A magnificent and large Imperial blue and white 'dragon' dish Qianlong seal mark and of the period
Lot 228
A magnificent and large Imperial blue and white 'dragon' dish
Qianlong seal mark and of the period
Refer to department for estimate
Lot Details
A magnificent and large Imperial blue and white 'dragon' dish
Qianlong seal mark and of the period
Exquisitely potted with a short circular recessed foot, the gently curving sides rising to a flat lipped rim, the interior dominated by a ferocious forward-facing dragon, its five-talon claws outstretched in pursuit of the flaming pearl decorated in the form of a stylised shou character, the scaly and muscular body engulfed with flames writhing amidst wispy cloud scrolls within double-lined borders, the inner frieze decorated with four dragons in flight amongst lightning clouds beneath splashing wave border, the cavetto depicting a continuous scene of raging waves interspersed with emerging rockwork piercing through the seas, the base with a six-character Imperial zhuanshu seal mark in underglaze-blue.
44.8cm diam.

Footnotes

  • 清乾隆 青花海水雲龍紋折沿大盤 青花「大清乾隆年製」篆書款

    The dragon traditionally symbolises the ultimate auspiciousness and authority in Chinese history, whereby it represents the total control over all the natural elements and as the bringer of luck as well as prosperity to those who are worthy. The Emperor being the Son of Heaven, is always represented by a dragon to symbolise his Imperial political power and strength over his nation and subjects. As shown by the current lot, the main forward facing dragon is clearly defined by the bold styles adopted by the Qianlong Emperor, where the mythical being is depicted with the utmost ferocity and overwhelming presence. Its sharpened five-claws issuing from powerful limbs trying to grasp the fireball in the form of a rarely seen idiosyncratic shou character serves as a symbol of blessing to the Qianlong Emperor, granting him a long life of ten thousand years or wan sui.

    Under the rule of the Qianlong Emperor, Chinese art and the ceramic industry reached new heights, creating some of the most spectacular porcelains ever crafted in the history of China. The blue and white porcelain in particular during the Qianlong period achieved new heights in terms of decorative techniques, shapes of the vessels as well as the quality of the materials used. In the expert hands of the Qianlong Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen, firing of the cobalt blue pigments surpassed the simple deep and luminous blue colour, instead achieving a luxurious range of layered tones carefully controlled to represent realistic subjects, in this case, bringing the naturalistic dragon to life, as beautifully exhibited by the current lot.

    The Qianlong emperor is well-known for his taste in technically innovative and artistically challenging pieces. He commissioned his best artisans to work at the Imperial kilns of Jingdezhen to produce unconventional but technologically breakthrough Imperial porcelain pieces for his personal pleasure, no matter the cost. It is evident from the rare and elaborate crashing waves motif at the cavetto, where most would not usually pay careful observation, that the current lot is no ordinary porcelain piece fired en masse at the kilns, but rather an inspirational design added to further grant the viewers an enhanced sense of excessive luxury. The sheer size of the current lot would have also been specially commissioned and is extremely difficult to fire in the kilns without warping or any imperfections.

    Few examples of dishes with such exceptional size and quality are collected in museums and private collections around the world, with even fewer to have been offered at auction. See a rare identical example with a centralised dragon encircled by four dragons above raging waves crashing on rockwork at the undersides also with a Qianlong seal mark, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 30 April 2000, lot 599. Compare also another identical Qianlong marked example published by Regina Krahl & Clarissa von Spee, Chinese Ceramics from the Gulexuan Collection, Lunen, 2003, no.123. For further reference, see a related example of a large blue and white dish but with winged-dragon motif and undecorated in the cavetto, sold in our London rooms, 8 November 2012, lot 51.

    The porcelain from the early years of the Qianlong reign as exemplified by the current lot is often difficult to separate from that of the Yongzheng era. This is not surprising as a selected compilation of designs had been gathered to guide the production of Imperial ceramics in 1729, led by Tang Ying, whom later became the director of the kilns at Jingdezhen. Hence many of the Yongzheng period designs worked by experienced artisans under Tang Ying's leadership would have served the Qianlong emperor during his succession to the throne in 1736. Compare an example with similar decoration but with a Yongzheng seal mark, previously from the Evelyn Annenberg Hall collection which was acquired in 1964, later in the Mathias Komor collection and S. Marchant & Son, London, thereafter published in S. Marchant & Son, Recent Acquisitions 2007, London, 2007, pp.14-15, fig.5, sold at Christie's New York, 29 March 2006, lot 131, and again at Sotheby's New York, 16 September 2008, lot 113. See also another example of the same pattern and size but with a Yongzheng seal mark, formerly in the T.Y. Chao Private and Family Trust Collections, previously illustrated in Ch'ing Porcelain from the Wah Kwong Collection, Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1973, no.61, and again in Exhibition of Ming and Ch'ing Porcelain from the Collection of the T.Y. Chao Family Foundation, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1978, no.81, subsequently sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 18 November 1986, lot 80.

    盤敞口,折沿,弧壁,盤心正中繪五爪蒼龍凌躍於祥雲之間,龍雙爪捧一壽字,盤內壁繪四組騰龍,繞盤心飛躍於祥雲之間,獨具磅礴氣勢。盤折沿處以青花繪海水紋一周,外壁近足處繪畫海水江崖紋一周,整器畫風雄威,構圖嚴謹,五爪雲龍及海水江崖相映襯,獨顯其華麗風格。

    乾隆一朝官窯青花,其燒製技術已達頂峰,青花呈色較前朝更加穩定渾厚,紋飾更加清晰,此盤不論從青花發色或是其燒造尺寸來看,均不同於普通御用瓷。此盤器形碩大,符合清宮滿族重大宴席沿襲蒙古地區共同進餐的傳統,因此此盤應是用於特定隆重場合而定製,傳世並不多見。類似的例子,可見香港佳士得於2000年4月30日售出一件清乾隆青花海水雲龍紋折沿大盤,編號599,可資參考;另見古樂軒藏一件清乾隆折沿大盤,與此盤紋飾及尺寸相類,著錄於康蕊君,《Chinese Ceramics from the Gulexuan Collection》,德國呂嫩,2003年,編號123;另見倫敦邦瀚斯2012年11月8日售出一件乾隆翼龍紋大盤,編號51,雖不屬同類別,但其尺寸相當。

    乾隆一朝在皇宮的推動下,景德鎮御窯廠名匠薈萃,其製瓷葉也達到歷史巔峰。乾隆皇帝本人喜文善武,嗜古成癖,不惜一切成本命御窯廠燒造質量最上乘之御用瓷器。當時御窯廠督陶官唐英亦對皇宮製瓷有重大貢獻。唐英從雍正六年開始督理景德鎮窯務,至乾隆二十一年之前,他亦將雍正朝已有的造型及紋飾弘揚於乾隆時期。參看一件類似及器形都極其類似的雍正朝青花海水雲龍紋折沿大盤,最早為紐約Mathias Komor舊藏,後為倫敦S.Marchant & Son出版,最後分別由紐約佳士得於2006年3月29日售出,編號131,以及紐約蘇富比2008年9月16日,編號113;另見趙叢衍家族基金收藏一件與此盤造型及紋飾相同的雍正海水雲龍盤,著錄於香港藝術館編,《Exhibition of Ming and Ch'ing Porcelain from the Collection of the T.Y. Chao Family Foundation》,香港,1978年,編號81,後售於香港蘇富比,1986年11月18日,拍品80。
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