This very rare, possibly unique sauce tureen is part of a tradition that includes fruit-form models, like melon and peach, and animal models such as tree squirrel, boar's head, partridge and crab. All were fashionable conceits on European dining tables in the second half of the 18th century. Many of these forms had been made originally by European faience factories ; some were also made later by porcelain factories like Chelsea and Meissen. The eggplant, with its richly enameled cover and stand in the 'tobacco leaf' pattern, seems only to be known in this one Chinese porcelain example.
For another small 'tobacco leaf' tureen and cover in the shape of a pomegranate, see lot 172 sold in our Amsterdam Rooms, 3 May 2005.