This is one of two large porcelain vases created in a tall baluster form. The rounded shoulders gently taper down to a ring foot. Each vase has a short, flaring neck, surmounted with a domed cover, which is topped with a stylized fu lion as the finial. The vases are decorated with a pair of phoenixes perched on a large taihu (scholar's) rock in a fenced garden traversed by a blue bridge. Behind them are peony and magnolia trees laden with large blossoms in shades of pink. The shoulders and necks are painted with dense flora and ruji scrolls. They form a ground on which two bands of cartouches enclose monochrome ink landscapes and objects, such as a flower vase and a ruji scepter. Similar decorative schemes are applied to the covers.
This impressive pair of vases is a testament to the famille rose porcelain produced at Jingdezhen during the Qianlong reign. The enormous size posed a significant challenge for the potter, as did the firing process for these large wares. Fluctuations in temperature and the amount of oxygen in the wood-fueled kiln had to be carefully controlled in order to bring out the enamels' intended colors. Such pairs of vases would have been created to adorn a palatial residence; consequently, the highly decorative nature of these porcelains appealed to the taste of European traders, who brought them to the West.
These Kien-Lung period vases were chosen from the stock of Duveen Brothers, notable New York art dealers, by the architects for the main floor of the Library, Eggers and Higgins, to fill special niches in the McLean Foyer of Meditation. Formerly in the Parisian Collection of Mme. Cibiel and F. Lair Dubreuil, the vases were given in 1954 by Mrs. Marrs McLean, one of the donors of the Foyer of Meditation.
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