Lot 2909. A pair of famille rose Tibetan-style altar vases, benbaping, Qianlong six-character seal marks in underglaze blue and of the period (1736-1795); 5 7⁄8 in. (15 cm) diam. Price realised HKD 6,250,000 (Estimate HKD 2,500,000 - HKD 3,500,000). © Christie's 2021
Each globular body is finely decorated with chilong and lotus heads amongst leafy tendrils framed by a band of stylised lappets above the foot and a ruyi-head band to the shoulder. The moulded neck is decorated with slim petals imitating a Tibetan banner, surmounted by a drum-shaped top decorated with further scrolling lotus.
Provenance: Sold at Sotheby’s New York, 23-24 March 1998, lot 637.
Note: The form of these altar vases are known as benbaping and was made to contain Sacred Plants for rituals associated with Lamaist Buddhism. The form is probably based on a jewel-encrusted silver original known as a Bumpa, the Tibetan word for ‘vase’. Vessels of this type were made for use in Buddhist temples situated within the Palace grounds that were constructed throughout the Qianlong period. For an illustration of a silver Bumpa, see Cultural Relics of Tibetan Buddhism Collected in the Qing Palace, Beijing, 1996, pl. 146, where the author mentions Bumpa vessels were originally used in Tibet for displaying sprays of herbs and placed in front of images of Buddha. The colourful banding seen on the neck of the current vases resembled the multi-coloured silk banners, often suspended in cylindrical form, in Buddhist temples. Examples can be seen in the Hall of Long Life of the Potala illustrated in The Potala, Encyclopedia of China Publishing House, Beijing, 1995, p. 52, no. 11.