At first sight, this magnificent begonia-flower shaped waterpot appears to be a fine example of enamel on metal - a combination of champleve and cloisonne techniques. However, the washer is made of porcelain and is one of a very select group of porcelain wares produced for the Qianlong Emperor in imitation of another material. Other such pieces are included in this sale in imitation of cloisonne (lot 1243), bronze (lot 1238) and brocade cloth (lot 1236).
This waterpot appears to be unique with only one other comparable porcelain example of this floral pattern is recorded, cf. a box and cover sold in these Rooms, 30 October 2001, lot 640 (fig. 1). The box and cover is decorated in the same high standard using the same palette and technique. The unusually thick enamels on both examples have been applied in layers, giving this waterpot the further appearance of the finest quality Beijing enamelled metalwork.
The jewel-like appearance of the sapphire-blue enamel on the waterpot is due in part to the use of the finest materials and careful preparation. However, the depth and richness of colour has also been achieved by the thickness with which the enamel have been applied, that would have been very difficult to do successfully. Indeed the rarity of this piece may testify the highest quality of Imperial wares that were selected for the Court.