When the Kangxi Emperor came to the throne he immediately began to show an interest in the production of imperial porcelain. Even before he dispatched a commission to report on the state of the imperial kilns and subsequently to rebuild them, the kilns working for the court were encouraged to experiment, improve and to rediscover lost skills. One of the lost skills rediscovered, even as early as the 1670s, was painting on porcelain in underglaze copper-red.
Not content with rediscovering the technique of painting and firing underglaze-red, potters during the Kangxi reign experimented with new styles. One of the most successful of these new styles was that of painting formal designs using very fine outlines. Firing underglaze copper-red is very difficult, requiring the precise control of heat, kiln atmosphere and air circulation in the kiln, as well as the careful preparation of the copper pigment itself.
Other waterpots of this exact shape and painting style from important collections are published: one from the C. P. Lin Collection included in the exhibition, Elegant Form and Harmonious Decoration, Percival David Foundation, London, 1992, illustrated by R. Scott, no. 113; another is illustrated by R. Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol. II, London, 1994, p. 108, no. 733; one in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in Kangxi Yongzheng Qianlong, Beijing, 1989, p. 39, pl. 22; and one in the Shanghai Museum, illustrated in Underglaze Blue and Red, Shanghai, 1987, pl. 118. Compare, also, the waterpot from the Edward T. Chow Collection, sold Sotheby's Hong Kong, 19 May 1981, lot 540; another sold in our Hong Kong rooms, Important Qing Porcelain from the Yuen Family Collection, 30 April 2000, lot 591; and lastly, the example also sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 28 April 2003, lot 572.