Lot nr 30

This magnificent bottle-shaped vase with a narrow neck and slightly flared with a bulge near the shoulder in a polychrome enameled porcelain called Yangcai. The vase is decorated in gold on a yellow background on the neck and on the belly in a band surrounded by a pink frieze in the shape of a Lingzhi with decoration in the Sgraffiato style of lotus flowers in their scrolls, and brocade patterns formed by triangles reminiscent of patchwork. The handles are in the form of gold-enameled dragons. The lower part of the collar is decorated with a blue Greek frieze. The vase rests on a hemmed pedestal. On the reverse of the base, you find the six-character iron-red mark of Qianlong in Zhuanshu on a turquoise blue background. H. 26,3 cm.

Reference: A similar vase with a ruby sgraffiato-ground sold on 8th April 2009 by Sotheby's Hong Kong (lot 1692).

Provenance: This vase has been collected by Sir G.G, Captain of the hundred second line Infantry Regiment in the 19th century. Since then, the vase has been in this French family.

Estimation 600.000/800.000 Euros

This magnificent Yancai gold yellow vase, is a good example of the technical innovation showed under the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1735-1796). It is both original by its form and by its designs. During that period, the technique and ingenious craftmanship and the dynasty Qing creativity are at their highest point, with the creation of numerous porcelains in order to satisfy the Emperor and Royal court.

The design is obviously from this period due to the variety of the decorative designs but also in the diversity of the forms, from the simple porcelain cup and saucer to the complex turning vases. This category of painted pieces used to be the most prized porcelains in the Qing Court, and of the emperor himself. These very rare and precious porcelains have been made thanks to the aesthetic tastes of the Qianlong emperor and the qualitative realisations of Tang Ying, the supervisor of the imperial kilns.

According to Tang Ying, the Yangcai term refers to « porcelains with a new technique which is borrowed from the western painting ». These porcelains are embellished with outstanding polychrome enamels decorated with figurative paintings, landscape, flowers and feathers, using the western paintings, brought by the Jesuits. The archives of the imperial workshop of that time, classify them in the Falangcai, foreign enamel category. These two last categories became then, quite associated. The Yancai porcelains are classified as Falangcai enamels, and they are defined as painted porcelains using painting techniques and occidental designs. For example, the western shading technique on the porcelain design brings a degree of three-dimensionality to the overall composition. The use of white pigments on flowers and leaves create light and shadows highlights and painting in perspective on figurative compositions ; the use of western-style flowers, such as chrysanthemum and anemone, and the use of western floral compositions for a number of decorative motifs.

In order to satisfy the requirements of the emperor Qianlong regarding the quality of craftsmanship of the arts, Tang Ying creates a new style, using the technique of brocade motifs of flowers. The application of brocade motifs of flowers called 'jin shang tian hua', is carried out by the addition of incised floral motifs or by a painted brocade background on the surface of the porcelain. This is the most common decoration on Falangcai porcelains from the 6th year of the reign of Qianlong, regardless of the main motif or border. Seven centuries earlier, the poet and calligrapher of the Song Huang Tingjian dynasty (1045-1105) mentions for the first time in his poem entitled An Ode to the Buddhist Monastery of Liaoliao, the expression, ‘jin shang tian hua’ word for word “add flowers to brocade”, that is to say : “to make something good, something better”.

The other remarkable motif of this vase is the triangular geometric assemblage, which is found on the body in the centre of the interlaces and on the neck at the level of the bulge and overlooking the acanthus leaves. This motif called "rice fields", evoking the fields juxtaposed, borrowed from the damask textiles of the time, which themselves were inspired by textiles of the sixteenth century. It was said that the patchwork garments provided harmonious growth to the children who wore them, making it a popular motif during the Ming and Qing dynasties. This motif can also evoke the textiles used by the Buddhist monks: in reference to the garment worn by Buddha, formed of rags sewn together, the followers of his doctrine wear a garment made of several cloths of fabric, from ancient garments assembled to make a monastic dress.

As for the brands of reign, during the first two decades of the reign of the emperor Qianlong, numerous brand experiments are carried out on porcelains. For example, among the Yangcai and Falangcai porcelains in the collection of the National Palace Museum and the Palace Museum, there are at least sixteen different types of Qianlong reign marks. Sometimes Qianlong’s four-character reign mark were used in blue under cover, sometimes in iron red, with a seal or in ordinary writing, and sometimes the six-character stamp format in cobalt blue or in iron red. Some marks were written in a double frame, some in a single frame and some without a frame. The reign marks, written in iron red, were affixed on the occasion of the celebration of the emperor’s birthday.