This handsome vase reflects the Yongzheng Emperor’s fascination with antiques. The crackled glaze has been designed to reproduce on Qing imperial porcelain the appearance of the glaze on the Guan wares made for the Southern Song (AD 1127-1279) court. The shape of the vase also reflects that of bronze and gilt-bronze vessels of the Zhou (1046–256 BC) and Han (206 BC-AD 220) dynasties. The Yongzheng Emperor’s admiration for crackle-glazed ceramics and for antique bronzes is demonstrated in an anonymous court painting entitled Yinzhen’s Amusements: Reading by a Burner (illustrated in Harmony and Integrity: The Yongzheng Emperor and His Times, Taipei, 2010, pp. 118-9, no. 1-58), where items of this type are seen in the display case to Yongzheng’s right as he reads with his feet on a brazier.
The Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen benefitted from the guidance of extremely able men in the first half of the 18th century. Perhaps the most able of all the supervisors at the Imperial kilns was Tang Ying (1682-1756), who was a ceramicist of extraordinary skill and innovation. Among the types of porcelain for which he was famous were those which imitated glazes from antiquity, especially those of the Song dynasty, and glazes which imitated Song Guan ware were perfected during his term as supervisor.
A slightly larger vase of similar shape to the current vase, and also covered in a Guan-type glaze, is in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, and illustrated in Catalogue of A Special Exhibition of Ch’ing Dynasty Monochrome Porcelains in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1981, p. 135, no. 81. The only difference between the present vase and the Taipei vase is that the Taipei vase has a band of molded decoration just below the line of the handles.