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A rare large painted enamel double-gourd vase, Qianlong period (1736-1795)

A rare large painted enamel double-gourd vase, Qianlong period (1736-1795). Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.

The vase is vertically lobed and finely painted on a finely stippled yellow ground with a fruiting and flowering leafy vine interspersed with butterflies and praying mantises that trails from the mouth rim, meanders around the body displaying variously colored double gourds, and surrounds two large leaf-shaped panels on the lower body. Each panel depicts a pair of Chinese bulbuls looking at each other in the branches of a crabapple tree, while two butterflies flutter nearby, the blue sky forming the background. A band of spiralled lavender ribbon and green cord encircles the foot, and the interior is covered in turquoise enamel, the base in white. 23 in. (58.5 cm.) high, wood stand. Estimate $80,000 – $120,000. Price Realized $317,000

Provenance: Heber Reginald Bishop (1840-1902).
James Cunningham Bishop (1870-1932).
Mary Cunningham Bishop Peabody (1893-1980).
James Bishop Peabody (1922-1977), and thence by descent to the present owner.

Property from the collection of Mrs. James Bishop Peabody

Notes: The combination of gourds and butterflies constitutes a rebus for ‘numerous descendants’.
Two very similar painted enamel vases, both in size and decoration, have been published: one in the Fairhaven Collection, Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire, illustrated by R. Soame Jenyns and W. Watson in Chinese Art II, New York, 1980, p. 152, pl. 111, subsequently sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 29 October 1995, lot 629, and now in the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art; the other in the exhibition catalogue, Chinese Works of Art and Snuff Bottles, The Chinese Porcelain Company, New York, June 1994, no. 25. Two much smaller (11.6 and 16.5 cm.) painted enamel double-gourd vases decorated in a similar style and each bearing a Qianlong seal mark have also been published. One in the Beijing Palace Museum is illustrated in Zhongguo Meishu Quanji, vol. 10, Gold, Silver, Glass and Enamels, Beijing, 1987, p. 191, no. 342, and p. 105, where the vase is described as being a product of the Yangxindian Palace workshop. The other in the collection of Mrs. Alfred Clarke is illustrated in the catalogue for the O.C.S. exhibition, The Arts of the Ch’ing Dynasty, London, 1964, pl. 109, no. 340. Like the present vase they both have a yellow ground finely stippled in red, but the similar gourd vines are more widely spaced and the two leaf-shaped panels enclose only a spray of flower stems and a butterfly.

Christie’s. FINE CHINESE CERAMICS AND WORKS OF ART, 18 – 19 September 2014, New York, Rockefeller Plaza.