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photographer New Owner.
Water, Pine and Stone Retreat. Qianlong  Large picture | Small picture
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 8 October 2009: Lot 1815 

the deep U-shaped sides skilfully moulded on the exterior with a repeated pattern of four butterflies, the wings made up of a pair of arched kui dragons, interspersed by pairs of peony sprays, all set between key-fret bands at the mouth and the foot, the mouth bound with a bone band, the interior lacquered in black and painted with randomly arranged gold medallions enclosing flowers, rocks-and waves, bats, butterflies, and peaches, the underside moulded with a four-character regular script mark Qianlong shangwan, the smooth patina of a warm russet brown tone (fitted box)
17.7 CM.

Yung Feng Co., Hong Kong, December 1982.
Gerard Tsang and Hugh Moss, 'Chinese Decorated Gourds,' International Asian Antiques Fair, Hong Kong, 1983, p. 52, pl. 4.
Foon Koppen, 'Decorated Gourds,' In Asia, Autumn, 1983, p. 38.
Wang Shixiang, The Charms of the Gourd, Hong Kong, 1993, p. 43, fig. 9, and p. 76, fig. 9.

The humble origins of the gourd and its association with the Daoist paradise made gourd objects highly appreciated by Chinese rulers as well as the scholar literati. A major development in the moulding of gourds commenced when the Kangxi emperor commissioned gourd vessels to be made in the Palace Workshop which transformed this folk craft into an imperial art form. For a detailed discussion of the early history of moulded imperial gourds see Wang Shixiang, 'Moulded Gourds', Gugong Bowuyuan Yuankan, 1979, no. 1, pp. 86-91, translated by Craig Clunas in the Oriental Ceramic Society Chinese Transactions, no. 10, London, 1981, pp. 16-30.

Three Qianlong period gourd bowls, from the collection of Sir John Addis and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, are illustrated in Craig Clunas, Chinese Carving, Singapore, 1996; one bearing the mark Qianlong shangwan on the base, pl. 79; a bowl with an identical mark but with an everted rim, pl. 80; and an unmarked example attributed to the 18th century, pl. 82.

The present elegant bowl takes its form after Kangxi prototypes; for example, see a gourd bowl, inscribed with the four-character Kangxi shangwan ('Appreciated by the Kangxi Emperor') mark on the base, decorated with shou characters, illustrated in Gerard Tsang and Hugh Moss, 'Chinese Decorated Gourds', International Asian Antiques Fair, Hong Kong, 1983, p. 50, pl. 2. Another bowl with the same Kangxi mark, from the Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, Seattle Art Museum, is published in J. M. Addis, 'Impressed Gourds', Oriental Art, vol. X, Spring 1964, p. 28, fig. 2; and a third example, from the collection of Sir Percival David and now in the British Museum, London, is included ibid., fig. 1.

The decoration found on this bowl is rich in symbolism. The butterflies represent longevity, while the dragons symbolize the emperor. The elongated bodies of the dragons represent the wish for longevity and the continuity of the imperial family line. The peonies stand for wealth and refinement, while the rocks rising from waves represent the Daoist Western Paradise. Peaches together with pine and rocks are symbols of longevity. Overall, this bowl was possibly made for a special occasion such as the emperor's birthday or New Year's celebration. Gourds (gua) and butterflies (die) together complete the saying 'guadie mainmian' which translates as 'may there be many generations of sons and grandsons'. The phrase comes from the  Shijing (The Book of Odes) and has been traditionally used during New Year's Eve celebrations.


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