Vase shaped like an archaic gu

Vessel in the shape of a Shang dynasty ceremonial “ku;” copper decorated with cloisonne enamels in light blue, dark blue, green, red, yellow, and white; inside the foot is an inscription of eight characters in relief giving a K’ang-hsi date. A separate flower holder fits inside the mouth.

Maker(s)
Inscription: Wang Zifan
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign, 1662-1722
Medium
Cloisonné
Dimensions
H: 30.8 cm (12 1/8 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1911.145a-c
On View Location
Freer Gallery 13: Looking Out, Looking In: Art in Late Imperial China
Classification(s)
Cloisonne, Vessel
Type

Vessel

Keywords
China, flower, Kangxi reign (1662 - 1722), Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)
Provenance

To 1911
Riu Cheng Chai, to 1911 [1]

From 1911 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Riu Cheng Chai, in 1911 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]

Notes:

[1] See Summary, Price of Art Objects, Second Chinese Shipment, 1911, pg. 3, No. X57, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Riu Cheng Chai (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919

Description

Vessel in the shape of a Shang dynasty ceremonial "ku;" copper decorated with cloisonne enamels in light blue, dark blue, green, red, yellow, and white; inside the foot is an inscription of eight characters in relief giving a K'ang-hsi date. A separate flower holder fits inside the mouth.

Inscription(s)

(From the Original Folder Sheet, see Curatorial Remark number 3)
The inscription inside the foot is cast in seal characters reading from right to left thus: [Chn]
Transcribed into "k'ai-shu" in the usual order it reads: [Chn], and may be translated "Wang Tzu-fan made [this] in the K'ang-hsi period of the Ch'ing dynasty."
Two things are striking about this. Sir Harry Garner, who is currently doing research on cloisonne, tells me that K'ang-hsi inscriptions on cloisonne are very rare and in any inscription of this period it is unusual to find a man's name mentioned. So far there seems to be no clue to the identity of the individual in question here.

Label

During the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), the display of ancient objects as well as contemporary ones made in an archaistic style was considered a sign of learning and refined taste. The shape and decoration of this vase, including the mask-like faces on the base, reproduce aspects of a Bronze Age ritual vessel called a gu.

Published References
  • William Watson. The Art of Dynastic China. New York, 1981. ill. 677.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 111, vol. 1: p. 176.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 28.
  • Cloisonné: Chinese Enamels from the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties. New York. p. 48, fig. 3.31.
  • Helmut Brinker, Albert Lutz. Chinesisches Cloisonne: Die Sammlung Pierre Uldry. Exh. cat. Zurich, May 11 - November 3, 1985. p. 77.
  • Harry Mason Garner. Chinese and Japanese Cloisonne´ Enamels., 1st ed. Rutland, Vermont. p. 88, pl. 66.
  • Thomas Lawton. China's Artistic Legacy. vol. 118, no. 258 London, August 1983. p. 135.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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