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Bowl with Figures in Canton Enamel

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Period: Qianlong reign (1736–1795), Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Dimensions: height: 11 cm; mouth diameter: 25.7 cm; foot diameter: 13.1 cm

This bowl has an open mouth, a round foot, and deep, arced walls. The exterior walls are covered in a gold floral ground with figures, landscapes, birds, and flowers inside reserved panels in the shape of flower petals. The panels are divided into two groups. The first group is painted with Manchus at leisure seated resting at a table, standing, conversing beneath a tree, holding a pipe while seemingly cleaning out ash, or observing others; the scenes also feature a table with a water container for calligraphy, small dogs, distant mountains and water, and various structures. The second group shows an elder seated on a chair while an attendant brings tea; beneath a tree, a younger figure holds a long pipe while another observes from beside. The short stature of the figure holding the pipe is juxtaposed saliently with the great length of the pipe. The bottom interior of the bowl is painted with two figures in Manchu attire seated in the mountains while practicing falconry. One figure has a falcon resting upon his raised left arm while the other figure watches while seated on a stone stool. The small reserved panels in the shape of flower petals are painted with birds, flowers, and landscapes.

The figures smoking, drinking tea, and practicing falconry painted upon this bowl reflect the leisurely lifestyle of the sons of the Qing-dynasty (1644 – 1911) Manchu aristocracy. Influenced by the Western Rococo style, the work features an abundance of gold with splendid colorful embellishments. The dense ornamentation is combined with perspective in the painting technique. This Western interpretation of the Manchu aristocratic lifestyle during the Qing dynasty with various scenes of leisure and recreation represents and reflects the mutual influence between China and the West.

Chinese entry by Zheng Hong
Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Kang Xiaolu


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