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Red-Glazed Porcelain Vase

Height: 30.5 cm. (12 in.)
Diameter: 15.7 cm. (6 1/3 in.)

Qing dynasty 清朝
18th century A.D.


The pear-shaped body rises to a tall, elegantly narrow, cylindrical neck. The low foot with its slight flare surrounds the flat recessed base. The deep garnet-colored glaze exhibits an orange-peel texture and soft lustrous sheen. The color has drained at the lip leaving a white edge while the interior and the base are covered with a colorless transparent glaze.

During the Qing dynasty (A.D. 1644-1911), an immense range of colors— from glowing pinks to acid yellows and cucumber greens, from shimmering turquoises to majestic cobalts, from café-au-lait browns to mirror blacks, from shocking pinks to blood reds—provided dress for the pristine white porcelain bodies produced at Jingdezhen. In the West, until recent times, the Qing gallery of the Percival David Foundation in London was a real-life kaleidoscope comprised of these spectacular monochromes produced by the Chinese potter, a place where visitors entered a magical world where colors did not clash or collide but joined in a symphony that was a tribute to Chinese potters. While the Percival David collection was noted for the imperial provenance of the majority of these wares, others graced its shelves in its old home on Gordon Square and the present piece would not have found itself out of place there, nor in the collection’s present home in the British Museum

The orange-peel texture of the glaze here was an intentional effort to replicate that diagnostic feature of the monochrome-red wares of the early Ming Xuande era (A.D. 1426-1435). The secret for producing the distinctive ‘fresh red’ of the early Ming period had been lost over time and efforts were made during the Qing to reinvent the process and achieve the desired result. And, lastly, the vessel’s shape was a spin-off of the traditional pear-shaped bottle that had appeared for centuries within the repertoires of potters at kilns producing all varieties of wares throughout China. By attenuating and narrowing the neck and greatly reducing the flare at the lip, a new look was achieved that was elegant, graceful, fragile, even precious, and the slimmed down vessel a perfect mannequin for any fashionable color, such as the seductive red here.

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