Few vases of this impressive size can rival the present lot for the sumptuousness of decoration. Here, the enamellers have arduously painted a multitude of fantastic flowers and finely shaded every leaf, petal and stamen for the chiaroscuro effect, with an intricacy rarely encountered on such a massive piece. Qianlong period vases are best known for their dense and elaborate foliate scroll decoration with distinctive characteristics of the rococo as well as pseudo-Mughal style, but this vase supercedes many others because of its extraordinary sense of horror vacui. Every available space on the bright yellow ground is used for a lavishly painted flower or other embellishment.
The grandiose floral motifs on the present vase may have set a precedence in earlier famille rose yellow-ground examples, such as the Yongzheng-marked box with a reticulated cover in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated Falangcai, Fencai: Porcelains with Cloisonné Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, The Complete Collection of the Treasures of the Palace Museum p. 91, no. 79. The Beijing box is decorated with the same type of exotic floral motifs: the 'sesame' marking on the lily flower; enlarged 'pineapple-like' pistils; and curly fronds issuing from the central flower-bloom.
Compare the lychee-like flower head, painted with stippled circles, with the nodule clusters moulded on the broad shoulder of two large (each 37.5 cm. high) Yongzheng-marked yellow-ground hexagonal vases: the first in the Shanghai Museum, illustrated in Zhongguo taoci quanji - Jingdezhen caihui ciqi, 'The Great Treasury of Chinese Ceramics - Jingdezhen Painted Porcelain', 1981, vol. 21, pl. 99; and the other sold in Hong Kong, 20 May 1987, lot 565, and again in our New York Rooms, 20 March 2001, lot 273. Compare also a pair of vases and a covered censer sold in our London Rooms, 7 April 1982, lot 62.
It appears that this style of exaggerated elements continued into the Qianlong reign; compare the floral design on a yellow-ground enamel bowl with a Qianlong mark, in the British Museum, illustrated by S. Jenyns, Later Chinese Porcelain, London, 1971, pl. CXII, fig. 2. The British Museum bowl has similar densely arranged floral and foliage elements but on a far smaller scale. The flowers on the vase appear to be a variation of those on the bowl, but the decorators have succeeded in creating blooms of a more fanciful variety.
The closest comparison to the present vase is a slightly smaller (56.3 cm. high) Qianlong-marked pear-shaped vase with interlocking floral sprays on a yellow ground, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Falangcai, Fencai: Porcelains with Cloisonné Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration, The Complete Collection of the Treasures of the Palace Museum, 1999, pl. 111.