An Imperial Yellow: Gift for Emperor Qianlong?

On 25 June 2020, by Anne Doridou-Heim

Although physically absent, Chinese buyers did not let this vase endowed with so many qualities slip through their fingers.

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.
Result: €2,470,400

The question of whether the vase was commissioned as a gift for Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795) remains open. In any case, the result, €2,470,400, reflects its fine aesthetic and technical qualities. In perfect condition, it was made in the best workshop during the emperor’s lavish reign, when ceramics reached a very high level in order to satisfy the pleasures of a demanding ruler and his court. The vase arrived in France in the 19th century after an expedition to the Middle Empire. Today it is going back home, like most of the ceramics made there. The uncertainty of the current period and resurgent fears in China did not dampen the buyers’ desire. The auction house and the expertise firm pulled out all the stops, making the most of the lockdown to ensure its wide dissemination. They "answered over 4,000 requests for additional information" and decided "to secure the transaction by requiring a €200,000 deposit to participate in the sale". But let’s get back to the vase itself and the rare fineness of execution of its enamels applied in several layers. Harmoniously and skilfully combined, perhaps under the supervision of Tang Ying, overseer of the imperial kilns, they create a décor inspired by 18th-century "paintings from the West" brought to China by the Jesuits. This piece is a perfect example of a successful match between East and West.

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