Ca. 1840s - 60s, mid-19th century
Daoguang - Tongzhi Period, Qing Dynasty
Porcelain with overglaze famille rose enamels
H: 34.2 cm
Professional restoration covering a small 3.5 x 1.1 cm re-attached piece to rim with associated hairline.
From a New England private collection.
In a powerful pairing of youth with age, the ancient qilin is seen escorting young boys in this vase. This popular theme was titled "qilin song zi" by the Chinese, and is one of the most auspicious images found on decorated porcelain. Since antiquity, the mythical qilin has symbolized nobility and wisdom--and is said only to appear during the reign of a just and competent ruler. The qilin's association with perceived male virtues (that is, wisdom and authority) was so great that it became closely linked with fertility as well: boys "delivered" by the qilin are said to be destined for administrative glory in China's civil service hierarchy. In this sense, the qilin becomes an extremely auspicious cousin of the western stork.
This vase is very characteristic of mid-19th century famille rose wares with its "orange peel" glaze and vibrant enamels. The faces of the boys and the qilin are quite charming and naive.