From our Chinese Polychrome Collection, a very fine and large pair of Rose Medallion vases, mid-late 19th century, most likely late Daoguang to Tongzhi Period circa 1845-1874, certainly no later than Guangxu Period (1875-1908), executed in the typical palette of pinks, blues, greens, yellows, whites, and gilt, depicting four well-painted panels of figures alternating top to bottom with four other well-painted panels of birds, butterflies, and foliage, separated by a band of foliage with four cartouches of flowers on the shoulder, and with two additional panels of figures surrounding the neck, all executed on a bulbous rouleau-style body. The scenes depicted on Rose Medallion like this current example, are usually drawn from early famous Chinese literature such as The Romance of the Western Chamber, or The Dream of Red Mansions. Interestingly, however, particular individual scenes within those two novels are rarely identified with specificity. This is perhaps because of the voluminous and intricate nature of these texts, with their many characters and dozens upon dozens of subplots. The Dream of Red Mansions, for instance, has over 400 minor characters contained within the story....
Rose Medallion is probably the most ubiquitous and easily recognized antique Chinese porcelain pattern, and is usually familiar not only to novice collectors, but even non-collectors alike. What is often lost, however, in the ubiquitousness of this genre, is the fact that there is a tremendous difference in the quality of these pieces. There are a lot more poor and mediocre quality pieces out there than there are good and superior quality pieces, but this pair of vases is as high quality as can be. The enamels here are lively but "soft," not "glassy" and "shiny" as many of the lesser pieces and later reproductions tend to be. The gilding is gold and not brass colored, and the people are very realistically rendered with extra attention paid to details like gilt highlights in the women's hair. Vases like this are alluring to even the untrained eye. Another measure of quality is in the execution of the flower tendrils. Nancy Schiffer, in Chinese Export Porcelain, Standard Patterns and Forms 1780-1880, presents a very useful illustration of the varying degrees of quality in the execution of these tendrils. While her illustrations are in black and white and do not reproduce well in photographs, those with the book should take a look, page 28, plates 68-73. The execution of the flowering tendrils here is "tight" and as well done as they can be. Additionally, this particular shape/form of vase is rather uncommon, and is characterized as "infrequently seen" in Schiffer's book on page 235, item 639, as it is a departure from the more typical rouleau style shape, which is narrower. Overall this is a superb pair.
Size and Condition: 15 1/8 tall, 6 1/2 inches wide at the shoulder. Essentially perfect condition, only the most minor wear commensurate with age. A good "orange peel" texture to the porcelain body (another indicia of age and authenticity).
Being an uncommon form, we have been able to identify only one instance where vases of this form have sold at auction. See Sotheby's Sale LO6213, Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, LOT 569, November 2006, where a slightly smaller pair (14.75 inches) was estimated at 2,000-3,000 GBP, and sold for 2400 GBP (4600 US at that time).