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Vase with pomegranates and magpies in fencai enamels

AnonymousMark and period of Yongzheng (1723 - 1735), Qing dynasty

Hong Kong Museum of Art

Hong Kong Museum of Art
Hong Kong , Hong Kong

This long-necked vase is called a tianqiu ping, or globular vase, because it has a round belly. It is decorated with the branches of a flowering and fruiting pomegranate tree, a symbol of fertility, and two magpies, one of which is pecking at the seeds inside the fruit. Since the word "magpie" in Chinese rhymes with "happy occasions", the magpie and pomegranate combine here to bode good fortune. This vase is decorated with fencai enamels, and carries the reign mark of Yongzheng on its base, which distinguishes it as a court-commissioned piece and a product of the highest quality from the imperial kiln at Jingdezhen. Fencai is an overglaze enamel developed from the wucai of the 17th century. The best quality pieces were made during the Yongzheng period, that is, 1723 to 1735, when artists made important breakthroughs in decorative techniques. The decoration here uses overglaze enamels against the white porcelain ground, which creates a very different effect to the Ming dynasty wucai glaze. The execution of fencai enamels can create effects of tonal gradation, and light and shade, giving the designs a great sense of three-dimensionality.

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