Lot 1116. A monumental and rare rose-verte 'birds' rouleau vase, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722), 74.7 cm, 29 3/8 in. Estimate 4,000,000 — 6,000,000 HKD. Lot sold 4,900,000 HKD. Photo: Sotheby's.
with a cylindrical body surmounted by a constricted neck and galleried rim, the body finely enamelled in the rose-verte palette with a lavish and vibrant continuous scene depicting a pair of phoenix perched on green jagged rocks, each of the mythical birds rendered with its stylised ruyi-crested head turned over its back to face the other, the verdant setting populated with several pairs of birds, including a pair of magpies in the branches of a magnolia tree, above a pair of mandarin ducks swimming in a pond accentuated with pink and blue lotus blooms and green lily pads, the reverse of the vibrant design with a pair of cranes perched on a gnarled tree trunk emerging from dense clusters of multi-coloured floral blooms picked out in yellow, pink, red and blue, including mallow, iris and large peony blooms, further decorated with a pair of sparrows portrayed in flight near a butterfly, all below a frieze encircling the neck with cartouches of crabs and shrimp, separated by yellow chrysanthemum blooms borne on stylised and floral scrolls on a stippled green ground, the cylindrical neck with a pair of kingfishers amidst bright pink lotus and large green lily leaves, all below a key-fret band encircling the rim, the base with an underglaze-blue double circle
Provenance: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California.
Note: This magnificent rouleau vase displays the technical developments of the early Qing dynasty. Its magnificent size and striking decoration are testament to the advances in porcelain production during the early 18th century, when potters began to experiment with new enamel colours. It is one of the earliest examples of the inclusion of pink enamel amidst the famille-verte colour scheme and style.
Vases of this massive size and painted in this palette are very rare, although a closely related example from the collection of Rt. Hon. The Lord Margadale of Isley, was sold at Christie’s London, 31st May 1965, lot 67, again in these rooms, 16th May 1977, lot 216, and in our Monaco rooms, 22nd June 1987, lot 1465. Compare also a vase of similar size and shape and painted with birds and flowers, but only in the famille-verte palette, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, illustrated in Oriental Ceramics. The World’s Great Collections, vol. 11, New York, 1982, pl. 131; another sold twice at Christie’s London, 4th May 1970, lot 23, and 9th July 1985, lot 202; and a third sold in our Monaco rooms, 29th February 1992, lot 440.
The use of pink enamel with overglaze blue and broad washes of green enamel indicates that this piece was made in the late Kangxi period, when the wucai colour scheme was gradually replaced by famille-rose enamels, hence the name of this palette, rose-verte. Numerous scholars have discussed the origins and far reaching consequences of the introduction of pink enamel in the Qing dynasty, which together with the development of opaque white and opaque yellow changed dramatically the outlook of porcelain produced at Jingdezhen. Nigel Wood, who examined in depth the chemical composition of these porcelain colours, suggests that while the white and yellow enamels probably derived from enamels used on cloisonné ware, pink enamel was probably introduced in China from Europe through Jesuit missionaries. A gold-pink enamel was in use at the Meissen factory in Saxony in about 1718, and the pink enamel of Jingdezhen similarly appears to contain minute traces of colloidal gold (see Nigel Wood, Chinese Glazes, Hong Kong, 1999, pp. 241-243).
The appearance of overglaze blue enamel, which slightly predated that of pink in the 1720s, similarly had an important impact on porcelain decoration. Appearing first during the reign of the Kangxi Emperor, overglaze blue simplified the making of famille-verte wares, enabling porcelain painters to create highly sophisticated motifs. In the Ming dynasty underglaze cobalt blue had to be applied before firing to those areas where it would later be needed, while the other colours were added after the firing to make up the complete polychrome design; in the Qing, underglaze blue was omitted or exchanged for overglaze blue, which was applied together with the other colours, thus allowing much more complex and detailed designs. Overglaze blue enamel is mentioned in a letter by the Jesuit missionary Père François d’Entrecolles (1664-1741), who noted that this glaze was made from a powdered blue glass, which would be mixed with gum and fish-glue. The advantages of using overglaze blue are evident in the attractive rendering of the flowers and where it has been employed to enhance the naturalism of the birds’ feathers.
The subject on this piece is notable for its auspicious meaning. As the phoenix is the king of birds, the subject of phoenix surrounded by many birds is known as ‘hundred birds courting the phoenix’ (bainiaochaohuang or bainiaochaofeng). Since the phoenix only appears during peaceful reigns, it is closely connected with the ruler, and this motif stands for the relationship between a ruler and his officials. The birds depicted in such scenes carry symbolic meaning and represent the ‘Picture of the Five Relationships’ (luxutu, wuluntu); the cranes represent the relationship between father and son; mandarin ducks the relationship between husband and wife; wagtails the relationship between brothers; and the relationship between friends is represented by the orioles.
Sotheby's. Chinese Art from Two American Private Collections, Hong Kong, 05 Apr 2017
相类大尺寸且纹饰相近瓶例不为多见，但可比较一例，属艾雷岛 Margadale 勋爵旧藏，售于伦敦佳士得1965年5月31日，编号67，后售于香港苏富比1977年5月16日，编号216，后又于摩纳哥苏富比1987年6月22日，编号1465。另可参考一尺寸器形相近之例，绘五彩花鸟纹，藏纽约大都会艺术博物馆，载于《东洋陶磁大观》，卷11，纽约，1982年，图版131。另有一例两度售于伦敦佳士得，分别于1970年5月4日，编号23，及1985年7月9日，编号202。第三例则售于摩纳哥苏富比1992年2月29日，编号440。
此瓶见粉红彩、釉上蓝彩及绿彩晕染，乃属康熙晚期制作，时五彩渐为粉彩所替，其遂得名五彩加粉彩。关于清代引入粉红彩之来源及深远影响，以及不透明白、黄色彩之发展，历来学者讨论颇多。诸上种种，使得景德镇所制瓷器面貌发生显著改变。学者 Nigel Wood 对此类彩化学成分进行研究，认为此类不透明白、黄彩或源于珐琅器，而粉红彩则可能从欧洲经天主教传教士进入中国。德国萨克森之麦森瓷厂约于1718年已有采用以金发色之粉红彩，彩料成份与景德镇粉红彩同样含有微量熔金（参见Nigel Wood，《Chinese Glazes》，香港，1999年，页341-343）。