Lot 3311. A Large Turquoise-Ground Famille-Rose ‘Children At Play’ Dish, Jiaqing Mark and Period (1796-1820). H 37.5cm. Estimate HKD 1,500,000 - 2,000,000 (USD 192,308 - 256,410). Sold Price: HKD 1,200,000 (USD 153,846). Copyright 2021 © Poly Auction Hong Kong Limited
A shallow dish with a splayed foot that rises to a flat everted rim. The dish is decorated to the interior where a bustling scene of children playing among dragon boats is seen amid emerging mountain peaks. On the two ends of each dragon boat are a child leading and another cheering. Gathered at the middle are figures of children who strive to win the race. Figures on the sides away from the water are cheering children. The dish rises slightly to the rim which is decorated with floral motifs on a bright green ground. On the exterior are a similar decorative design with four sets of flowers and bats motifs painted against a bright green ground. The base is inscribed with a six-character Jiaqing reign mark in iron-red glaze..
Provenance: 1. A French private collection, Nice, South of France, 1995
2. Duchange family collection, Paris, France.
Note: The predominant design imitates paintings framed by tapestries which was a novel development that originated from the Qianlong reign. Scenes of children at play were a popular theme in Ming and Qing porcelains because they embody the wishes for prosperity and abundance. The affluent families in the Ming society saw literary accomplishments as a pivotal part of an individual’s identity. As a result, decorative scenes with children imitating and engaging with adults’ literary activities became a prevalent design scheme across a variety of arts and crafts.
The current lot recreates a scene from the Dragon Boat Festival, which was on the fifth day of the fifth month of each year. The Dragon Boat Festival came from a tale of a patriotic poet namd Qu Yuan (?-278B.C.) from the State of Chu, who threw himself into the river when the State of Qin defeated the State of Chu. It was exactly the fifth day of the fifth month when he died and people allegedly searched for his corpse sailing on boats. The Garden of Perfect Brightness (Yuanmingyuan) holds an annual dragon boat race each year as an entertainment for its visitors. Each boat carries around forty to eighty men, and the atmosphere is vividly represented on the center of this porcelain dish.
Scenes of children at a dragon boat race were not particular to imperial wares from the Jiaqing reign. In fact, vases from the Qianlong period also bear the same motif. Compare a lantern vase with ‘bajixiang’ emblems, illustrated in Qing Imperial Porcelain of the Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong Reigns, Nanjing, 1995, no. 87. See also an example from the National Palace Museum in Taipei, exhibited in Lord Jiaqing and the Journey to Taiwan: A Special Exhibition on Cultural Artifacts of the Qing Emperor Renzong, 2016, no. III-33, see also a red-ground example from the Huaihaitang collection, exhibited in Ethereal Elegance: Porcelain Vases of the Imperial Qing The Huaihaitang Collection, The Chinese University of Hong Kong Art Museum, Hong Kong, 2007, no. 138, see also a Daoguang example from the same exhibition inscribed with a four-character “Shendetang zhi [made by Shendetang]” mark, no. 140. Another vase from the Daoguang period depicting the same scene is in the Shenyang Imperial Palace collection.
Compare several vases that depict scenes of children at play, one with a light green ground, sold in Christie’s South Kensington, 17 May 2013, lot 1504, another with a turquoise-green ground sold in Bonham’s Hong Kong, 27 November 2014, lot 184, and another fencai turquoise-ground vase sold in Sotheby’s New York, 13 September 2017, lot 32.
Poly Auctions. Imperial Treasures: A Selection of Qing Imperial Porcelains, Hong Kong, 21 April 2021