A porcelain masterpiece

On 12 June 2020, by Claire Papon

Will collectors be turning up in the somewhat singular context of the gradual deconfinement? Whatever the outcome, all hopes are pinned on this vase: an exceptionally rare one in terms of both imperial provenance and decoration.

China, Qianlong period (1736-1795). Porcelain vase with polychrome and gold glaze with a lotus flower and foliage decoration and brocade motifs, dragon-shaped handles, iron red six-character mark in zhuanshu on a turquoise background, h.  26.3 cm.
Estimate: €600,000/800,000

This vase has a background in yellow, the emperor's colour, and a rare double-bulb form like a jujube (whose seeds symbolize male fertility), abundant, varied decoration and above all this triangular geometric assemblage on the belly and neck. Known as "paddy fields", this pattern evokes juxtaposed fields and was perhaps inspired by the damasks prevalent in the Qianlong period (1736-1795), themselves based on 16th-century fabrics. "Patchwork" clothes were supposed to ensure harmonious growth in the children who wore them, making this a popular pattern during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The design could also refer to the material used in Buddhist monks' robes, harking back to the one worn by the Enlightened One, made of rags sewn together. It is said that this vase was a gift for the Qianlong Emperor's birthday. We cannot know for certain, of course, but we do know how much he loved porcelain and encouraged technical innovation and creativity, particularly with the production of "yangcai" glazes. The use of shading in the decoration emphasizes depth, as do the painted brocade motifs standing out against a lighter pink tone. This vase was collected by a French officer during an expedition to China in the 19th century and has remained in his family since then.

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