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Glass gallbladder-shaped vase with peonies in painted enamels, Kangxi reign (1662-1722), Qing dynasty

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Glass gallbladder-shaped vase with peonies in painted enamels
Kangxi reign (1662-1722), Qing dynasty
H. 12.6 cm;Diam. 3.1 cm;Diam. of base 3.8 cm


Painted enamel techniques were introduced to China by western missionaries near the end of the 17th century, and following patronage and promotion by the Kangxi Emperor, painted enamel works gradually diversified from bronze bodies to ceramic bodies and glass bodies. The Kangxi Emperor personally ordered western missionary artists to test new painted enamel designs at the Imperial Workshop, and further commanded that such works be inscribed with the characters, "Kang Xi Yu Zhi (Made for the Imperial Use of the Kangxi Emperor)." These actions indicate the Emperor's active lead in research and development, as well his determination to surpass the West. This gallbladder-shaped vase is made of glass, and the surface is coated in a blue background, on which sprays of peonies have been painted. As with most painted enamel ceramic works, the mouth and foot have white borders, on the top and bottom of which a ring of gold pigment has been applied, as a mark of tastefulness. The peony decorations have multi-layered petals with complex transitions: the inner and outer layer of red petals are separated using light yellowish-green enamel pigment, and the contours of each petal are etched with light pink. The vein patterns on each leaf are clearly depicted, and each leaf curves upward in an orderly and uniform way. Such taste and attention to detail support the statements made by the Qing scholar Gao Shiqi in his work, "Pengshan miji (Secret history of Pengshan)," in which the Kangxi Emperor is described as persistently wishing to imitate Western glassware, in order to convey the superiority of the Great Qing Empire over the Western world through successful production.


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