Lot 130. A large and rare Imperial famille rose lime-ground 'hundred boys' vase, Zun, Jiaqing Iron-red seal mark and of the period(1796-1820); 51cm (20in) high. Estimate £40,000 - 60,000. Sold for £ 50,062 (€ 57,152). © Bonhams 2001-2019
The vase of baluster form supported on a slightly-flared foot and rising to a waisted neck, brightly enamelled around the body with a continuous scene of 'The Hundred Boys' playing in an elegant garden, some flying kites, playing the dragon dance and musical instruments, others riding hobby horses and holding lanterns and fire crackers, all on a lime ground decorated with a profusion of interlocking tendrils issuing blossoming lotus interspersed with the Eight Auspicious Emblems and bats, the foot encircled by a pink key-fret band, the interior and base turquoise, the base with a six-character iron-red seal mark within a white cartouche.
Provenance: an English private collection, purchased from Richard Batsford Antiques, Warwick, on 15 February 1975.
Note: Vibrantly decorated with a continuous scene of boys at play in a garden, the present vase is a fine example of the continued skill and abilities of ceramic decorators in the late 18th and early 19th century. This is displayed in the intricate depictions of the many figures, each boy in his various pursuit and carefully detailed with different clothing and affects.
The theme of boys at play underscores powerful auspicious symbolism related to the the several blessings relating to the New Year celebrations, such as the wish for many sons, universal peace, success in career and long life. The theme was widely employed on the decorative arts of the Ming and Qing dynasties and the design depicted on the present example was probably inspired by Qianlong-period enamelled wares decorated with boys at play, as illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Porcelains with Cloisonne Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, Hong Kong, 1999, pls.121, 128, and 132.
On the present vase each of the boys holds an object potent with auspicious symbolism including the banner marked with the phrases 'Zhuangyuan' which refers to the title given to the highest scores in the imperial jinshi examination; other children hold kites shaped as fish, symbolising abundance, bats symbolising happiness and elephants underscoring the wish for peace and good fortune.
Compare with a similar famille rose vase decorated with boys at play, Jiaqing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Porcelains with Cloisonne Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, Hong Kong, 1999, pl.168.
A related but smaller famille rose vase, Jiaqing seal mark and of the period, was sold at Bonhams Hong Kong, 27 November 2014, lot 187