Recent research has identified large numbers of subjects on 17th Century porcelain as derived more or less faithfully from contemporaneous printed woodblock illustrations. The latter decades of the Ming Dynasty saw the appearance of large numbers of printed editions of the Chinese literary classics, intended for a more popular market than their previous circulation. Craig Clunas and Julia Curtis, among others, have identified porcelain designs from such subjects as the 'Red Cliffs', 'Water Margin' and 'Dream of the West Chamber'. The present pair of vases are more unusual, since erotic scenes in 17th Century porcelain are far rarer, and there was clearly a mischievous intent when the denouement scene was painted concealed on the underside.
A very similar pair of vases was sold in these Rooms, 10 May 1993, lot 111.