NoteAt the very end of the Kangxi reign, about 1720, the imperial ateliers working on glass and enamels succeeded in creating a new enamel that was to revolutionise the palette of colours used on fine Chinese porcelains, and was to give its name to the European term for that palette. The colour was rose pink, and in their 1862 publication Histoire artistique, industrielle et commercielle de la porcelain, A. Jacquemart and E. Le Blant coined the phrase famille rose to describe the porcelain palette in which rose pink was used. The variation in the broad spectrum of pink enamels were later developed during the Yongzheng and early Qianlong period.

The present Qianlong vases are unique in their shape and decorative theme. They are unusual in that the ruby-red ground remain undecorated and in keeping with those from the Yongzheng period rather than typical Qianlong famille rose ceramics rendered with the sgraffiato technique where the enamel is further incised, detailing a feathery scroll pattern such as the Qianlong-marked ruby-enamelled dish sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 1 December 2010, lot 3005. Two comparable Qianlong-marked vases without the incised decoration on the ruby-red ground are illustrated in Porcelains with Cloisonne Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 1999, pp. 144-145, nos. 126-127 (see fig. 1).

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A Qianlong-marked vase without the incised decoration on the ruby-red ground, illustrated in Porcelains with Cloisonne Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 1999, pp. 144-145, nos. 126-127.

Compare the decorative theme with a related Qianlong-marked sgraffiato ground large vase (73.7 cm. high) from the Benjamin Altman bequest, and now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, illustrated by S.G. Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, New York, 1989 ed., p. 269, pl. 278. The decoration on the Metropolitan vase also has four roundels as its main decorative design; each roundel is centred with a floral bloom and surrounded by a pair of bats in flight above a pair of stylised phoenixes. It is interesting to note the similarities of the phoenix on the Metropolitan vase and the winged dragons on the present vases. Their sinuous bodies with bi-furcated tails, with the exception of their heads, result in the dragon and phoenix being almost indistinguishable. Compare with a Qianlong-marked vase from the Qing Court Collection where the bird's head is an unmistakable phoenix, illustrated by S.G. Valenstein, op. cit., p. 152, no. 134 (see. fig. 2).

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A Qianlong-marked vase from the Qing Court Collection where the bird's head is an unmistakable phoenix, illustrated by S.G. Valenstein, op. cit., p. 152, no. 134.

Christie's. In Pursuit of Refinement - A Legacy of the YC Chen CollectionHong Kong, 29 May 2013