From our Chinese Blue and White Collection, an unusually fine and early Qianlong Period (1736-1795) Nanking meat platter, depicting a willow tree and scholar's table objects amidst a flowered outcropping as the central design, surrounded by an elaborate border of butterflies, buddhist symbols, scrolls, and floral motifs.
Like our similarly shaped Qianlong Period Tureen Base Item # 959327 (Sold), this piece is top quality in terms of "Nanking Ware" (not to be confused with Nanking Cargo Shipwreck pieces). It really gets no better than this within this category of blue and white. As we have said before, we have very high standards for purchasing Nanking, and generally avoid the subsequent 19th century evolutions of this genre as there was obvious decline in the quality and intricacy of these pieces as you enter the later Jiaqing Period (1796-1820). Indeed, we tend to be drawn only to the superior Qianlong Period examples, of which this is definitely such a piece.
Studying the piece closely, one can appreciate the preciosity of the painting here that is remarkable for a piece of Nanking: There is the fine shading to the flowers, the subtle but intricate veining to the broad leaf outcropping on the left, the realism of the willow tree body, and perhaps above all, the absolutely painstaking rendition of the willow leaves themselves. Normally, on lesser pieces, one would expect to see willow leaves executed with just a few perfunctory brush strokes creating the general outline, with the rest mostly filled in with blue tonal wash. But here, if one looks closely, the leaves have actually been rendered using what must be SEVERAL HUNDRED INDIVIDUAL BRUSH STROKES.... a very unusual investment of effort for a piece of utilitarian Nanking ware. Add to that the unusually good blue, and the fine balance of painted areas with the negative space (unpainted white space), what we actually have here is an unexpected little masterpiece of Nanking ware.
If someone is just casually shopping for a Nanking piece for "the overall look," then there are many generally similar pieces out there that can be acquired at 1/2 to 2/3 the price of this piece. But if someone is looking for only the finest examples of early 18th century Nanking, this is one such piece.
Size and Condition: 13 inches wide, 10 3/8 inches tall. Some minor fritting to the rim edge at the 1 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions, but essentially perfect. A good ring when tapped.