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A rare and brilliantly enamelled famille-rose 'quail'...
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About the item

The well-potted ovoid body rising from a short splayed foot to a tall waisted neck and flaring rim, the neck flanked by a pair of iron-red ruyi handles with gilt highlights, the exterior of the ovoid body finely enamelled against the white ground with a continuous scene depicting a pair of quail resting on a rocky band detailed with sprays of floral blooms, including chrysanthemum, peony and cockscomb, the reverse with roses borne on leafy stems issuing from rockwork, all between turquoise-ground bands with ruyi blooms and interlaced lotus sprays encircling the shoulder and lower body, the neck similarly decorated with lotus scrolls against a turquoise ground, further painted on each side with a bat suspending a chime between ruyi and pink floral bands bordering the rim and lower neck, the turquoise-enamelled base centred with a white cartouche inscribed in iron-red enamel with a six-character seal mark within a square\nExceptionally rare for its design of quail in a garden setting, this vase is notable for its elaborate design that celebrates both antiquity and innovation. A sense of naturalism is successfully achieved through the carefully observed details, from the rendering of the quails feathers to the differing textures of the rocks and the numerous blossoming flowers occupying the garden. The overall design was executed to complement the idiosyncratic shape of the vessel and conceived to be viewed like a painting on an unopened handscroll. Bird and flower paintings can be traced back at least to the Five Dynasties period (906-960) and became one of the most recognised painting genres in China in the Song dynasty (969-1279). Created by academy painters working for the court, it was a favourite subject of the great imperial connoisseur, collector and amateur painter, Zhao Ji, the Huizong Emperor (r. 1101-25). One of the important early examples of these vibrant nature scenes, attributed to the Southern Song painter Li Anzhong (c. 1117-1140), Quail, already displays the serene spirit characteristic of this genre.\nThis genre was brought back to life during the Yongzheng reign under the directorship of the brilliant Superintendent of the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen, Tang Ying (1682-1786). Tang Yings intimate knowledge of the palace collection enabled him to appreciate ancient masterpieces and commission new products of the same rank. He continued to work closely with the Qianlong Emperor and inspired craftsmen to create increasingly lavish wares suited to the Emperors taste. For example, see a yangcai twin vase, painted with two medallions enclosing magpies sitting on branches and quail and millet, against sgraffiato embellished ruby and blue grounds, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Museums exhibition Stunning Decorative Porcelains from the Chien-lung Reign, 2008, cat. no. 21, where it is noted that vases of this description are recorded from the sixth year of Qianlong (corresponding to 1741) in the Qinggong Neiwufu Zaobanchu huoji dangan zonghui [Documents in the Archives of the Workshop of the Qing Palace Imperial Household Department]; a bowl in the Baur collection, published in John Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, vol. 2, Geneva, 1999, pl. 228; and another from the Bois family, Captain Vivian Bulkeley-Johnson, Mount Trust and Meiyintang collections, published in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. 2, London, 1994, pl. 958, where the author notes that the combination of plants and and rock is intended as a rebus of birthday wishes, and the pair of quails (shuang an) are a homophone for double peace (p. 271). When combined with the chrysanthemums, they form the wish shuang an ju, May you live in double peace. The motif is also found on Qianlong mark and period painted enamel wares; a dish was sold at Christies Hong Kong, 28th May 2014, lot 3331; and a snuff bottle was sold at Christies London, 18th June 2002, lot 98.\nThis vase is further filled with auspicious motifs which is clearly a response to the Qianlong Emperors infatuation with portents of good fortune. The vase is flanked by a pair of ruyi-form handles, which adds an added dimension of novelty and opulence to the piece. The appearance of ruyi sceptres as handles on vases also catered to the Qianlong Emperors predilection for the eccentric. Furthermore, the lotus flowers and red bats suspending musical chimes on the green-ground borders form the wish for longevity, fortune and happiness as high as the sky.\nAlthough individual elements of the form and composition are well-known from this reign, close counterparts are difficult to find as the Qianlong potters were masters at combining their many stylistic elements in myriad ways to create ever new designs. The green-ground neck and foot with formal flower scrolls simulate the characteristics of yangcai porcelains, which were probably inspired by brocade designs. The familiar design of lotus scrolls has been injected with a hint of novelty through the green ground, a colour that was developed in the Qianlong period and embodied contemporaneity. This style represents a somewhat later stage of porcelain decoration of the Qianlong reign and remained popular in the succeeding Jiaqing and Daoguang reigns. Compare a Qianlong mark and period vase of ovoid form similarly painted with a continuous flower scene between green-ground borders adorned with formal lotus scrolls, but flanked with archaistic dragon handles, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong. Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 355, pl. 36.
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condition

The vase is in excellent condition. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

dimensions

34 cm, 13 3/8  in.

provenance

Sotheby’s New York, 13th June 1984, lot 226. Sotheby's Hong Kong, 20th May 1986, lot 130.


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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