A near pair of beaker Gu vases decorated with squirrels (or dormice) in the vines, early Kangxi period (1662-1722), 17th century.
The grape in ancient China was a choice fruit reserved for the imperial family. Like other fruits in clusters, it symbolized abundant offspring and family unity. It is often associated in pictorial art with squirrels or dormice which scavenge it, on the basis of a rebus since the word grape is homophone of the word "peach" (longevity) and the word squirrel homophone of the word "pine "which also symbolizes longevity in Taoism.
This combination of squirrels or dormice in the vines therefore expresses a wish for health and long life.
These two vases with a massive body and spontaneous painting were executed in underglazed cobalt blue at the beginning of Kangxi's reign, at the end of the 17th century, when this motif was still very close stylistically to the period of the Transition. between the Ming and the Qing. Indeed, we meet this motif of squirrels in the vines on vases treated in 5-color enamels (wucai) from the Shunzhi period (1644-1661), the father of Kangxi.
This is a near pair and their slight difference in size testifying to the then current practice in China of firing vases of similar decorations but of variable sizes depending on the batch concerned and the space available in the kiln. These two vases, therefore from separate batches but similar in time and by the same workshop, were therefore reunited at a time, before their arrival or after on the European market for which they had been produced.
Indeed, the large cone vases of this shape with a central node are the descendants of the large roller vases and large upright cone vases of the transitional period of the reigns of Chongzhen (1627-1644) and Shunzhi (1644-1661), but we know today that, in this troubled period of wars of succession, the imperial patronage had withdrawn and the potters had to find new outlets for their production. The Kangxi period (1662-1722) which followed, always confused at its beginnings, saw the ties of commercial dependence of the ceramic workshops of Jingdezhen with regard to the foreign market being further strengthened and the East India Company always ordered them more. of Chinese ceramics, the Netherlands beginning to flood Europe with this decorative art of undeniable beauty.
It is in this context that our near pair of vases evidently arrived in France at the end of the 17th century or the beginning of the 18th century. Acquired no doubt already for a substantial sum, they took part in the decorative luxury of the apartments of the aritocracy or the rich bourgeoisie of the time, to reach us at last in a remarkable state of preservation.
1 800 €