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Gall-bladder-shaped vase with dragon boat in falangcai painted enamels, Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty

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Gall-bladder-shaped vase with dragon boat in falangcai painted enamels
Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty
H. 20.2 cm;Diam. 3.5 cm;Diam. of base. 4.2 cm


This gall-bladder-shaped vase has a round, wide mouth, with a raised ridge running along the rim. The vase has a long neck, broad belly, flat base, and short ring foot. The entire vessel is coated in white glaze within and without, and the surface of the vase is adorned with a painting of a layered pavilion, with a dragon boat race in progress. The designs echo the story of seizing the silk banner, which was well-known since the Northern Song Dynasty. Beside the painting, two lines of poetry state, "A panoramic view of the river from the immortal tower and beautiful pavilion, with the phoenix and dragon boats weaving on the green current." Three seals with red backgrounds and white characters to the front and back of the poem respectively read, "shou ru (longevity akin to)," "shan gao (high mountains)," and "shui chang (long rivers)." On the underside of the base, a blue four-character inscription in Song-style script at the center reads, "Qian Long Nian Zhi (Made in the Qianlong Reign)." The inscription is surrounded a double-square frame. The composition and integrated elements of this work maintain the practice of painted enamel works from the Yongzheng court, by including poetry, calligraphy, painting, and seals on the same vessel; but upon closer examination, the form and motif of Qianlong-era works are quite different from those of the Yongzheng reign. From the fact that in the third (1738) and fourth (1739) years of the Qianlong reign, the Emperor repeatedly issued edicts concerning the firing of painted enamel porcelain vases, it can be seen that the appearance of such vessels was heavily influenced by changes in the Emperor's personal tastes regarding form and decoration. A comparison with existing paintings revealed that the painted scroll, "Dragon Boat Regatta," by the Yuan-era painter Wang Zhenpeng, bears two lines of script penned by the Qianlong Emperor, stating, "While performing the rites of cleansing in late spring at the Orchid Pavilion, the waters were opened for dragon boat racing." The pavilion and dragon boats adorning this vessel echo those in the painted scroll by Wang Zhenpeng, and signify the appearance of a new style of painted enamel works, perhaps as a result of inspiration gained by the Qianlong Emperor during his viewing of the Qing court collections, and his subsequent influence upon the decorative patterns of the official kilns.