Imitation & Inspiration Catalogue 2021

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imitation & inspiration

The wise man is one who knows, what he does not know. lao tzu

imitation & inspiration


moving forwards by looking back

We are almost halfway into 2021 and Covid-19 has had our planet in its grips for over a year now. But as opposed to all earlier pandemics, we have had the internet. For most of us, this has been an incredible lifeline in many of life’s aspects. The art world has been no exception to this, most of us fully embracing all things digital. Fortunately, we already created a new website in 2019, whilst also seriously getting to grips with filling our social media pages. Instagram, YouTube and Facebook have literally been our (shop) window to the world. But, despite all the digital acceleration, we still believe in the importance of a printed catalogue. Paper feels much more personal, closer to a live encounter. We offer a warm handshake to the reader who touches the cover, flips it open and smells the paper and ink. A slower, more gentle meeting with our collection, than the faster digital offerings. But, we will also continue to look forward as we realise the way we experience art has now evolved and probably changed forever - catalysed by a year of Corona. Tangible and non-tangible art experiences will be intermingled forevermore.

a mark of respect and honour for what went before. Fabulous objects were created by being inspired by old sources; using techniques that have been perfected over centuries.

We used the word ‘imitation’ in the title of the catalogue, so perhaps you thought - just for a second that we were referring to fakes or forgeries. In fact it is exactly the opposite! As particularly in China, using earlier examples as source of inspiration, was

Vanderven Oriental Art The Netherlands Tel. +31 (0)73 614 62 51

As a Chinese art dealer, I have always delighted in seeing the most unusual objects made of Chinese porcelain. Sometimes these objects even tricked me into thinking it was something else. This is known as Tromp L‘Oeil porcelain. These objects have always fascinated me, so when we chanced upon the wall plaque (no.1), we felt it was the natural starting point for this catalogue. We further broadened the scope, by adding works inspired by nature and those copying other materials. We hope you enjoy the objects we have chosen and look forward to celebrate life and art together again soon! Floris & Nynke van der Ven


INTRODUCTION dr. koos de jong

The year 2021, which, like the previous year, is so much dominated by the Covid-19 epidemic forces us to reflect. I also can’t avoid it. The collection of objects in this catalog leads me to consider a number of aspects in which the concepts “respect” and “imitation” always play a crucial role, albeit each time in a different capacity. The first aspect concerns the lack of the urge to innovate which, since the Renaissance, has developed in western art into one of the pillars of the visual arts and even the main criterion in our own time. In China, imitating and if possible even emulating the great masters was considered worthy of pursuit. What makes this phenomenon so special is that, despite this attitude, there was always a technical and artistic development - a development that is not inferior to that in the West. However, which socio-economic, religious and political factors played a role in this, however, is beyond the scope of this brief introduction. My point here is the observation that the ambition to be innovative is apparently less important for the development of visual art than is thought by many in the West. The same respect for tradition can be observed in a phenomenon that played an important role in Chinese visual art from an early age, namely sculptural grave goods (mingqi). Probably most of us are familiar with


the beautiful multicolored (sancai) glazed earthenware sculptures, especially those from the Tang and Ming periods. This also applies to their function: they served to provide the deceased with what he or she might need in the afterlife. It may be less known why in almost all cases these mingqi are smaller in size than their examples. Only the grave figures in the tomb of the first emperor of China Qin Shi Huang, are more than life-size. There’s a good reason for that. During the Eastern Zhou period (770-256 BCE), under the influence of confucianism, an important change occurred with regard to burial gifts. Texts attributed to Confucius prescribed a distinction between objects that were used by the deceased while alive (shengqi or renqi) and objects that were made especially to be used in the tomb (mingqi). The mingqi should clearly deviate from the renqi. That was possible in six different ways. First of all by giving them a different format, smaller or larger. In most cases, however, they are much smaller. Other methods consisted of using materials other than the usual ones, such as earthenware instead of bronze, by leaving imperfections behind, by a less careful finish or by giving them an archaic appearance. The last way was to disable real utensils, such as breaking a mirror.


‘ The virtuosity mainly concerns the perfect command of a technique and the way to use it to achieve a result that commands respect, if not admiration. It includes, among other things, the convincing imitation of all kinds of materials.’ The archaic style, the second equally interesting phenomenon, can also be directly traced to this respect for tradition. The style emerged early in the Song period, not coincidentally at the time when, especially at the hands of the officials who had taken the state exams, buddhism finally lost out against confucianism and daoism. During this period the imperial court, the nobility and most of all, the literati started to collect antiques and other items that required knowledge and taste. This practice was partly encouraged by the fact that it was more civilized to bribe someone with a gift in the form of an antique object than with money. Possibly counterfeiting initially started because of the need for objects in the correct archaic style, but later on this noble motive undoubtedly also provided a cover for conscious counterfeits with a commercial purpose. This archaic style would never disappear thereafter, as evidenced by the continuous flow of artifacts in which the styles of previous periods were respectfully copied or outright falsified. Incidentally, these older forgeries now are definitely real antiques.


The third aspect has to do with “virtuosity”. This mainly concerns the perfect command of a technique and the way to use it to achieve a result that commands respect, if not admiration. It includes, among other things, the convincing imitation of all kinds of materials. The display of virtuosity sometimes goes so far as to mislead the viewer. Traditionally, in Dutch baroque painting this trompe-l’ oeil effect was called a ‘bedriegertje’ (cheater). Imitation could also involve an order to manufacture objects on the basis of a model supplied by Westerners. The fourth and last aspect that I want to mention here concerns the imitation of nature in its countless manifestations. The reasons for doing so were many. For example, nature could simply be the source of inspiration for the representation of a beautiful landscape or for a decorative motif. More often the need to express a certain state of mind plays a role, such as the mind of a scholar who wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life or an unpleasant rule by staying in the wild. However, in most cases it is about the direct or indirect meaning of the representation. There is a direct meaning in the image of, for example, a peach, a lotus flower or a tiger that can symbolize a wish for longevity, the purity of the buddhist faith or power respectively. However, in addition to the direct meaning of what is represented, there is often also an indirect, “secret,” meaning in the combination of symbols, since many Chinese words, when pronounced, can have more than one meaning (homonyms). For example, the miniature of a monkey riding a horse refers to the expression shang ma hou, which literally means “monkey (hou) on (shang) horse (ma)”.

Because monkey is homonymous with marquis (hou), the expression also contains the pun: “may you promote”. It may be clear that this “language” was intended for the highly educated. This also explains that the possession of such objects, including especially those which adorned the writing tables of ‘literati’, was the pre-eminent means of displaying one’s own erudition, as well as to test a visitor. In western culture such objects used to be referred to by the French term “bibelots” and nowadays more often by the English term “literati objects”. Art objects, therefore, in the role of collector’s item, cherished personal property, status symbol and “conversation piece”. None of these roles have faded today. On the contrary, I would say.

To conclude a career as director of various Dutch museums and art institutions, art historian, Dr. Koos de Jong devotes himself entirely to scientific research in Chinese art and archaeology. After the publication ‘Dragon & Horse’, about horse tack, he again tackled an almost unknown subject with his thesis ‘Small China - Early Chinese Miniatures’, to be published in 2021.



Deceiving the Eye Chinese craftsmen were so skilled and innovative, that they took great pleasure in experimenting with how far they could take the porcelain as a material. Not only in terms of modelling, but also in decoration and glaze finishes. The Ming Dynasty imperial kilns had already produced some of the finest wares, but it was during the Qing Dynasty, particularly the 18th century, that huge advances were made in techniques and sheer variety of object shapes and glaze colours. Particular pleasure was taken in showing off the skills of the potters, who liked imitating other materials, or tricking the viewer with innovative design and decoration. The Emperors were key in pushing these advancements, as they wanted sophisticated and amusing pieces for the court, to use in temple ceremonies or as diplomatic gifts. Particularly Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong, were very keen on innovative porcelains, and were great patrons of the kilns at Jingdezhen. But there was also an ever growing demand for porcelains in the West, which had its own set of requirements and special orders.


1 | Illusory Wall Plaque This rare tromp l’oeil plaque, gives the impression of being a square-bodied vase, but is actually entirely flat. It is decorated in very fine famille rose enamels which, in combination with the clever moulding, makes it look like a three-dimensional vase. The vase-shape is inspired by an archaic bronze ritual wine vessel, known as a zun. The typical indented flanges on the corners, are enamelled in a greenish grey with gold lines, echoing bronze. The decorative panels on both the top and the foot, framed in light blue, have a colourful scrolling flower pattern in pink, red, green and blue. The two large central panels, are framed in pink with darker pink lines. One panel is decorated with flowering poppies, the other with a plum blossom branch. The vase appears to stand on a red ‘lacquered’ foot, decorated with a gold scrolling pattern. The reverse of the plaque, which is undecorated biscuit porcelain, has two shallow tunnelled holes, which would have been used to hang it. Along the top edge are a series of eight small irregular pierced holes, which could have been used to attach artificial flowers, made of silk or semiprecious stones. Adding flowers would have completed the overall clever tromp l’oeil-effect.

China, Qianlong Period (1736-1795) H: 24 cm | W: 16.5 cm provenance

Private Collection, Belgium 2019 with Joseph M. Morpurgo Gallery, 1999 literature

Chen 2019 Goodyear 1918, p.135-140 Hong Kong 2005, p.180 nr.85 Lam 2007, nrs.81, 129-32 London 2005, p445 nr. 218 Zhu & Bushell 1977


This plaque illustrates the unbelievable dexterity and skill, of 18th-century porcelain manufacturers at Jingdezhen. It was an era of great prosperity and opulence, when the potters and enamellers were encouraged to experiment with shapes and colour combinations. This led to the development innovative designs, made to satisfy the Court’s fondness for unique pieces. Particularly during the Qianlong reign, often under the Emperor’s personal supervision, simulations of other materials were reproduced in porcelain. These were often so clever, that they could be difficult to distinguish from the real thing. These so-called trompe-l’oeil (xiangsheng 像/象生) ceramics, were the pinnacle of the novelties created, made for no other reason than for fun and enjoyment. Needless to say, it was a very sophisticated form of entertainment, no doubt only appreciated by the highly educated nobles and royalty.


This famille rose plaque is a good example of multi-layered trompe-l’oeil. Not only is it supposed to look like a wall-vase simulating a square vase; the stand is also an imitation of lacquered wood. Although wall vases, also known as wall pockets, also appeared in the earlier periods, this shape became particularly popular during the Qianlong period. Flattened at the back, as though cut in half, they were often made in pairs. The smaller ones were often hung inside sedan chairs, where flat vases were less bulky and easier to hang. In a poem by Emperor Qianlong, which he had inscribed on such a wall vase, he comments on the pleasure provided by these vases when travelling. Especially filled with flowers, which allowed him to enjoy their fragrance while the “red dust” (cares of the world) could not reach him in the carriage. Wall vases were also hung in the houses. In the Forbidden City’s Hall of Three Rarities, (Sanxi Tang ) is Qianlong’s private study, where he housed his most prized possession. On one wall is a display of 13 wall vases, in varying size and decoration, many containing imitation hardstone flowers - indicating his admiration for wall pockets. There is no known plaque similar to this one, in terms of shape and decoration. A wall plaque in the form of a double gourde is in the private collection of Anthony Chung. A group of Qianlong mark and period wall vases, with comparable faux-lacquer stands, are in the Huaihaitang collection. One in particular has similar floral scroll decoration and a panel with flowering branches. The Brooklyn Museum was gifted a wonderful collection (now dispersed) of wall vases by Samuel Avery in 1918, some we know with imitation flowers. The British Museum, London, has a wall vase (PDF A807), with a poem by Qianlong about vases in Sedan Chairs.



2 | Architectural Bitong This cleverly designed soft-paste (huashi) porcelain brush pot (bitong), is in the shape of a Chinese house in a classical Suzhou garden. It is finely worked with moulded, impressed, pierced and carved decoration. Due the angled sides, a clever use of perspective, the house gives the impression of being square, when in reality it is actually quite shallow. There appear to be two rooms, a lower one at the front and a slightly higher one, facing the rear. The lattice front door, in a lobed frame, is being opened by a robed figure, welcoming you in. The back has a panel with a scene, in shallow relief, of a courtyard house with latticed windows and a pagoda roof. The walled garden has a large plantain and branches of flowering plum tree hang over the wall. The pierced side-windows of the house, alternately have Chinese characters and open ‘brickwork’. The house stands on small cabriole feet and the top and the bottom edge are decorated with an incised key-fret pattern. This intriguing object, has openings in the top, two larger diamond shaped and four smaller, holes each in the shape of a different stylised leaf. This decorative brush pot, was intended for the scholars desk and would have been used for holding essential Chinese scholars’ utensils for writing and incense burning.

China, 18th Century H: 8.7 cm | W: 10.1 cm provenance

Altmeyer Collection, France, 2016 literature

Ayers 1999, p.206-211 Jörg & van Campen 1997, p.117 Kerr 1990, p.52-53 Lunsingh Scheurleer 1982, p.55 & 82 Lunsingh Scheurleer 1989, p.115-116 Oort & Kater 1982, p.112-124 Rinaldi 1993, p.90-99


The traditional patterns in the lattice windows and doors of this little house, are full of symbolism. The central pattern in the front door (changchuang 長 窗) is called taofangjin (套方錦), meaning delicately overlapping squares, an auspicious symbol of good fortune. Above it is the four-lobed shape of a stylised crab-apple flower (海棠)- not to be confused with the more irregular cloud pattern – indicating a wish for eternal spring and prosperity. Two of the oblong side-windows (louchuang 漏窗) have an ornamental pattern with three Chinese characters, which are arranged like a traditional couplet. They are not entirely decipherable, but appear to represent generic well-wishing words like ji (吉 auspicious), fu (富 wealthy), gui (貴 honorable).


Titel Caption



- xxx literature

Chinese so-called soft-paste porcelain, is made of a white-firing clay, with the addition of a powdered white clay called “huashi” or “slippery stone”. The particularly fine textured porcelain clay, lends its self perfectly for the very crisp moulded and incised designs, we see on this brush pot. Other typical characteristics, are a thinness and lightness of the body as well as a distinctive ivory tinged glaze. Its use in porcelain manufacture, is elaborately described in an early letter dated 25 January 1722 from the Jesuit Pere d’Entrecolles to Father Orry. Delicately potted soft-paste wares, were certainly more expensive to produce than a standard hard-paste kaolin bodied pieces. Being more exclusive, huashi objects are usually smaller and more refined, sometimes decorated in underglaze blue. Generally speaking its use was limited to making high-status small or miniature pieces, associated with the refined taste of the Chinese literati class.


We found no similar examples of this kind of brush pot. However, the Victoria & Albert Museum (London) has a soft-paste oblong brush rest, with a comparable pierced decoration and creamy glaze ( 141-1905). The Baur collection, Geneva, has a small collection of soft-paste porcelain pieces.


Chinese so-called soft-paste porcelain, is made of a white-firing clay, with the addition of a powdered white clay called “huashi” or “slippery stone”. The particularly fine textured porcelain clay, lends its self perfectly for the very crisp moulded and incised designs, we see on this brush pot.


3 | Archaic Vase An exceptionally large trompe l’oeil vase, simulating an archaic bronze vase. It stands on a high foot, with a slightly bulbous body and tall flaring neck. The rim has a band of key-fret pattern, under which hang two beribboned chimes in low relief. The shoulder has a band of upright plantain leaves (jiaoyewen) in sunken relief. Each leaf is surrounded by a thicker greenish glaze and filled in with a speckled purple and turquoise glaze, with incised veining. The handles are bold phoenix heads, in the same thick olive glaze, holding turquoise rings in their beaks. The body has a wide band of the bright speckled turquoise glaze, with an incised geometric diaper pattern (leiwen). An overlay in thicker smooth olive enamelling of a meander with stylised confronting kiu dragons, is interspersed with four ruyi shapes. The lower body and high foot are enamelled in the same smooth and thick greenish glaze, with a band of upright stylised leaves ending in ruyi-heads, moulded in low relief. The underside is glazed with no further marks.

China, Jiaqing period (1796-1820) H: 82.4 cm provenance

Bonhams, London 2012 Private Collection, France 2002 literature

Chen 2019, p.22-25 Hay 2010, p.225-235 Krahl 1994, p.266 nr.953 Rawson 2009, nr.59 Jenyns 1965, 1965, p.60 Taipei 1995, p.99 nr.25


The glazes, shape and decoration of this vase were intended make it look like an ancient bronze. This was simulated by using a combination of glazes: a typical olive brown known as ‘tea-dust’ (chaye mo) represented the bronze. This was achieved by under-firing an iron-oxide glaze which produced a speckled, greenish appearance. It is typically combined with a mottled turquoise and purple glaze, known as ‘Robin’s Egg’, intended to evoke the blue-green patina of ancient metalwork. This impressive vase, belongs to a group of porcelains simulating archaic bronzes. During the Qianlong reign (1736-1796), collecting all manner of antiques became very popular, which was reflected in the fashion for archaic shapes and decoration during the second half of the 18th century. The Emperor himself, greatly admired objects that were simulations of other materials and had a special liking for theatrical tromp l’oeil pieces.


At this time, there were also great technological advancements and a growing range of glazes and enamel colours. This, in combination with keen wealthy patrons, allowed the potters to significantly enlarge their repertoire and to show off their considerable artistic skills. The production of these simulations, obviously carried on into at least the late 18th century. Some tromp l’oeil – literally meaning fooling the eye - porcelain was so good, that they were difficult to separate from the real thing. Zhu Yan notes in the Taoshuo (Discourse on Ceramics,1774) that ‘... in fact, among all the works of art in carved gold, embossed silver, chiselled stone, lacquer, mother-of-pearl, bamboo and wood, gourd and shell, there is not one that is not now produced in porcelain, a perfect imitation of the original (fang xiao er xiao)’. In 1915, a stone tablet was excavated at the Imperial kiln site at Jingdezhen, titled ‘Orders and Memoranda on Porcelain’. On it Tang Ying, Superintendent in charge of the Imperial porcelain manufacture, talks of his efforts to ‘counterfeit’ bronze vessels. The Meiyintang collection records a vase simulating bronze, wholly in tea-dust, dated and marked Qianlong. The Grandidier collection in Musée Guimet, Paris, holds several pieces simulating bronze including a hu (G 1567 & G 3274), a bowl (G2403) and a large censer (G4120). The Shanghai Museum hold a Gu beker vase with comparable tea-dust and turquoise glazes. The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, also has a vase simulating bronze (



Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. lao tzu


Inspired by Nature Nature played a vital role in everyday Chinese lives, for crops and farming, as well as repose. However, it was due to the popularisation of Daoist’s beliefs, that items inspired by nature became particularly popular. Daoist philosophy, encourages an awareness that human life is only a small part of a larger, more powerful, process of nature. They believe humans should be in synchronisation with the flow of nature - the Dao or the Way. This sense of harmony is reflected in its most famous symbol: Yin & Yang. Not only was there this innate admiration of the power and influence of nature. To the Chinese scholar, going back to nature represented a higher ideal, a state of perfect tranquillity, to reflect and enjoy the simple things in life. But wordplay and puns also feature in representations of the natural world, as Chinese characters and pronunciation of words can be very similar. This deeper symbolism, was immediately obvious to the learned literati. So representation of flowers and plants would have a deeper meaning, such as plum blossom as a symbol of spring and hardiness.


4 | Peach Brush Washer This brush washer is in the recognisable asymmetrical shape of a peach. It is glazed in a very soft blue tinged white. Darker clay shows through the glaze in parts of the rim, where the glaze is thinner. A freely modelled naturalistic gnarled branch with leaves, curls around the bottom, serving as a foot and handle. The foot has three unglazed patches, probably from where it stood when firing. The colour and shape of this brush washer, are both reminiscent of the Song Dynasty Guan ware, which was very much admired in the early Qing Dynasty. The Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), the period preceding that of the Mongolian Ming rulers, was considered the a very sophisticated era of great learning and elegance. Its style was therefore often emulated in the later periods. Peaches (taozi), are amongst the most important Chinese auspicious symbols and are depicted in many art forms since ancient times. It is immediately recognisable by its asymmetrical heart shape, often with branches and leaves of the tree added. The peach represents longevity, featuring in many popular Daoist stories, as achieving immortality was one of their main concerns. They believed that magic peaches bestowing eternal life, grew on trees which grow in the Garden of the Queen Mother of the West (Xiwangmu). These special trees only flowered once every 3000 years and took another 3000 to bear fruit. Therefore the peach is a much used and loved symbol for spring and longevity and was a favoured motif for birthday wishes. China, Kangxi period (1662-1722), c. 1710-1720 H: 5.9 cm | L: 11.6 cm provenance

Private Collection, France literature

Bartholomew 2006, p.73 Besse 2004, p.122 nr.45 Krahl 2010, p.348 nr.1800 London 2005, p.374, 468 & nr.292 Welch 2008, p.55


Museé Guimet, Paris has two comparable peaches (G3528 & G2174). The Indianapolis Museum of Art, also has one from the same period with a more crackled glaze ( 60.137). A larger and shallower peach brush washer, is in the Palace Museum, Beijing (GU151932).



Peaches Peaches (prunus persica), are one of the oldest fruit in China and favourite fruit of the Emperors. Perhaps this is why it became the most depicted fruit in Chinese art. The peach is actually indigenous to China and the history of its current cultivars can be traced as far back as 1000BC, when they are first mentioned in Chinese literature. However, there is even earlier physical evidence of the consumption of peaches, as their fruit stones have been found at various archaeological digs, the earliest at Kuahuqiao on the lower Yangtze delta, dating from 6000BC. China is currently the largest single producer of peaches in the world, accounting for 50% of world production.


5 | Peach Pyramid An enamel on biscuit (sousancai) fruit pyramid, with naturalistically moulded peaches, piled in a fluted dish. The coloured enamelling is in various shades of ochre-yellow, green and brown. The 16 pieces of miniature fruit are arranged in four layers, with green leaves and brown stems added in between. The fluted under-dish, is glazed in a warm ochre yellow, the underside left unglazed. Each peach would have been individually moulded, then arranged layer by layer and joined with slip; the veined leaves and branches were added last before the first firing. Coloured glazes would then be added onto the fired biscuit, after which it was fired again at a lower temperature in a so-called muffle kiln.

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722) circa 1700 H: 16 cm | Ø: 10.4 cm provenance

Private Collection, Buenos Aires, Argentina literature

Bartholomew 2006, p.204 Berlin 1929, p.358 nr.977 Beurdeley & Reindre 1987, p.84, fig.122 Bondy 1923, p.173 Krahl 1996, Vol. II, p.448 nr.261 Pei 2004, p.143 Pinto de Matos 2011, pl.153 & 154 Sargent 1991, pl.9 Welch 2008, p.55


Porcelain models of fruit pyramids, derive from the Chinese tradition of piling offerings of various sweetmeats on the household or temple altar; either for ancestor worship or in the tomb for the afterlife. Artificial fruit dishes such as these, were a beautiful as well as practical alternative to fresh fruit. Similar pyramids are known with a variety of fruit depicted, such as pomegranates, finger citrus, walnuts, lychees and melons. These charming and quirky pieces were not only used in China, but also exported to the West as luxurious curiosities in the 18th century. The earliest recorded example in Europe of such a pyramid depicting pomegranates, was a small hand drawn sketch added to a French auction catalogue in 1769. A peach pyramid in the same colourway is in the RA Collection, Brazil and the Burrell Collection, Glasgow (nr.38.872). One with purple and turquoise glazes, without a dish, is in the Anthony the Rothschild Collection, UK. Two fruit pyramids were depicted in the Berlin Chinese Art exhibition catalogue in 1929.


6 | Bamboo Brush Pot This slender green cylindrical brush pot (bitong), is in the shape and colour of a fresh piece of bamboo. The shallow carved lines around the body, represent the typical joints of the stem. The flattened rim is broad and the slightly irregular moulded body, make it very naturalistic. It has two panels in low relief depicting scenes of four scholars wearing loose robes, conversing in a walled garden. In the foreground of each scene is a gnarly tree trunk and the crown of palm tree is visible in the background. The glossy green glaze, added over the biscuit, is thick and loosely applied. The underside is also glazed green, except the foot ring which is left unglazed. Most of the inside is also unglazed. This container would have been a very functional item on a the Chinese scholars desk. It could be used to hold brushes or utensils, but could also function as a small flower vase.

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722) circa 1710 H: 11.2 cm | Ø: 6.2 cm

The bamboo plant (zhu) is so generic in China, it features in every phase of life and knows no class distinction. With this prominent role in daily life, it is a very auspicious plant with great meaning and symbolism. It represents humility, endurance, righteousness, flexibility, dignity and gracefulness – all qualities which a true Chinese scholar strives to emulate. Other virtuous qualities include bending with the wind without breaking, so remaining strongly rooted even in the strongest storm – so steadfast when facing adverse conditions. Thus bamboo became synonimous with learned scholars and literati (wen ren) with high moral standards. It’s positive associations with learning and virtue, ensured that brush pots made of bamboo or in the shape of that plant, became very prized possessions for the Chinese scholars.


Provenance: Private Collection, France literature

Ayers 2004, p.149 fig.164 Bartholomew 2006, p.60 Butler 1990, pl.22 Hong Kong 2005 London 2009, fig.237 p.235 Rinaldi 1993, p.90-99


A green glazed winepot in the form of bamboo, from the Butler Collection, was exhibited by the Oriental Ceramics society in 2009. The Vergottis Collection, Lausanne has a turquoise glazed bamboo-shaped brush pot of the same size.


7 | Parrots A pair of Chinese Enamel on Biscuit porcelain models of parrots. The birds are standing on an aubergine glazed open work rock. The heads are slightly turned to the right, the carved eyes enamelled in black. The beaks and large clawed feet are not glazed, the feet show traces of red lacquer, which would have been applied after the firing. The wings are folded to the body, covering the tail feathers. The overall body is covered in a thick lustrous green enamel.

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722), circa 1700 H: 18.1 cm provenance

Private Collection, The Netherlands literature

Ayers 2016, pl.540-541 Ayers 2004, p.95, pl.72 Clunas 1991, p.41-42 Cohen & Motley 2008, pl.20.1, p.278 Pei 2004, p.142 Sargent 1991, p.92 en 93, fig.38 Setterwall 1974, p156 & 160 fig. p.163 (FE54)


In China, parrots (鹦鹉 Yingwu) can be found in the wild, mainly in the warmer southern provinces. Traditionally, these birds have always been kept in cages as pets and for amusement. In the Tang era, much prized exotic birds were also brought to the imperial court from Indochina and Indonesia. Emperor Xuanzong (r.712-756), adopted a talking parrot as a pet and Emperor Taizong (r.626-649) commissioned a rhapsody to be written about his own prized parrot. During the latter part of the Ming Dynasty, the wealthy and well educated scholar Wen Zhenmeng, wrote the popular Treatise on Superfluous Things 1615-1620; a discourse on the proper and elegant use of objects and materials. In the fourth chapter, on birds and fish, he explains that as parrots are capable of speech, they should be taught to recite short poems and harmonious phases. To be visually pleasing, their bronze perches and feeding jars must all be elegant and curious. He also specifies that, as with other exotic birds, they were only appropriate for the women’s quarters. During the 18th century, parrots were very popular in the West because of their vibrant and exotic appearance. At the time, the taste for acquiring porcelain parrots was further stimulated by the fashion for exotic Orientalism, when having live parrots was also popular. They were also perfect for decorating fashionable Chinoiserie style rooms. Many European collections have examples of parrot figurines in Enamel on Biscuit porcelain, in green, aubergine or turquoise glazes. Similar parrots are in the Dresden Collection (PO3370), Musée Guimet, Paris (G3125) and in Drottningholm Castle, Sweden (FE54).


8 | Lotus Cups A pair on green glazed enamel on biscuit cups, in the form of delicately folded lotus leaves. The rim is the pointed shape of the leaf edge. The veins of the leaves are naturalistically engraved, on the inside and outside of the cups. A lotus stem runs up one side of the cup, curling under, to form three small feet. On one cup, the stem is loosely glazed in aubergine enamels, on the other it is left unglazed. Such elegant and beautiful cups, could have been used for wine drinking, in the scholars studio. The naturalistic shape and the associations with the lotus, would not have been lost on the users. The Lotus is of particular importance in Chinese folklore, due to its great symbolic value, as well as its associations with Buddhism. The Chinese word for lotus, lian (莲), is phonetically identical with lian, meaning to bind or connect. This plant is an often used as a symbol of purity and resilience, as its flowers emerge unstained from the surrounding muddy waters. Thus it forms an apt metaphor for the poor scholar, who could only achieve success by passing the imperial examinations. The lotus is also a well-known symbol of Buddhism, representing purity and enlightenment. Buddhist deities are therefore often shown sitting, or standing, on a lotus. It is also one of the eight Buddhist precious things.

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722) circa 1700 H: 6.3 cm | Ø: 9.1 cm provenance

Van Daalen Collection, Geneva, 2019 With Vanderven 2006, Label 166 With Chait Galleries New York (label) literature

Krahl 2016, p.70 nr.35 Pei 2004, p.119 Welch 2008, p.27-30


A similar cup, but glazed in yellow, can be found in the Collection Ernst Grandidier in Musée Guimet, Paris (G1032), as well as a green glazed one with a longer stem handle (G705). The Burrell Collection, Glasgow has one in an Aubergine glaze, with an added domed water dropper inside the cup ( 38.578), The Indianapolis Museum of Art also has a comparable aubergine glazed example ( 58.64).


9 | Plum Blossom Trees A pair of Blanc de Chine porcelain jardinières, each with a miniature blossoming plum tree. The branches have clusters of blooms as well as buds. The bases of the trees are surrounded by small rocks. The tapering rectangular jardinières, made of straight slabs of porcelain, have a recessed foot. The Chinese loved to bring nature indoors, in the form of live plants or in items simulating nature. These trees would have been a reminder of spring and a symbol of perseverance and longevity. These are Chinese prunus trees (meihua), a variety of early blossoming plum, which are very emblematic and laden with symbolic meaning. In China, they are greatly admired for their beauty, which is why their blooms are considered ‘the first amongst flowers’. They are a very popular subject matter for art and poetry. As its flowers emerge before the leaves, it’s blossoming in the early months of the year, heralds spring but still represents of winter. Being so hardy, this tree also embodies hope and endurance during hardship. The five flower petals, symbolise the many ‘fives’ in Chinese imagery - including the five gods of prosperity; five good fortunes; five good luck gods etc. In modern China the meihua is the National Flower, its petals representing the five Chinese peoples: Han, Manchu, Mongol, Mohammedan and Tibetan. China, second half 19th century H: 22.2 cm provenance

Private Collection, The Netherlands literature

Boulay 1984, p.182, pl.3 Donnelly 1969, p.126 Liu 2007, pl.85 Pei 2004, p.152-153 Scagliola 2012, p.312, nr.397 Welch 2008, p.38-39


The Chinese have their own form of bonsai, known as penjing – a scenery or miniature landscape in a container. Even though less well known, the art form is actually older than that of Japanese bonsai. The main difference between the two is that bonsai artists only work with plant material, miniaturizing one or more trees. In contrast, the Chinese penjing tree is only a part of a larger composition, often also featuring rocks, sometimes even including miniature figures and animals. These porcelain trees with rockeries, are made in the Chinese penjing tradition. The British Museum, London has a similar tree in its collection ( 1980,0728.198), as does the Laura Collection in Italy.


The Small Plum Tree in My Garden on the Hill Lin Bu (967 - 1028 AD) The plum tree is the only one in blossom after all other flowers have fallen. So lovely, it is now the center of attention and affection in this small garden. Its sparse shadows, in irregular pattern, float on the water so shallow and clear. The faint fragrance at dusk can be felt as the bright moon begins to appear. A bird, in the chill, peeps at the blossoms before it flies down to the twig. If butterflies were around, they would definitely be fascinated by it. I am fortunate enough to stand nearby chanting a few poetic lines. I need neither clappers nor a wine jar to harmonize my rhymes. Translation Edward C. Chang, 2009

山园小梅 林逋

众芳摇落独暄妍,占尽风情向小园。 疏影横斜水清浅,暗香浮动月黄昏。 霜禽欲下先偷眼,粉蝶如知合断魂。 幸有微吟可相狎,不须檀板共金樽。



10 | Tree Trunk Tea Service A complete 5-piece solid silver tea and coffee service, in the shape of tree trunks, with straight sides and flat tops and bottoms. They have indentation on one side, with chased and engraved wood grain and knots. They are further embellished in relief, with plum blossom branches. The handles and finials, are in the shape of gnarly branches, with separators to avoid the handle becoming too hot. The eye-catcher of the service, is the kettle on its stand, with its original burner; it could be tilted forward to pour the hot water to refill the teapot. The kettle, smaller teapot sugar pot and a creamer are all marked Singfat. Only the coffee pot is marked Zeewoo shanghai, who we know operated from 307 Honan Road, Shanghai. The items are perfectly matched, so it is possible the coffee pot was ordered as a later addition, to augment the service.

China, circa 1900 H: Coffee Pot 16 cm | Tea Pot 12.2 cm | Sugar Pot 8.4 cm | Creamer 8.7 cm | Kettle & Stand: 22 cm Kettle, creamer, sugar pot and tea pot marked Singfat (Canton/Shanghai). The coffee pot marked ZeeWo (Shanghai) provenance

Provenance: Private Collection, The Netherlands literature

Chan 2017, p.183 fig.6 Crosby Forbes 1975, p.184 fig.99 Devereux Kernan 1985, nr.148, 205, 275


Chinese Export Silver is very functional, usually with European shapes. Talented local silversmiths, would use typical Chinese decorative motifs such as robed figures, animals or natural elements, using repoussé and chasing techniques. The result is always a charming fusion between East and West. This type of silverware, was often made for the Westerners who were living in China and taken back home, when they moved back. But this type of silver also appealed to the group of Chinese who had adopted a more Western lifestyle, particularly in bustling trading ports such as Shanghai. Drinking tea was a serious business in China, as well as the West. So using silver when serving tea, elevated the whole affair. Because tea was a luxury in the West and revered in China, how it was served was very important. The accoutrements of tea drinking, were a statement in their own right, as important as the quality of tea served.


The origin of this particular tree trunk design is not clear, but it is believed the underlying message was that the reality of life is likened to gnarled wood, contrasting with the soft beauty of the plum blossom. Silver tree trunk tea services appear to have been quite popular, as various examples and makers have been documented. Makers using this design, include Zeewoo, Singfat, the famous Wang Hing and the unknown maker ‘PK’. Other recorded items with the same decoration include a hot water jug, mustard pot, bud vase and a tea caddy.



11 | Rock Crystal Brush Pot A large rock crystal brush pot in the shape of a gnarly tree trunk. It has a decoration of pine, bamboo, plum blossom, lingzhi mushrooms and a crane. It is carved in low and high relief, with some deep carving coming free from the surface. Such an elegant and symbolic object, would have been intended for use in the Chinese scholars studio. It was a very multifunctional object, as it could be used both as a vase or brush pot. The subject matter reflects the Chinese literati’s love of bringing nature indoors. Daoist principles regarded nature as an important part of energy flows, as well as being a source of great inspiration. Generally carvings like this one are not signed, so we will never know by who or where the work was produced. We do know the best carving came from the capital Beijing, where Imperial patrons propelled the craftsmen to great heights.

China, 18th Century H: 16.2 cm | Ø: 14.5 cm provenance

To the Chinese a combination of pine, plum blossom and bamboo, is known as the ‘three friends of winter’ (suihan sanyou). The pine (song) and bamboo (zhu) are both evergreens and the plum (mei), is the first tree to blossom at the end of winter. These plants therefore all represent the fortitude and uprightness in adverse conditions, traits greatly admired by the Chinese. All three plants also represent longevity, as they all live for a long time. The addition of a crane (he) and lingzhi fungus, which also represent longevity and immortality, reinforce the wish for a long and healthy life.

Provenance: Private Collection, France literature

Ayers 2016, p.823 fig.1912 Bartholomew 2006, p.178 & 210 Jenyns & Watson 1981, p.185-220 Lin 2009, p.57, 84128 Jong 2020, p.82 Pei 1997, p.125 fig.122 Rawson & Ayers 1975, p.143-144 nr.486 Rinaldi 1993, p.90-99 Sun 2016, Museum of Art, New York Wilson 2004, p.102 & 103


Chinese lapidary craftsmen, were known for their incredible skill at carving all types of hardstones. Jade was the most popular hardstone, but other semiprecious stones were also used such as rock crystal, lapis lazuli, turquoise and agate. Due to their hard composition, all of these stones have to be shaped by abrasion, which took a huge amount of time and skill to do. A treadle drill and basic manual tools were used to hollow, shape and model the objects. The raw shape of the unworked piece, the inclusions, cracks and colourations, were all brilliantly utilized to enhance the design. The larger the piece, the more complicated it was to shape it into a good design. The deep hollowing, to make a vessel like this pot, a vase or bowl, meant a lot of material was unused – making them a lot more costly.


Colourless crystal was particularly valued for its transparency, its name Shuijing – literally meaning water essence or crystalized water. 48

Rock Crystal (水晶) is a member of the quartz family. It is the purest variety, which is clear and colourless like glass. This is due to the lack of trace minerals, which are responsible for the colour variations. It is related to rose quartz, smoky quartz and amethyst. Crystal is found naturally in China, particularly in the Khotan and the Yangtze River regions the same mountainous regions where jades were also mined. But it was also imported from Japan and further afield such as Ceylon. Its use is as old as that of Nephrite jade, and is already referred to in ancient writings. Colourless crystal was particularly valued for its transparency, its name Shuijing – literally meaning water essence or crystalized water. As such it was a symbol for purity, clarity & honour. It was also thought to ward off evil, whilst bringing luck. Due to this allusion to purity, it acquires a particular significance to Buddhists. To the Confucian scholar, crystal was a material likened to water or ice. It did not carry the meaning coldness, but rather that you were transparent and had nothing to hide. They prized the beauty of this stone, which signified solitude and sobriety in behaviour and thought. As a result rock crystal was a popular material for scholar’s studio objects and could include items such as brush rests, seals and other objects reflecting the scholars’ pure thoughts. The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge ( 0.61-1946), The Metropolitan Museum, New York (, and The Aberdeen Archive & Gallery (acc nr ABDMSO24914), all have a smaller rock crystal pine tree vase. The Palace Museum, Beijing has a small vase with a pine and a monkey. The Suzhou Museum, China has a brush pot with the ‘Three Friends of Winter’. The Royal Collection, UK has a pine tree trunk vase with an additional bamboo stem (nr. QMPPIX.123). The Victoria & Albert Museum has a similar double vase (c.1747A/2-1910).


12 | Magnolia Blossom Cup This type of Blanc de Chine porcelain libation cup, is known as a Magnolia Blossom cup. The smooth bowl has a spreading lip, tapering sides and a rounded bottom. It stands on a raised foot in the shape of curled branches, which come up the sides of the cup. It is decorated with applied moulded relief, of plum blossom (Mei hua) on one side and branches with magnolia buds (Mulan hua) on the other. Unusually, it has traces of delicate coloured enamelling on the flowers and branches, in pink, yellow, blue and green with traces of gold. These colours would not have been applied at the production centre, but either in a provincial kiln or on its arrival in Europe.

China, Dehua, Early Kangxi period (1662-1722), 17th century H: 7.5 cm | W: 11.4 cm provenance

Private Collection, United Kingdom 2017 With Lynn Greenwold, United Kingdom (label) literature

Ayers 2016, p.72 nr.111-131 Cochius 1974, nr.10 Donnelly 1969, pl.27 Howard & Ayers 1978, p.102 Jenyns & Watson 1981, p.169 Kerr & Ayers 2002, nr.120 Penkala 1980, p.152 pl. XXXVII & XXXVII Sargent 2012, p.204 nr.9


This cup was made in Dehua, a porcelain production centre which lies on the South-Eastern coast of China, in Fujian province. This city is still famous for its production of white porcelains, known to Europeans as ‘Blanc de Chine’. The earliest Dehua porcelain was already produced in the 14th century, but the production and quality peaked around the 17th and 18th centuries. Exactly such a cup is depicted on a Still-life painting by Leonard Knyff from 1681, which supports the dating. Similar cups also appear to have been produced in other materials. The collection in Dresden has one in soapstone; and ivory and rhinoceros horn versions have been recorded, perhaps suggesting a connection between the Dehua Kilns and nearby carving workshops. Magnolia Blossom cups, appear to have been produced in quite a large number and in several sizes, this one being the larger size. They appear in quite a few collections, sometimes in multiples or mounted. The Royal Collection Trust, UK, holds a group of these cups, with one in the same larger size (RCN 58886). The Dresden Porzellansammlung inventory records 43 of these cups, one of which still has remnants of gilding on the branches and flowers (PO 8293). Musée Guimet, Paris (G978) and The Groninger Museum (nr.2005.0347.A) both have undecorated examples. The Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, holds a slightly smaller Magnolia Blossom cup, from the Hickley Collection, which also has the added coloured enamelling (acc. nr.2000-03481).



Imitating Materials There were many sources of inspiration for the shapes and decoration of Chinese ceramics. Sometimes they copied other materials, due to lower costs or lack of other available materials. But it was also acceptable, sometimes even requisite, to use alternate materials. In the Han Dynasty, and long thereafter, we see ancient bronze shapes copied in ceramics for display or burials. Through trade with other countries, foreign shapes and materials became an inspiration for new porcelain designs. The influx of new and exotic artefacts, not only fuelled the craftsmen’s creativity, but were given as examples to be reproduced for special orders by merchants or the East India companies. – these wares are known as Chine de Commande. We know that metal and glass objects served as examples, as well as items of Dutch Delftware and European silver. Models could also be made of wood, or as a drawn design. Popular Western prints were also a source of decorative patterns and devices on porcelain.


13 | Oil Lamp This tall glazed pottery oil lamp, comprises two main parts and eight individual lamp cups. The lower part has a mound-shaped pedestal, with carved outlines of hills, applied with small modelled figures and animals. A central column supports a large circular flat-rimmed basin with four holes, holding long-stemmed lamp cups. From the basin rises another stem which supports the top part of the lamp. This stands on a smaller rounded pedestal, which is pierced in a geometric pattern of intersecting lines and supports the second basin. This again is pierced on the wide rim to hold another four cups. From its center rises another stem, which is topped with a long- necked bird, wings and tail feathers outstretched. From its back rises a column ending in a cup. It is glazed all-over in light green lead-glaze. The structure, as well as the colour of the lamp, was most likely inspired by bronze examples. This particular lamp was probably not made to be used, but as a tomb replica to be taken to the afterlife.

China, Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) H: 113 cm | Ø: 41 cm provenance

Private Collection, The Netherlands 2018 TL Tested by Oxford Authentication, Ltd. literature

Jacobson 2013, p.116-117 Lau 1991, p.142-143 nr.144 Liu 1991, p.118 Pirazzoli 1982, p.177 fig.128 Rawson 1996, p.190-191 nr. 97 Sun 2017, p.216-217 nr.134 Watt 2004, p.82-83


The base with its figures and animals may represent a mythological hunting scene, as also seen on boshanlu incense burners, whose hill-shaped covers represent mystical Kunlun mountain. Spirit mountains were considered to be the pillars between heaven and earth. So a lamp such as this one, made specifically for a burial, could symbolise the connection with heaven, as well as representing eternal light and the possibility of entering the realm of immortals.


Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 220) tombs, included replicas (mingqi) of everything necessary for the afterlife, including attendants, farm animals, vessels and various implements. Lamps are another such object. Oil lamps were widely used during the Han period, made from a variety of materials such as bronze iron, ceramics, stone and wood. They would have had vegetable oil or paraffin to fuel wicks, that would float in the bowls.The earliest known lamps, date from the warring states period (481-221 BC), but it is thought they are already in use at a much earlier date. Lamps with multiple branches, layers and cups appear to have been particularly popular in the Han dynasty; several elaborate pottery examples from the late Eastern Han Dynasty have been found. The David Dewey Collection, Minneapolis, has a comparable lamp from the same period as does the Portland Art Museum, Oregon. Elaborate lamps, both excavated in Henan province, were exhibited at the British Museum in 1996 and at the Metropolitan Museum, New York in 2017.

Oil lamps were widely used during the Han period, made from a variety of materials such as bronze iron, ceramics, stone and wood.



14 | Ding This pottery tripod ritual food vessel, based on an ancient archaic shape, is known as a ding (鼎). These type of cauldrons, come in a variety vary of shapes and sizes, but they all stand on three legs. This one has an ovoid body and a slightly flattened lid. It stands on three plain sturdy legs, which flare our slightly at the top and bottom; the broad looped handles are attached to the body. Its shallow lid has a flattened top, with three small horned buffalo resting on the top. Both the edge of the handle, as well as the buffalo, are incised with archaistic motifs often seen on earlier bronzes. The lighter grey pottery, has traces of a darker painted or perhaps lacquered decoration. This vessel is clearly intended to look like a bronze example, in terms of shape as well as decoration. Bronze was a much more costly and less widely available material, so pottery was often used to create the same effect, whilst still complying with the strict burial ritual traditions. It is now known that the higher the rank of the noble, the larger amount of artefacts - including ding vessels - that would accompany them to the afterlife. Whole groups of ding have been found together, often with variations in size and material, some even filled with traces of organic material.

China, Western Han Dynasty (206 BC- 25 AD) H: 24 cm | Ø: 31 cm

These type of tripod vessels, were used as ritualistic cooking cauldrons for heating wine or food. It stands higher on its legs, so a heat source could be placed underneath it. It would have been used as part of religious rituals in life, therefore also a necessary item for in the presumed after-life.


Private Collection, Chicago USA, 2019 TL Tested by Oxford Authentication Ltd, UK literature

Bonneux 2006, nr.45-46 Frankfurt 1998, p.196, p.206 nr.31 Liu 1991, 1991, p.130 Wang 1982, fig.184 Xu, 2017, p.97 nr.28 & 102 Lefebvre d’Argencé 1967, pl.VII


In the well documented Western Han Dynasty tomb of King Zhoa Mo (r.137-122 BC), a large number of bronze, as well as pottery, ding were found. They were also found in the Han Dynasty Yangling Mausoleum complex, Shanxii Province. Pottery ding are also in the museum collections of the British Museum, London ( 1937,0712.8) and the Freer & Sackler Gallery, Washington (nr.C.687&A-1909). To compare, an earlier Warring States period bronze ding, with similar reclining animals on the lid and broad loop handles, is in the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (B60B5+.a-.b).


15 | Hu This large unglazed pottery storage jar, stands on a high slightly domed foot. The bulbous body has horizontal incised bands around its middle, with ringed taotie masks in low relief applied to the sides. It also has two additional small sturdy lug handles on the other two sides. The wide neck flares out to a stepped rim, made to fit a lid. The slightly domed removable lid, with incised lines and circles, is topped with a shallow square grip with a wide groove in the middle. Between the foot and the narrower lower body, are two large pierced holes. Originally, there would have been a cord running through the holes and handles, then tied over the lid to hold it in place. It is made of a greyish high-fired pottery, covered in a lighter slip. The areas of darker colouration on one side, are probably caused by the position in the tomb it was placed in. Not everyone could afford inlaid bronzes and decorative lacquers as part of their ‘spirit goods’ (minqi), so ceramic alternatives closely imitated the more costly versions in forms and decoration. These ceramic versions were also very useful, particularly for the volume and relative speed at which they could be produced.

China, Late Western Dynasty (206 BC-25AD) H: 40.5 cm | Ø: 28.5 cm provenance

Private Collection Chicago, USA (2019) TL Tested by Oxford Authentication Ltd

This type of vessel, known as a hu, was mainly intended to store wine and food. They have been known to have been found with remnants inside. This included traces of liquids, probably rice wine, as well as solids from plants or animals. Such as with many vessels from this period, the shape of the hu, is clearly inspired by the earlier inlaid bronzes from the late Shang and Warring States (472–221 B.C.E.) periods. It is a popular shape also known in other materials such as bronze, lacquerware, as well glazed and unglazed ceramics. It is thought the shape of the hu, may have originally been inspired by hollowed out gourds, which was a useful vegetable in many respects, but when dried used as containers.


Ayers 1980, bw pl.23 Frankfurt 1998, p.162 Krahl 1994, nr.70 Lau 1991, p.110 nr.77 Lin 2012, p.249 nr.120 Liu 1991, p.122


The Metropolitan Museum, New York, has a painted pottery hu (acc. nr.1986.170a,b). The Victoria & Albert Museum has an unlidded glazed example in their collection (C.301-1910) as well as a comparable buff stoneware version, the lid missing (C.30-1952). A bronze example of the same shape, can be found in the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (nr. B60B610.a-.b).


16 | Orientalist Ewer This pear-shaped ewer and cover, with an oval cross section, is decorated in what is known as ‘Chinese Imari’ decoration, which combines underglaze blue with overglaze red and gold. It is richly moulded with a central peach shaped panel; with concave fluted petals around the neck and convex petals around the lower body. It has a dense decoration of leaves and sprays of chrysanthemums and peonies, painted with lines and washes of red or blue. There is a plainer bulb around the narrowest part of the neck, only decorated with a band of red swirls, between blue lines. The almond shaped rim and domed lid both have moulded hinges, which were intended to be fitted with decorative metal or silver hinges. The lid has radial fluting and is topped with a spiral finial. The spout and handle are elegantly curved, the spout ending in a small bulb; both are decorated with blue leaves with red details. It stands on a low flaring foot, decorated with flowers under band of red swirls.

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722) circa 1710 H: 29.8 cm | W: 19.8 cm provenance

Private Collection, The Netherlands 2011 literature

Carswell 1995, p.121 nr.152 Howard & Ayers 1978, Vol. II, p.461-2 nr.470 Krahl & Ayers 1986, pl.2919, 2944 & 2946 Pinto de Matos 2019, p.256 nr. 105


The shape of this ewer is copied with great accuracy from a Near Eastern metal prototype, which were in use in the Middle East since the 14th century. A considerable amount of Chinese porcelain was exported to the Turkish Empire, Persia and India during the 17th and 18th centuries. Especially for the Islamic markets, the Chinese potters would limit their decorative motifs to flowers and geometric shapes, as the human form was not allowed to feature in their art forms. It is possible that these ewers were made with matching basins, as hand washing was an important of daily life in India and Middle Eastern countries. The collection of Augustus the Strong in Dresden has a very similar ewer (PO 5486) and the RA Collection, Brazil has an identical pair, mounted with hinges. The Topakpi Saray collection in Istanbul, also has several variations. The Saberk Hanim Museum, Istanbul has a ewer of the same shape, but with only iron red and gold decoration.


The shape of this ewer is copied with great accuracy from a Near Eastern metal prototype.



17 | Jue A blanc de Chine libation cup, is shaped like an archaic bronze jue. It stands on three small cabriole feet and has a single c-shaped ear on one side. There are short capped posts, attached to the inner rim. The body has moulding in low relief, of four panels each with a Chinese character, separated by vertical flanges. Around the outer rim, is a moulded band with repeating key-fret pattern. During China’s Bronze Age, these jue cups were used as ritual vessels to heat and then drink alcohol. As it has high legs, the metal version could be placed over the heat source to warm the liquid. The short posts inside the rim, would have been used to pick up the hot cup, perhaps with tongs. However, during the late Ming period in China, this cup would have been used as an elegant wine cup. Its reference to an archaic shape, would have reflected the great discernment and sophistication of its owner. They are known in various sizes and with small variations in decoration and shape. Besides being used in China, these type of cups also appear to have been traded and exported to the West. Musée Guimet, Paris has an identical example (G4009), as does the Hallwyl Collection, Stockholm. The George & Marie Vergottis Foundation, Lausanne and The Victoria and Albert Museum, London (CIRC.1370-1926), also have blanc de Chine jue in their collections. China, Dehua, Fujian Province, 17th century H: 6.5 cm | L: 8.2 cm provenance

Private Collection, The Netherlands, 2019 literature

Ayers 2004, p.63 nr.39 Donnelly 1969, pl.54c. Kerr & Ayers 2002, nr.83 Kerr 2015, p.37 nr.24



18 | Swirl Vases These elegant pear-shaped bottle vases, have a globular body, slender neck and slightly flared gilt-edged mouths. The bulbous band at the neck, is decorated with four stylized chrysanthemums in gold - similar to a Japanese kiku emblem. The rest of the vase is entirely decorated with spiralling stripes, in a light iron-red colour edged by darker red lines. The symmetry and accuracy with which the swirled lines have been applied by hand, attests to the incredible skill of the Chinese enamellers in the Kangxi period.

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722) circa 1720 H: 26 cm


Private Collection, Germany (2012) With Vanderven Oriental Art (2002) literature

Altenburg 1998, p.71 Ayers 1990, p.241 nr.264 Beijing 2012, pl.102 Corbellier 2003, p.11 & pl.7 Fuchs & Howard 2005, pl.106 Jörg 1995, nr.24 Krahl 2016, p.318 nr.189 Ströber 2001, pl.35


Pear-shaped vases, are among the most popular types of export porcelain during Kangxi period. This typical shape, derives from Persian metal and ceramic models, appearing in China from the early Transitional Style period (c.1635) onwards. What makes these vases particularly unusual, is the decoration with swirling stripes. This striking décor, is thought to be inspired by 17th-century Venetian latticino glassware, where opaque white enamel threads were applied to colorless glass vessels in a spiraling movement. The technique was well known in The Netherlands, brought over by immigrant craftsmen. It is quite possible that this type of glassware, or a model in another material, was taken to China by merchant traders, where they formed a source of inspiration for the Chinese craftsmen. Similar vases are in the famous porcelain collection of Augustus the Strong in Dresden (PO 8023). These were also included in the 1721 inventory confirming their Kangxi dating. Other comparable examples can be found in Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam (nr.A1743 KN&V), and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1982.27). The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, has two, one is comparable to this one (C.102-1956) and the other (C.343-1931) has a rare Dutch over-decoration in the Kakiemon style. Winterthur Museum, Delware, also has a pair with narrower stripes (nr.103.2775.90.1,.2).



This striking décor, is thought to be inspired by 17th-century Venetian latticino glassware.


19 | Goblets These unusual goblets with covers, are decorated underglaze with an intense cobalt blue. The deep bowl is a dense pattern of feathery chrysanthemum scrolls. The thick baluster stem has a central bulb, between two pairs of flat disks (mereces), each with a blue line. It stands on a spreading foot with a matching band of flower pattern. The domed cover, painted with a similar decoration, has a three disk finial ending in a blue glazed knob. The shape of this goblet is clearly inspired by German and Dutch glass goblets from the 17th century. Similar goblets were retrieved from the Vung Tau wreck, named after the Vietnamese island where this Asian trading junk was found. The ship has been dated to the Kangxi period, c.1690, which also allows for accurate dating of the cargo. It is assumed the ship sank on its way to Batavia, which was the main trading hub for the Dutch East India Company (VOC). So studying this cargo, gives great insights into what kind of wares and which volumes, were intended for the European market at the time. It also reveals how the revitalised kilns at Jingdezhen, were already producing substantial quantities of porcelain for export to order. The shapes and subjects often copying European metal or glass designs. China, Kangxi period (1662-1722), circa 1690 H: 23.8 cm provenance

Collection Aleman, The Netherlands With Vanderven & Vanderven 1970-’s literature

Amsterdam 1992, lot 1 Campen & Eliëns 2014, p.100 fig.2 Corbeiller 2003, p.10 nr.6 Jörg 2001 Jörg & van Campen 1997, p.116


Similar goblets are also in the collection of Museum Huis van Gijn (nr.3756) and the Metropolitan Museum, New York (nr.79.2.242a,b). The Princessehof Leeuwarden has one from the Vung Tau, without the cover (inv. nr. OKS 1993.001.A). The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam has two covered beakers of a different shape, but from the same period.


20 | Dutch Ewers These fluted ewers, are decorated in shades of underglaze blue, with a décor clearly copied from Dutch Delftware examples. The bulbous body, has a wide band of stylised ruyi-heads alternating with cartouches with scrollwork and flowers. Underneath is a white band with birds and flower sprays. The lower neck is white with scattered butterflies. Under the rim is a wide band with hanging swags and flowers with two reserved circular panels, each with a flower. The C-shaped handle and separate cover are decorated with a pattern of leafy scrolls with a single butterfly at the spout; the cover has a small seated dog as a finial. They both stand on a short undecorated splayed foot. These ewers would have arrived in Holland like these, with no silver or metal mounts, which could be added later to the taste of the buyer.

China, Kangxi period (1662-1722), circa 1700-1720 H: 26 cm provenance

Private Collection, United Kingdom 2013 With Vanderven Oriental Art (1996) literature

Jörg 1984, p.70 nr.28 Lunsingh-Scheurleer 1980, p.232-233 Lunsingh-Scheurleer 1989 p.138 fig.115 Paul-David 1981,


There is some discussion as to the function of these ewers, it is referred to both as a large milk jug and a coffee pot. In any case, they were specifically made to order in the early 18th century, the shape and decoration both clearly copied from Dutch Delft examples. Records show that the VOC placed ever increasing orders for this type of lidded jugs. It was certainly a lucrative business, as we know from the studies of the VOC registers, recorded when they resumed their direct orders in 1729. These types of ewers would be purchased for between 20 40 cents, making an average tidy profit of 200% at auction in Amsterdam. These ewers tell us a lot about the ever-growing international trade of luxury goods and the exchange of design ideas. The hanging swag motifs – also known as lambrequins - are inspired by French textile decoration; popularised in The Netherlands by Hugenot architect and designer Daniël Marot (1661- 1752). These in turn, inspired the decor on 18th-century Chinese export porcelain, reflected back again in the motifs used on Dutch Delftware. These ewers can therefore be seen as the result of a combination of Chinese, French and Dutch influences. As such, they are the ultimate 18th-century global trade product. The Collection in Museum Huis van Gijn, Dordrecht, has an identical ewer (nr.3757). An example with coloured enamels and a French armorial decoration, is in Musée Guimet, Paris (G5010). The Groninger Museum has a similar ewer, but decorated in the Chinese Imari palette (1955.0133). KunstMuseum, The Hague has a delftware version (nr 0400534).


21 | Tulipières A rare pair of Chine de Commande, underglaze blue porcelain flower vases; the shape and decoration clearly copied from Dutch Delftware examples. It has five flaring spouts, fanning out on a flattened heart-shaped body; the central spout being slightly larger. Each spout is decorated with scrolling foliage. The main body has a decoration of birds with a rockery and flowering peony and chrysanthemum shrubs. The sides have a blue ground with a foliate edge and the flaring rectangular foot, has reserve panels of stylised flowers edged with a hatched border. The blue handles, are in the shape of a squirrel-like creature. Made to order for Dutch East India Company (VOC), these vases were obviously intended for the Dutch or European market. As opposed to the more frequently occurring pyramid shape, these are the only known examples of this shape of flower holder produced in Chinese porcelain. The flattened shape, indicates these may well have been used for presentation on a mantelpiece or a piece of furniture. Blooms of any kind, not only tulips, would be placed into each individual opening. This way exotic varieties of flowers, some forced in hothouses out of season, could be beautifully exhibited; the fan-shape of this vase, would of course present the single row flowers to maximum effect. The resulting colourful display, was meant to showcase the wealth, erudition and good taste of the owner. 18th century Chinese porcelain versions of tulipières are rare and, at the time, probably considered even more exotic than its Delft cousin. China, Kangxi period (1662-1722) circa 1720 H: 23.2 cm | W: 23 cm provenance

Private Collection, USA, 2018 literature

Campen & Eliëns 2014, p.245 Chiang 1969, nr.47 Pinto de Matos 2019, p.200-203 nr.82 Sargent 2012, p.130 nr.40


The development and fashion for vases with spouts is thought to be largely the result of Queen Mary II (1662-1695), who had a great passion for both blue and white Chinese porcelain and beautiful flowers. She is known to have enjoyed flower arranging at Paleis Het Loo and wanted fresh flowers to decorate her rooms. Tulip vases were first made by the Delft potteries, in the late 17th century and were a particular specialty of ‘De Grieksche A’ factory. This manufactory, produced the well-known spectacular tall flower pyramids, for Queen Mary at Hampton Court.


Flower vases with fanning rows, are known to have been produced in the Delft potteries from 1680’s until about 1740, mostly by ‘De Metalen Pot’, under the directorship of Lambertus van Eenhorn (1691-1721) – dates which correspond with the Kangxi dating of these flower vases. Though no other known vases of this type are known in Chinese porcelain, there are several examples of the pyramidal flower holders in museum collections. For example The Groninger Museum (nr.1899.0149), The Peabody Essex Museum, Salem (E82654) and the RA Collection, Brazil. The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam has an example in blue and white Delft faience (BK-NM-2574), as does the Kunstmusem, The Hague (nr.1002953) – both with S-scroll handles. There is a Chinese blue and white octagonal vase, also flat with 5 spouts, in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei.

Chinese porcelain versions of tulipières are rare and, at the time, probably considered even more exotic than its Delft cousin.



Chinese captions


1 | Illusory Wall Plaque

6 | Bamboo Brush Pot

異形牌匾 中國清代乾隆年間 高24 cm | 寬16.5 cm

竹形筆筒 中國清代康熙年間,約1710年 高11.2 cm | 直徑6.2 cm

2 | Architectural Bitong

7 | Parrots

窗形筆筒 中國18世紀晚期 高8.7 cm | 寬10.1 cm

鸚鵡擺件一對 中國清代康熙年間,約1700年 高18.1 cm

3 | Archaic Vase

8 | Lotus Cups

博古花瓶 中國清代嘉慶年間 高82.4

蓮形杯一對 中國清代康熙年間,約1700年 高6.3 cm | 直徑9.1 cm

4 | Peach Brushwasher

9 | Plum Blossom Trees

桃形筆洗 中國清代康熙年間,約1710-1720年 高5.9 cm | 長11.6 cm

梅樹一對 中國19世紀晚期 高22.2 cm

5 | Peach Pyramid

10 | Tree Trunk Tea Service

壽桃貢盤 中國清代康熙年間,約1700年 高16 cm | 直徑10.4 cm

樹枝形茶器 | 中國上海約1900年 咖啡壺:高16寬24 | 水壺:高22寬20.5 茶壺:高12.2寬24 | 奶罐:高8.7寬15.4 糖罐:高8.4寬16

11 | Rock Crystal Brush Pot

17 | Jue

石形水晶筆筒 中國18世紀 高16.2 cm | 直徑14.5 cm

爵 中國清代康熙年間 高6.5 cm | 長8.2 cm

12 | Magnolia Blossom Cup

18 | Swirl Vases

玉蘭杯 中國清代康熙年間,約1710年 高7.5 cm | 寬11.4 cm

漩紋瓶一對 中國清代康熙年間,約1720年 高26 cm

13 | Oil Lamp

19 | Goblets

油燈 中國漢代 高113 cm | 直徑41 cm

高腳杯一對 中國清代康熙年間,約1690年 高23.8 cm

14 | Ding

20 | Dutch Ewers

鼎 中國漢代 高24 cm | 寬31 cm

荷蘭壺一對 中國清代康熙年間,約1690年 高26 cm | 寬16 cm

15 | Hu

21 | Tulipières

壺 中國漢代 高40.5 cm | 直徑28.5 cm

鬱金香花瓶一對 中國清代康熙年間,約1720年 高23.2 cm | 寬23 cm

16 | Orientalist Ewer 執壺 中國清代康熙年間,約1710年 高29.8 cm | 寬19.8 cm


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