The Qing dynasty emperors shared a fervent passion for ancient bronzes and for ordering contemporary vessels made in similar style. The Kangxi (1662-1722), Yongzheng (1723-35) and Qianlong (1736-95) emperors in particular were important collectors of antiques and great patrons of the arts.
Our present cloisonné Lei vase is impressive in its large size (68 cm. high) and is decorated with three gilt-bronze rams on the shoulder. The ram is a symbol of filial piety, kindness and patience. The three rams, san yang, are also an auspicious motif, related both to the sun and to male children, as they provide a rebus for san yang kai tai, 'the opening up of the new growth in spring', which in turn symbolizes happiness and good fortune.
A cloisonné Lei vase, slightly smaller than our exemple (67 cm. high), bearing very similar 'ram and taotie' decoration except for the chrysanthemum band on the neck and the foot, is in the collection of Palace Museum of Beijing, illustrated in the Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum - Enamels (2) - Cloisonne in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Beijing, 2011, pl.16. Another comparable exemple of large cloisonné Lei (70 cm. high) in the collection of the Palace Museum, without the ram decoration, can also be seen in the Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum - Enamels (2) - Cloisonne in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Beijing, 2011, pl.15.