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Vase with dragon-shaped handles with western figure on a polychrome ground in falangcai painted enamels, Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty

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Vase with dragon-shaped handles with western figure on a polychrome ground in falangcai painted enamels
Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty
H. 18.9 cm;Diam. 5.4 cm;Diam. of base. 6.3 cm


This vase has a wide mouth, ridged rim, short neck, slanting shoulders, a long broad belly, and short ring foot. The shoulders are symmetrically adorned with dragon-shaped handles. The body of the vase rather thick, and is completely coated in white glaze. The mouth and ring foot are encircled by ink rings with a white border marking. On both sides of the belly, Western-style frames enclose a painting of Western landscapes with women and children. Just underneath the rim, a ring of Western-style patterns in red ink can be seen, and the sides of the belly are densely adorned with floral patterns. On the underside of the vessel, a blue four-character inscription in Song-style script reads, "Qian Long Nian Zhi (Made in the Qianlong Reign)." The inscription is surrounded by a double-square frame. In contrast to strict rules prohibiting the import of Western nude paintings during the Kangxi and Yongzheng reigns, images of Western maidens with bared bosoms on painted enamel porcelain of the Qianlong reign indicated a clear break with past taboos. The faces of the painted maidens were especially marked in white, so as to heighten the three-dimensional contours, and as they were typically accompanied by backdrops of Western landscapes, it was once thought that such designs were closely associated with the missionary and court painter, Giuseppe Castiglione. However, Western painted enamel bronzeware may also have been a source of inspiration, as the floral patterns on such works resembled the rich floral patterns on silk embroidery, and conformed with the edict by the Qianlong Emperor to produce works that "add flowers to silken embroidery (meaning to enhance a good situation)," as recorded in the Imperial Workshop Archives. Thus, these works reflect the artistic taste of the Emperor at the time.