong Bowuguan cang Ming chu qinghua ci [Early Ming blue-and-white porcelain in the Palace Museum], Beijing, 2002, vol. 2, pl. 210; one in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is published in Porcelain of the National Palace Museum. Blue-and-White Ware of the Ch’ing Dynasty, Hong Kong, 1968, vol. II, pl. 14; another in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, is illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, London, 1986, vol. III, pl. 2565; and a slightly larger example in the Nanjing Museum is illustrated in The Official Kiln Porcelain of the Chinese Qing Dynasty, Shanghai, 2003, pl. 214. See also a closely related ewer from the Meiyintang collection, sold twice in these rooms, 26th October 1993, lot 179, and 4th April 2012, lot 28; and another with its matching cover from the Malcolm collection, included in the Oriental Ceramic Society exhibition Chinese Blue and White Porcelain, London, 1953, cat. no. 311, and sold in our London rooms, 5th July 1977, lot 247.

 A fine Ming-style blue and white ewer, Seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795)

From the Meiyintang Collection. A fine Ming-style blue and white ewer, Seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795); 27 cm., 10 5/8 in. Sold for 5,060,000 HKD at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 4th April 2012, lot 28. Courtesy Sotheby's.

Cf. my post: A fine Ming-style blue and white ewer, Seal mark and period of Qianlong (1736-1795)

Ewers of this form and design continued to be produced in the succeeding reigns; a Jiaqing mark and period version in the Palace Museum, Beijing is illustrated in Geng Baochang, Gugong Bowuguan cang gu taoci ciliao xuancui [Selection of ancient ceramic material from the Palace Museum], Beijing, 2005, vol. II, pl. 249; and a pair of ewers with Daoguang marks and of the period, from the Ohlmer collection in the Roemer-Museum, Hildeshein, are published in Ulrich Wiesner, Chinesisches Porzellan, Mainz am Rhein, 1981, pls 71 and 72.

For the Yongle prototype of this form and design see a ewer recovered from the Yongle stratum of the Imperial kiln site at Zhushan, Jingdezhen, included in the exhibition Imperial Hongwu and Yongle Porcelain excavated at Jingdezhen, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1996, cat. no. 59; and one with a cover, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, included in the Museum’s exhibition Imperial Porcelains from the Reigns of Hongwu and Yongle in the Ming Dynasty, Beijing, 2015, cat. no. 94.

Sotheby's. Selected Imperial Ceramics from the Tianminlou Collection, Hong Kong, 03 Apr 2019, 10:00 AM