The 'hundred deer' subject-matter was very popular in Chinese art from the middle of the 18th century onwards. The subject of deer has a long history in Chinese art as it refers to the rebus where the Chinese word for 'deer' is a homophone for 'emolument' or 'civil service salary'; the 'hundred deer' therefore represent the ultimate success, a career in government service in Imperial China. The picturesque scenes of deer in rocky, tree-strewn landscapes were probably intended to represent deer in the imperial gardens and hunting parks of the emperor Qianlong (1736-1795). Indeed, one of the reasons for the popularity of deer in Chinese art is associated with a favourite imperial pastime - the creation of gardens and hunting parks, which were frequently stocked with deer.
A Qianlong mark and period 'hundred deer' hu was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 29 May 2013, lot 2124; a vase similar to the present lot was sold in our New York rooms, 21 & 22 March 2013, lot 1566 ($28,000); and a pair, also similar, was sold in these rooms, 14 May 2013, lot 274 (£60,000).