A MAGNIFICENT AND RARE FAMILLE ROSE FAHUA-STYLE JAR AND COVER
A MAGNIFICENT AND RARE FAMILLE ROSE FAHUA-STYLE JAR AND COVER
A MAGNIFICENT AND RARE FAMILLE ROSE FAHUA-STYLE JAR AND COVER
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A MAGNIFICENT AND RARE FAMILLE ROSE FAHUA-STYLE JAR AND COVER
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THE WANG XING LOU COLLECTION OF IMPERIAL QING DYNASTY PORCELAIN
A MAGNIFICENT AND RARE FAMILLE ROSE FAHUA-STYLE JAR AND COVER

QIANLONG INCISED SIX-CHARACTER SEAL MARK AND OF THE PERIOD (1736-1795)

Details
A MAGNIFICENT AND RARE FAMILLE ROSE FAHUA-STYLE JAR AND COVER
QIANLONG INCISED SIX-CHARACTER SEAL MARK AND OF THE PERIOD (1736-1795)
The baluster jar is finely decorated with a scene depicting white egrets in a lotus pond, all above a band of crashing waves to the foot. The neck is decorated with large scrolling clouds above a band of ruyi-heads and an elaborate band of tassels suspending from the shoulder. All outlines are finely gilded and raised against a rich sapphire-blue ground. The domed cover is similarly decorated with an egret and lotus pond scene enclosing the bud-shaped finial.
18 in. (45.7 cm) high
Provenance
Collection of the J.T. Tai Foundation
Sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 21 May 1985, lot 26
Collection of Mary Porter Walsh
Sold at Sotheby's New York, 28-29 November 1994, lot 375
Literature
Geng Baochang: Ming Qing Ciqi Jianding, Hong Kong, 1993, p. 514, no. 115.
Robert Jacobsen, Ye Peilan and Julian Thompson: Imperial Perfection.The Palace Porcelain of Three Chinese Emperors, Kangxi - Yongzheng - Qianlong, Hong Kong, 2004, p. 118-121, no. 42
Exhibited
On loan to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1997 - 2020

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Marco Almeida (安偉達)
Marco Almeida (安偉達) SVP, Senior International Specialist, Head of Department

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Lot Essay

A Sumptuous Qianlong Jar and Cover decorated in Fahua-style
Rosemary Scott
Independent Scholar
Visiting Ceramics Research Fellow, Palace Museum, Beijing

This sumptuously-decorated lidded jar reflects the Qianlong Emperor’s admiration for two different decorative traditions – Ming dynasty fahua porcelains and cloisonné enamels on metal. Indeed, it would be fair to say that the current jar and cover combine the best of both these decorative techniques. On the one hand, the gilding of raised outlines, following the cloisonné custom, gives the jar a richness of surface and adds to its jewel-like quality. While, on the other hand, the trailed slip outlines and incised details, which are part of the fahua decorative technique, enabled the potter to achieve a far greater fluency of design than was possible in metal.

The decorative technique known as fahua, which employs raised lines to provide outlines and colour divisions on ceramics decorated with enamel colours, seems initially to have been developed in the Yuan or early Ming dynasty by kilns in Shanxi province associated with the tile-making industry. This technique was most frequently combined with either a cobalt blue or a copper turquoise ground, but, to date, the earliest porcelain example recovered from the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen is a dish from the Xuande (1426-35) stratum decorated with green five-clawed dragons on a yellow ground (see Chang Foundation, Xuande Imperial Porcelain Excavated at Jingdezhen, Taipei, 1998, p. 78, no. 73). Similar pieces have also been found in the mid-Chenghua (1465-87) stratum at the imperial kilns (see Tsui Museum of Art, A Legacy of Chenghua, Hong Kong, 1993, p. 148-9, no. B30). However, the acme of Ming dynasty fahua porcelain at Jingdezhen came in the late-15th – early-16th century, and is represented by handsome jars and vases, usually with cobalt blue or copper turquoise grounds and frequently adorned with bird and/or flower motifs. One of the most famous examples is the jar from the Ataka Collection, now in the Museum of Oriental Ceramics Osaka, illustrated by R. Fujioka and G. Hasebe in Sekai toji Zenshu 14 Ming, Shogakukan, Tokyo, 1976, p. 134, no. 135.

A corresponding decorative technique appeared in Chinese metalwork during the Yuan dynasty and gained popularity during the early Ming (see The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Metal-bodied Enamel Ware, Commercial Press, Hong Kong, 1999, pp 6-7, no 5 and p. 19, no. 17). This technique, known as cloisonné enamel, involved the application of fine wire to the surface of the metal vessel (usually bronze) to form discrete areas, or cloisons, and provide the outlines for the decorative elements. The areas within and surrounding these elements were filled with enamels of different colours, which were fired and then the surface polished smooth, after which the exposed top of the wires was gilded. The ground colour for these metal-bodied cloisonné enamels was most frequently turquoise, but sometimes cobalt blue, white or occasionally yellow grounds were employed.

Given the popularity of the lotus as an auspicious theme in both the painting and the decorative arts of China, it is not surprising that it provides one of the most popular, as well as the most visually successful, designs on the highest quality fahua porcelains of the middle Ming dynasty. Perhaps the closest in overall design to the current Qianlong vessel, is the c. 1500 jar in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow (illustrated by R. Scott in The Burrell Collection, Glasgow, 1983, p. 55, pl. 21). The Burrell jar shares with the current Qianlong jar features such as clouds around the neck, jewelled pendants on the shoulder, lotus and herons as the main decorative band around the body and waves above the foot. These features, with the exception of the clouds on the neck, can also be seen on two Ming dynasty vases in the collection of the British Museum (see J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics, British Museum Press, 2001, p. 411, nos. 13:4 and 13:5) - one of temple vase form with dragon-head handles, and the other a meiping. On a Ming dynasty fahua jar in the Matsuoka Museum of Art, Tokyo (see Fujioka and Hasebe in Sekai toji Zenshu 14 Ming, op. cit., p. 135, no. 136) the clouds around the neck, main band of lotus pond and egrets, as well as the wave band are present, but the shoulder decoration is a band of lotus panels, rather than pendant jewels.

The lotus pond was also a popular motif on Ming dynasty metal-bodied cloisonné wares. It can be seen on vessels such as a 16th century cloisonné meiping in the collection of the National Palace Museum (see National Palace Museum, Enamel Ware in the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties, Taipei, 1999, p. 78, no. 10) and on a 16th century ewer in the Uldry Collection (see H. Brinker and A. Lutz, Chinese Cloisonne - the Pierre Uldry Collection, Asia Society Galleries, New York, 1989, no. 97).

Such was the Qianlong Emperor’s admiration for the Ming dynasty porcelain fahua wares and the metal-bodied cloisonné wares, that he ordered similar items in both media to be made for his court. A Qianlong cloisonné metal-bodied guan jar with a lotus pond design is in the National Palace Museum (see National Palace Museum, Enamel Ware in the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties, Taipei, 1999, p. 158, no. 71). On this jar egrets appear on one side, while ducks appear on the other. Of the Qianlong porcelain vessels made in imitation of Ming fahua, the closest in appearance is a lidded jar in the collection of the National Palace Museum (see National Palace Museum, Qing Kang Yong Qian mingci tezhan, Taipei, 1986, p. 111, no. 81). On this vessel the enamel palette has been restricted to a cobalt blue ground and the translucent green, yellow and white of Ming examples. However, there is a small number of extant Qianlong jars which were decorated using the fahua technique combined with the famille rose palette. A jar, which is somewhat smaller than the current example and has no lid, is in the Palace Museum, Beijing (fig. 1,) (see The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 39 - Porcelain with Cloisonne Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, Hong Kong, 1999, p. 167, no. 148), and another, also without a lid, formerly in the R.C. Bruce Collection is illustrated by Soame Jenyns in Later Chinese Porcelain, London, 1951, pl. CII). Both of these are decorated in a more formal style and lack herons. A lidded jar, formerly in the J.T. Tai Foundation, possibly the pair to the present jar, is in a private collection in North America. A similar but smaller jar, without lid, is in the Baur Collection (see J. Ayers, The Baur Collection Geneva - Chinese Ceramics, vol. 4, Geneve, 1974, no. A 634). A pair of smaller lidded jars with lotus pond and heron decoration in famille rose fahua, was sold by Christie’s Hong Kong on 30 November, 2016, lot 3220 (fig. 2).

The current jar and cover are of unusually large size and of exceptional quality, and may well have been a special imperial order. The high regard in which such vessels were held by the Qianlong Emperor is evidenced by a court painting, c. AD 1771-2, in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, by Yao Wenhan (active 1740s-70s), Zhou Ben (active 1760s-70s) and Yi Lantai (active 1748-86), depicting the emperor and his mother celebrating Empress Dowager Chongqing’s Eightieth Birthday. Among the precious items displayed on the table beneath the dais on which they are seated, is a pair of lidded jars of this type (fig. 3).

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