An exceptionally rare and large blue and white 'Immortals' Double-Gourd Vase

Bonhams is delighted to offer an exceptionally rare and large blue and white 'Immortals' double-gourd vase, Jiajing six-character mark and of the period, Lot 84 (estimate £ 80,000 - 120,000) for sale on 16 May 2019 in London, New Bond Street.

The vase formerly belonged to J.Dearman Birchall (1828-1897), the son of a successful Quaker wool merchant with roots in manufacturing and retailing tweed. A successful innovator and merchant, Dearman led his family firm to prizes for their cloth at numerous International Exhibitions. All the time he was trading cloth, he was also acquiring Chinese porcelain. His diaries note that in 1875 and 1877 he bought from, and sold porcelain to, the Dutch-based dealer Joel Duveen, the first Duveen to make a base in the United Kingdom in 1866. The vase is included in a painting of one the rooms in his residence, Bowden Hall in Gloucestershire.

The painting on the vase is both dynamic and evocative, while the shape and size of the vessel give it real presence. Its high quality combined with the themes of Daoism and immortality would have made it most appropriate for the celebration of the birthday of the Jiajing emperor who was a devout Daoist and whose overwhelming aim was to achieve long life. A very similar large double gourd-shaped vase, Jiajing six-character mark and of the period, is in the British Museum.

The Jiajing emperor was particularly fervent in his Daoist beliefs among the Ming dynasty emperors. He poured large sums of money into the construction of Daoist temples and the performance of Daoist rituals. Following frustration with his ministers and court politics at large, he developed into an adherent of alchemical Daoism and his overriding concern became the quest for Immortality. Self-promoting officials at court were quick to realize that they could advance further up the official hierarchy and stay in favor with the emperor by writing Daoist-style memorials and notes to him. Unsurprisingly the court arts of his reign frequently bore themes associated with Daoism and longevity.


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