Top end Chinese art dealer Jorge Welsh, who is based in London’s Kensington Church Street and in Lisbon, will be showing two very large and magnificent so-called ‘soldier vases’ at the upcoming edition of TEFAF in Maastricht. These large vases (140cm. in height) are what auctioneers usually term ‘massive’. However, they are not just massive. They are also wonderfully decorated and are thought to be from the period 1750-55 during the Qianlong dynasty. They are meticulously decorated in overglaze polychrome enamels and gold.
Not only were such vases difficult to successfully decorate and fire, but they also took up a lot of room on board the ships whch exported them to Europe. Accordingly, they were always very expensive. This particular pair bears the coat of arms of the Spanish nobleman Francisco Jose de Ovando y Solis and would have been made to order.
The descriptive term ‘soldier vases’ came into use in the early 18th century. In 1717, Frederick Augustus Strong (1670-1733), the Elector of Saxony and a passionate collector of Chinese export porcelain, traded an entire regiment of 600 soldiers for 18 such vases from Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia.
They are still made today in Jingdezhen, China. These days, however, you can pick one up for US$300 or so. Not quite the same thing, of course.