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Chinese Famille Noire Porcelain Rouleau Vase


Decorated overall with large-scale flowering prunus among rockery and with colorful birds flying about. Prunus is the plum blossom and is a sign of the coming of Spring- with renewal and happiness. The birds are likely magpies which were a symbol joy and good fortune. All painted in vibrant tones of green, aubergine, overglaze blue, black, yellow, and rouge de fer against a striking deep black ground with slight green wash that gives the black luster. The underfoot with a light green wash.
Height: 24 ½ inches (62 cm.)
Ex Collection: Edson Bradley, USA (sold in the sale of the Bradley Chinese porcelains at Christie’s London, December 14, 1933, Lot 37, included with a fold-out photograph).
Similar and related vases: the Salting Collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the former J.P. Morgan Collection.

Note: Large Famille Noire porcelains were among the most prized and costly Chinese decorative art in the West in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Reflecting on this, it was posited by John Pope and others in the 1970s that many (or even all) of the large examples were 19th century pieces or redecorated Kangxi vases, all made or adjusted to meet the market demand of that time. More recent scholarship has re-examined and challenged this blanket dismissal. This is based upon decorative styles, historic records, and established old provenances of some pieces to the latter 1800's that predate the collecting craze and exuberant prices of that time. We concur with this. (See: du Boulay Taft Collection, Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 1995); Beurdeley and Raindre: Qing Porcelain, 1986; and Krahl: introduction to the Anthony de Rothschild Collection (1996, Vol. 1, pp. xxiv-xxv).

All this said, undoubtedly copies were made and some porcelains likely redecorated to meet the market demand and rewards of the end of the 19th and early 20th century collecting passions. Accordingly, each piece of this type needs to be carefully examined and studied. In terms of this vase, we are confident in the vase indeed being of the Kangxi period. To that effect we have had it TL tested at Oxford which confirmed a Kangxi date for the porcelain. Next, its form and decoration are consistent with Kangxi period pieces. We have further carefully examined the vase and noted there is no evidence of any prior decoration. In fact, the turn marks in the porcelain from when the vase was fashioned on a wheel may be seen under the clear areas of the glaze and show this decoration to be original. The green wash to the underfoot is found on other famille noire small dishes from the period in several old provinanced collections. In terms of the possibility of the black having been added laterthe black glaze has the green wash that is noticeably absent on acknowledged early copies. Also notably: the overglaze blue enamel on this vase shows the characteristic “halo” on the surrounding black glaze where it meets and borders. This is a characteristic generally found on Kangxi period porcelains (in the clear glaze surrounding the blue). This is significant because it indicates that the blue glaze was fired at the same time or after the black (i.e. the black was not added later).

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