A pair of Tianqiuping ("Heavenly Sphere") vases decorated with dragons in iron red with five imperial claws and phoenixes in fencai enamels ("Famille rose"), Guangxu period (1875-1908).
This pair of vases each representing two great dragons among the heavenly clouds with five claws and competing for the sacred pearl, with, in the upper register, two phoenixes, make quite obvious reference to the reigning emperor and empress and their respective heir and heiress called to succeed them.
The Famille rose enamels, like the painting on these vases, are of a higher quality than the standard, in a style typical of the end of the Qing dynasty. Their bases, now grounded and the original glaze of which has obviously been stripped in order to pass them off as 18th century pieces (unfortunately common practice in the art trade before the war), were to display originally the Guangxu mark of the late 19th century with six characters in iron red.
It is therefore a rare pair of imperial "celestial sphere vases", a shape predestined since the beginning of the Ming to represent emperor dragons - and which, like the "Tianqiuping" vases invented during the reigns of Yongle (1403-1425), were probably made to decorate the palaces of Emperor Guangxu. Knowing that the Forbidden City, the main palace in Beijing of the Qing emperors, already contained nearly 9,000 rooms to be furnished, one can imagine the significant porcelain needs for each reign.
These two vases were also designed from their manufacture in pairs and mirrors, they were therefore arranged on either side of a long table or a throne, as we can still see in the few exhibition rooms. of the Forbidden City reconstructing apartments of the Qing dynasty.
The subject of emperor dragons and phoenixes associated with the shape of the celestial sphere, a symbol of the reigning power of the Manchus throughout the universe, suggests that they were more articles reserved for important members. of the Court of Guangxu, only the royal blood authorizing the possession of objects making so clearly reference, by the association of the form and the subject, to the authority of the Prince.
If at a later date they were devoid of their marks of reign, these vases have nonetheless retained a very imperial beauty and power.
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