Ca. 1700-10, early 18th century
Kangxi Period, Qing Dynasty
Porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue
H: 23 cm, w: 8.5 cm (at widest point)
Nearly perfect condition; foot-rim ground down for silver mounting
From a Belgian collection
18th century Europe fully embraced Kangxi porcelain as treasured luxury commodities; this adoration is reflected in the silver mounting procedure. By encasing these objects in precious silver, owners and antiquarians hoped to protect the pieces from harm, enhance and augment their value, facilitate their inclusion into European interiors--as well as sometimes refashioning their intended function (this piece for instance can be used as a tea caddy).
This vase is decorated in a popular Kangxi pattern: "long Eliza (lange lijzen) and the little mad men". This image of en-cloistered wives and concubines accompanied by sons conveys a prevailing Chinese desire for auspicious abundance--in wealth, in women, in sons. Interestingly, such iconography was lost in translation in Europe: the Dutch interpreted Chinese sons as "little mad men", as their long sleeves resembled straitjackets for the mentally ill (a conclusion perhaps further reinforced by the boys' fanciful dancing poses).
For similarly silver mounted Kangxi blue and whites, please refer to the V&A collection. For a vase of nearly identical shape and pattern, see V&A C.328&A-1918.
Please note that this vase has excellent glaze, delightful silver work, and an exceptional size at 23 cm tall (most mounted porcelain are quite small due to the expense of silver).