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Chinese soft-paste porcelain vase decorated in underglaze cobalt blue (qinghua) with two Chinese ladies, Kangxi/Yongzheng

Stock Number: 5250

Very rare and fine Chinese soft-paste porcelain cylindrical vase decorated in underglaze cobalt blue (qinghua)with two standing Chinese ladies flanking a flowering peony in a jardiniere, a pine tree amongst rocks and a bird song on a perch, Kangxi/Yongzheng reigns, Qing dynasty, h. 11,7 cm. 1-20397

Illustrated: Chinese Soft Paste Porcelain, van Halm & van Halm’s sale and exhibition catalogue, London 2017, p. 4, cat. 4, dated Kangxi reign.

Literature: British Museum, Percival David Collection, London for an almost identical vase P.D.F. A-630.

◆ Soft paste porcelain was first manufactured in the dying years of Kangxi (1662-1722) and used only for small pieces due to the high manufacturing cost. Soapstone (steatite) was added to the porcelain in order to obtain a sharper painting in underglaze blue. During firing the porcelain and the glaze cooled at different speed and the result was the characteristic fine cracks in the glaze much appreciated by the scholarly collectors.

D’Entrecolles, the Jesuit priest in China at the time, wrote in a letter in 1722 “Porcelain fabricated with hua-shi滑石 (soapstone/slippery-stone) is rare, and much dearer than the other”.

There was a revival in the manufacture of soft-paste porcelain during the Qianlong reign but with a different manufacturing procedure. This time the traditional porcelain body was covered with a layer hua-shi glaze. This process enabled the manufacture of larger pieces also with great detail in the decoration, but the result was a much less even number of cracks in the glaze.