This vase is a characteristic example of the 18th-century predilection for trompe-l'oeil, or 'trick of the eye', where the viewer is teased into believing that an object was made of a certain material, when in fact, it was constructed of something different and unexpected. One of the most common simulated material in porcelain is bronze, and in a time when archaism was a current trend, Shang and Zhou bronze vessels were inevitably the most obvious subject of these simulations. Because of the versatility of porcelain clay, the intricate relief decoration could be easily copied, and with the wide variety of enamel colours available, the texture and tones of the archaic bronze could also be imitated.
From the group of simulated bronze vessels, the present vase is perhaps one of the most attractive, with its slender body, widely flaring trumpet mouth and intricate relief decoration complemented by the combination of subtle brown tones and bright blue splashes. Other gu-shaped vases from this group include one with gilded flanges, illustrated in Porcelains with Cloisonne Enamel Decoration and Famille Rose Decoration - The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 1999, pl. 150; one in imitation of gilt-bronze illustrated by John Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Baur Collection, Geneva, 1999, vol. 2, pl. 252 [A650]; one from the Musée Guimet, illustrated by M. Beurdeley and G. Raindre, Qing Porcelain, Famille Verte, Famille Rose, Fribourg, 1986, pl. 170 (together with other trompe l'oeil porcelains); and another included in the exhibition of Qing Dynasty Ceramics, Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo, 1987, illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 177.