This beautiful and exceedingly rare jardiniere is a very successful combination of delicate and painterly depiction of flowers and faux bois. The shape of the vessel is unusual. Its straight sides are made from slabs of clay fitted together, and since the sides of a jardiniere needed to be quite substantial it would have been a considerable challenge to fire the piece without the corners being pulled apart by the shrinkage that took place during firing. Although quite rare, facetted jardinieres were made as early as the Song dynasty, and it is interesting to note that the hexagonal Jun ware flower pot preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum 32 Porcelain of the Song Dynasty - I, Commerical Press, Hong Kong, 1996, p. 26, no. 22. The majority of facetted jardinieres are either hexagonal or octagonal, and the current vessel is particularly rare in being heptagonal.
Its structure is also interesting, providing support for the jardiniere while retaining a natural, light appearance. The flower pot stands on seven small pentagonal feet, and its stand appears to provide stability while adding seven more extra weight-bearing feet, which are placed outside the first set of feet. All fourteen feet rest on a heptagonal strip. The result is a stable, well-supported vessel. Most jardinieres have simple round drainage holes in the base, but this example has seven chevron-shaped holes set elegantly at each corner.
Although trompe l'oeil using overglaze enamels to simulate other materials on porcelain became a popular feature of imperial wares in the Qianlong reign, a few imperial porcelains of the Yongzheng reign, like the current jardiniere were made with integral faux bois stands. There is a porcelain basin in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Kangxi Yongzheng Qianlong - Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, Forbidden City Publishing House/Woods Publishing, Hong Kong, 1989, p. 317, no. 146, which is painted with enamels to look like planks of wood tied together with plaited rope. There is also a brush pot in the Palace Museum, Beijing, op. cit., 1989, p. 239, no. 68. The brush pot is similar to the current jardiniere, in that it combines fine, painterly, enamel decoration with simulated wood - in the case of the brush pot, appearing to be a wooden pot encircled by an ink landscape painting.
The simulated rosewood stand on the current vessel complements the elegant flower painting around its sides. These flower groups and sprays recall the exquisite flower painting of the famous Qing dynasty artist Yun Shouping (1633-90). Indeed certain of the flowers on the jardiniere are particularly close to specific works by this artist. The bold outlines and contrasting pale centres of the chrysanthemum petals, for example, strongly suggest the influence of Yun Shouping's paintings such as the inscribed chrysanthemum paintings in colours illustrated in Yun Shouping qing pinji, Renmin meishu chubanshe, Beijing, 1993, nos. 4 and 76. The textures, colours and arrangement of the begonias in a handscroll painting by Yun, Hundred Flowers in the Style of Xu Chongsi (late 10th Century) (fig. 1), sold in these Rooms, 27 April 1997, lot 148, compare closely with those on the jardiniere. The flame-like leaves of the balsam were also a favourite theme of Yun Shouping and can be seen in a number of his paintings, including the above-mentioned scroll painting (lot 148; fig. 2), that shares a number of features with the balsam on the jardiniere.
The incised seal mark to the unglazed base can be compared to that on two robin's-egg-glazed jardinieres in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Yanse You, Monochrome Porcelain, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, The Commmercial Press, Hong Kong, 1999, figs. 195 and 197; where a simulated bronze jardiniere with an incised four-character Yongzheng mark to the unglazed base is illustrated as fig. 60; a jun-type narcissus bowl with an incised six-character Yongzheng mark to the unglazed base is illustrated as fig. 178.