• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 12249

    Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art

    8 November 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 35




    The vase is exquisitely decorated on a turquoise ground with iron-red bats suspending ribbon-tied auspicious emblems as they swoop amidst multi-coloured lingzhi-shaped clouds, all gilt outlined against the turquoise ground between a ruyi border at the flared rim and a border of petal lappets above the foot, which is encircled by a band of ruyi heads suspended from iron-red wan emblems. The neck is flanked by a pair of handles formed by ascending chilong with scrolling bifurcated tails finely shaded in iron-red with gilt detail.
    26 7/8 in. (68.3 cm.) high

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    This extraordinary vase has all the characteristics of Qianlong period wares, evident not only from its impressive size, but also the sumptuousness of its decoration. This is most apparent in the dazzling combination of enamelled colours used. Despite the density of decoration, each motif stands out quite distinctly because of the contrast in colours, in particular the iron-red of the bats against the rich turquoise ground. This vase also illustrates the popular convention of the Qianlong period in the use of strong enamels as background colours, and in this case, the turquoise enamel serves to enhance the overall decoration.

    Ceramicists from the official workshops were encouraged to experiment, and the technique of porcelain imitating other material found favour with the emperor who was fascinated with the curious and archaic. The designs outlined in gilt against turquoise on the present vase produces the effect of porcelain imitating cloisonné enamel. In cloisonné enamel, raised lines are applied to create 'cloisons' on the body of a metal vessel which are then filled in with coloured glass paste and fired. On the present vase, the gilt outlines enclose enamelled colours in emulation of the cloisonné effect.

    The layout of the vase has been carefully planned, so that the bats and clouds are evenly spaced around the vase. Each bat is distinctively individual, delicately detailed in shades of iron-red and painted in different poses, with some swooping upwards, diving down, shown in profile, flying towards the viewer, and even away from the viewer, so that only the back of the bat is seen. As with the idea of porcelain imitating other material, the Qianlong emperor was also very fond of all things auspicious. The bat is a common motif in Chinese ceramics of the Qing dynasty, as its pronunciation, fu, is a homophone for 'good fortune'. The theme is further highlighted by the emblems that the bats carry, which include peaches, lingzhi, pomegranate, cash symbols, finger citrus, musical stones, wan symbols and other lucky emblems.
    The dragon handles are also superbly rendered with great attention to details, such as the ribbed effect of their thin muscular bodies and the gilt-painted scales on their backs and curling tails. These handles also appear on other Qianlong-marked vases, but none as well executed as on the present lot.
    Although no other vase of identical design appears to have been published, a number of very similar features are seen on vases of similarly outstanding quality produced during the height of the Qianlong period. A doucai vase with very similar handles in the Beijing Palace Museum Collection is illustrated in Kangxi. Yongzheng. Qianlong, Hong Kong 1989, p. 389, no. 70. Similar handles can also be seen on another turquoise-ground vase, which is also decorated with a very similar design of iron-red bats carrying auspicious emblems, sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 16 November 1988, lot 376. Compare, also, a turquoise-ground bottle vase, smaller in size, decorated with the same colourful clouds but moulded with an iron-red dragon wrapped around the body, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, The Imperial Sale, 28 April 1996, lot 55. A large baluster vase similarly decorated with chilong dragons with bifurcated tails amidst closely comparable cloud-scrolls on a turquoise-ground, was sold at Christie's London, 16 December 1996, lot 12. Closely related polychrome clouds can be found on a turquoise-ground baluster vase without handles, decorated with multicoloured dragons sold at Christie's London, 16 December 1996, lot 12. A turquoise-ground vase of comparable size decorated with bats in flight amidst clouds picked out in blue was sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8 October 2013, lot 201.
    In addition to the handles, bat design and clouds, most of the vases in this group share similarities in the ruyi border beneath the rim, the thick turquoise enamel ground, and the gilt Qianlong seal mark that seems to be characteristic of vases produced in imitation of cloisonné.

    Special Notice

    These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. This VAT is not shown separately on the invoice. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.


    Sotheby's London, 27 November 1973, lot 327.
    Christie's London, 8 June 1987, lot 291.
    Christie's Hong Kong, 30 May 2005, lot 1500.

    Pre-Lot Text



    Christie's Twenty Years in Hong Kong, 2006, pp. 222-23.